No Fence for the Mexican Border

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The good news: By a 71-29 tally, the Senate yesterday voted not to appropriate the necessary $$$ to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. Yes, the same fence the Senate voted 83-16 to build back in May. (The House has already voted to build and finance the fence.)

The bad news: Much of the "no" vote proceeded from questions about overall spending and once the GOP majority settles those matters, the fence will likely go up.

Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who historically has fought to increase border security and enforcement of federal immigration laws, was among those who opposed [Sen. Jeff] Session's amendment [to fund the fence].

"We should build these walls; there's no question about it," he said. "But the real issue here is the offset that's being used, and the offset creates a Hobson's choice for almost everyone here."

Mr. Session's amendment would have required across-the-board cuts to the rest of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Mr. Gregg said, which would mean cutting 750 new border-patrol agents and 1,200 new detention beds for illegal aliens that he included in the bill.

"We've attempted very hard to increase Border Patrol agents in this bill, increase detention beds," he said. "And, yes, we haven't funded the wall specifically as a result of our efforts to do these increases."

So watch out as soon as Senate Republicans get ready to bust the budget bank again. Whole Wash Times account here.

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  1. I’m sorry, voting against a strong border (the fence) is good news? I’m all for open immigration, but open where you know exactly who is coming in, not willy nilly where undesirables like MS-13 can just come across.

  2. I have a (relatively) on-topic question. I do not understand the libertarian argument for unlimited immigration. I understand the argument (assertion really) that it is good for everyone, lower labor costs, etc. etc. But I do not understand why a government (or a voluntary association of inter-contracting individuals) cannot decide to limit the people with whom they contract for whatever reason they want — be it language, contry of origin or whatnot. Mind you I don’t mean to argue the costs v. benefits of immigration, I just don’t understand why it seems to be an issue on which the application of libertarian principles has much bearing. as a matter of fact it would seem to me that someone unilaterally inserting himself into an extant contract (i.e. an illegal immigrant) is somewhat anti-libertarian because the fundamental property of a just contract is voluntary assumption of obligations by both sides. Am I way off here?

  3. A Marxist interpretation of this debate would consider that the bourgeois capitalists want there to be an easily-exploitable caste of workers to drive down overall wages while given them some “bad guys” to distract the larger working class with.

    Railing against immigrants, and giving the police greater powers to harrass them, without actually doing anything to reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming into the countrs, would seem to fit this analysis pretty well.

  4. BladeDoc,
    The libertarian argument is of 2 flavors (possibly more):

    1) Universal free trade: No discrimination of what is traded, whether it is a product or people

    2) Freedom is universal: The principles of freedom should not be limited to only those in your club, but anyone that desires them

  5. Open borders is a great idea… when everyone can carry a concealed weapon *everywhere* for personal defense and when government doesn’t transfer enough wealth to make it appealing for immigrants to come here simply to live off the tax stolen from my paycheck.

    Until then, we must continue to discriminate against criminals and those without any marketable skill or motivation to work.

  6. Until then, we must continue to discriminate against criminals and those without any marketable skill or motivation to work.

    It’s a good thing that they’re easily identifiable, since they don’t look like me and speak some funny language.

  7. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    ‘Cause its easy to be all principled when other people have to live with the consequences.

  8. Blade Doc,
    Your example works for the voluntary association of contracting individuals. If the Amish don’t want me to work or live on their land, they have every right to keep me off of it. However, when it comes to the whole of the U.S. people are not of one mind. So there are plenty of people here who would like to hire immigrant workers or rent them a place to live. The libertarian argument is why should other people be able to tell them who they can or cannot contract with? Secondly, as Mo suggested, some libertarians view the principles of freedom of contract and movement of people as a basic and universal human right, a right not limited to people who simply got in America’s door earlier. So, immigrants, regardless of country of origin, should have this right as well.

  9. R.C.,
    I grew up in Anaheim and lived in LA until I went back to school. I am quite familiar with the effects of illegal immigration. Does that mean that those that aren’t within 200 miles of Mexico should be quiet about border control since they don’t have to deal with the consequences?

    Though isn’t this the illegal immigration version of the “chickenhawk” argument?

  10. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.

  11. R C Dean,

    You bring up a good point. I’ve had to deal with plenty of illegals, living here in the border community of northeast Ohio. I’m so sick of these unfailingly polite, relatively peaceful and quite south-of-the-border muchachos taking the jobs that nobody else up here wants (like night-shift cleaning crews at Wal*Mart, and working in the fields in Amish country picking vegetables).

  12. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    I live in Phoenix, and before this I lived in Coeur d’Alene, ID. I have no problem with open borders in either place.

  13. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    I live well within 200 miles, in a city that has been awash with illegal immigrants for decades, and would much favor open borders over anything proposed by our lawmakers. Hell, I’d favor completely ignoring the so-called problem over anything proposed by our lawmakers.

  14. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    I live well within 200 miles, in a city that has been awash with illegal immigrants for decades, and would much favor open borders over anything proposed by our lawmakers. Hell, I’d favor completely ignoring the so-called problem over anything proposed by our lawmakers.

  15. It’s interesting that we generally consider it immoral to discriminate against a person due to their skin color but have no problem discriminating against someone based on what side of an imaginary line they’re born on.

  16. Defending the border is a legitimate function of the federal government. This is what tax dollars should be spent on, not farm subsidies or prescription drugs. So I don’t consider defending the border budget busting.

  17. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    ‘Cause its easy to be all principled when other people have to live with the consequences.

    let’s continue with this train of thought….

    Just curious about how many of our no minimum wage posters actually make minimum wage. ‘Cause its easy to be all principled when other people have to live with the consequences.

    Using that argument, it’s impossible to be principled about anything unless you are directly affected by the outcome.

  18. “So I don’t consider defending the border budget busting.”

    are you saying that the government can’t be wasteful when spending on a legitimate function? wasteful to a point of busting a budget?

    as far as the 200 mile opinion requirement goes: i’d be happy with a deal where people further than 200 miles from the border can’t espouse their opinions on illegal immigration (since they so obviously are completely unaffected by it) as long as the costs of stemming illegal immigration to standards acceptable to those within 200 miles are shouldered by only those people.

    in short – if you think i should kick in for your fence, then i get to have my say about it.

  19. Technically, I don’t recall anything in the Consititution that says the Federal Government can build a wall on the Mexican border.

  20. The libertarian argument is why should other people be able to tell them who they can or cannot contract with? Secondly, as Mo suggested, some libertarians view the principles of freedom of contract and movement of people as a basic and universal human right, a right not limited to people who simply got in America’s door earlier.

    An interesting point, and it illustrates a kind of libertarian paradox – namely, to give one person or group a certain freedom requires you to restrict another person or group’s freedom.

  21. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    Good point. We don’t see any Mexican immigrants here in Chicago. No Polish or Russian either. Nope, no immigrants at all here in Chicago. Not a one. We are the most WASPish city in Amurica.

  22. Good point. We don’t see any Mexican immigrants here in Chicago. No Polish or Russian either. Nope, no immigrants at all here in Chicago. Not a one. We are the most WASPish city in Amurica.

    As the son of ex-illegal immigrants, that made me laugh out loud.

  23. An interesting point, and it illustrates a kind of libertarian paradox – namely, to give one person or group a certain freedom requires you to restrict another person or group’s freedom.

    It’s not a paradox at all. No one has the right to tell someone else who they can associate with. And that is the only “freedom” being abridged by allowing free migration and labor.

  24. …to give one person or group a certain freedom requires you to restrict another person or group’s freedom.

    Jesus, Dan T., you even manage to be laugh-out-loud stupid when you’re agreeing with a libertarian position.

    And joe, Marxism is dead. Fucking get over it.

    BladDoc, quoting myself (bad form?) from an earlier thread on this topic, here’s a “first principles” basis for a libertarian argument for immigration:

    1. I own myself.
    2. I recognize that each human being similarly owns him- or herself.
    3. The gov’t’s sole legitimate role is to ensure that this right to self-ownership is not abrogated by the application of force or fraud.
    4. Preventing immigration by those who have not committed acts of force or fraud does not serve to protect me from such abrogation.
    5. Preventing immigration by those who have not committed acts of force or fraud does serve to abrogate the right to self-ownership of the immigrant.

  25. Given their lack of support for our borders and our founding principles of a common defense, is it possible to be both a Reason-style libertarian and a patriotic American? I don’t think so.

  26. TLB, please define your terms. Here, I’l take a shot at it for you:

    “Reason-style libertarian” – an individual who, looking at the founding principles of the United States, finds that the concept of restricting immigration on broadly racial grounds, and conducting a foreign policy on a foundation of “or else we’ll pound you” to be largely incompatible with those principles.

    “patriotic American” – an individual who, forgetting the founding principles of the United States, finds that the concept of restricting immigration on broadly racial grounds, and conducting foreign policy on a foundation of “or else we’ll pound you” to be deeply pleasing.

    Does that clarify things at all for you?

  27. A Marxist interpretation of this debate would consider that the bourgeois capitalists want there to be an easily-exploitable caste of workers to drive down overall wages while given them some “bad guys” to distract the larger working class with.

    That Marxist interpretation would seem to ignore the benefits of lower labor costs on the standard of living. …for people who have to spend a larger portion of their income on food, for instance, their standard of living is probably more sensitive to increases in the cost of food production.

  28. ‘Cause its easy to be all principled when other people have to live with the consequences.

    Does it matter? Especially considering Wally McWallerson is from New Hampshire?

  29. Clean Hands,

    “And joe, Marxism is dead. Fucking get over it.” It’s cute how your brain shuts off and you flick spittle at the screen when the subject comes up. You completely lose your capacity to think about the subject. If I were a troll, I would totally fuck with you.

    Ken,

    I don’t think principled capitalists, or other decent person, would consider the wage reductions resulting from the easy exploitation of people who “negotiate” with their bosses under the threat of imprisonment and deportation to be either pre-growth or pro-morality.

    Remember, my point wasn’t about dismantling immigration restrictions, welcome immigrants into the economy as free and independent citizens, and allowing the larger labor pool to “naturally” bring down wages. It was about continuing to allow the “illegals” in, but making them subject to ever-harsher enforcement.

  30. I mean, geez, Ken. You just put forth the economic argument for slavery. Think of how cheap the lettuce would be if they didn’t pay the Mexicans at all!

    A Marxists (that exploding sound was Clean Hands’ head) analysis posits that the state acts to put a thumb on the scale to increase the power of employers over employees. The “auxillary labor pool” concept posits that The Capitalists want there to be a lumpenproletariat, and that the capitalist state uses its powers to create one.

    Although it’s surely, certainly a coincidence, this is exactly what the factional gridlock on immigration reform produces – the business lobby makes sure that enforcement isn’t robust enough to eliminate the pool of illegal immigrant labor, while the nationalist/racist/law&order lobby makes sure that the illegals that are here are subject to enough persecution to make them keep their heads down.

  31. Just curious about how many of our open-borders posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of Mexico.

    Channeling a Reason thread from the 1850’s…

    Just curious about how many of our anti-slavery posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of South.

    And then again in the 1950’s

    Just curious about how many of our anti-Jim Crow Law posters actually live within, say, 200 miles of the South.

    Once again, if your argument can be used word-for-word in defense of slavery or Jim Crow it doesn’t carry an ounce of weight against the moral argument for immigration based on non-discrimination.

  32. ‘Cause its easy to be all principled when other people have to live with the consequences.

    How sadly ironic. The “other people” that have to live with the consequences include those you wish to confine to a life of crushing poverty simply because they happened to suffer the misfortune to be born on the wrong side of some arbitrarily line.

    Easy to be all pragmatic when the only consequences you are concerned about happen to people who live by, look like, act like (take your pick) you. That you want to limit your concerns to those already amazingly wealthy and fortunate by world standards while ignoring the concerns of those who are much less fortunate and seek only the same opportunity to live as you or me is just plain morally wrong.

    Telling me I can’t hire someone because of where he was born is just as immoral as telling me I can’t hire someone because of his skin color. No amount of (likely exaggerated) pragmatic fears about the effects should have stopped the freeing of the slaves or the ending of Jim Crow and likewise it shouldn’t stop us from doing what is morally right now.

  33. Marxist interpretation indeed! I read words like “lumpenproletariat”, and I feel like I need a translator.

    I mean, geez, Ken. You just put forth the economic argument for slavery. Think of how cheap the lettuce would be if they didn’t pay the Mexicans at all!

    Please see my larger point–that increased costs for basic necessities really do hit the poor the hardest. …and there are big differences between noting that the working poor benefit from lower labor costs and arguing for slavery.

    Although it’s surely, certainly a coincidence, this is exactly what the factional gridlock on immigration reform produces – the business lobby makes sure that enforcement isn’t robust enough to eliminate the pool of illegal immigrant labor, while the nationalist/racist/law&order lobby makes sure that the illegals that are here are subject to enough persecution to make them keep their heads down.

    Are you including unions in the anti-immigration lobby? Isn’t illegal immigration one of those issues where unions and Marxists generally part company?

  34. joe may be citing junk economic theory — perhaps in order to be amusing — but his concerns are quite warranted.

    In fact, if you take joe’s first post and replace ‘Marxist’ with ‘public choice theory’ and ‘bourgeois’ with ‘politically powerful’, his perception of the likely result of immigration “reform” after Congress runs it through the sausage machine is quite reasonable.

  35. Ken, I do appreciate your larger point. I’m just observing that there needs to be a little expansion of that point to avoid glossing over something important.

    “there are big differences between noting that the working poor benefit from lower labor costs and arguing for slavery.” If you don’t differentiate between lower labor costs resulting from market forces and lower labor costs resulting from hard coercion, like that practiced by the government and exploited by some employers of illegal immigrants, then there really isn’t a lot of difference.

    “Are you including unions in the anti-immigration lobby? Isn’t illegal immigration one of those issues where unions and Marxists generally part company?” No. I suggest you go to AFL-CIO.org or SEIU.org and see what they have to say about immigration issues. For some reason, a lot of libertarians assume Labor’s stance on these issues to be exactly the opposite of what it really is.

    Mike P, it isn’t economic theory so much as political analysis. Most of Marx’s theories about capital, labor, and economics is junk, but his sociology and political analysis are quite sharp. Until he turns to prescription, at which point he turns into junk again.

  36. If you don’t differentiate between lower labor costs resulting from market forces and lower labor costs resulting from hard coercion, like that practiced by the government and exploited by some employers of illegal immigrants, then there really isn’t a lot of difference.

    Really, I don’t see the need to differentiate here. Again, pointing out that a higher cost of living will hit the working poor the hardest doesn’t mean I support any kind of coercion. It just doesn’t follow.

    Actually, I see it the other way. I don’t see how anti-immigrant types can go about arguing that going hard on immigration will raise the standard of living for the native born working poor but somehow fail to mention the likely effects of higher labor costs on the cost of living.

  37. I appreciate all the input. I’m still left with the issue that in the country as presently constructed you have a contract in place between the citizenry and the government in which the government provides certain benefits (access to health care, a police force, public health services, water, sewer, garbage collection, emergency workers etc. etc.). Who should get to choose who gets these benefits as the country presently is structured (because I doubt that we’re not going to construct a pay as you go libertarian-type society any time soon)? It’s clear that either beneficiaries or the benefits get limited — option two would reduce government power/pork and I think it’s unlikely. That a government can choose who to contract with seems to make more sense to me than the idea that the government MUST contract with anyone who presents themself. Personally I’d like an entrance exam not some “imaginary line” but that’s just me.

  38. In regards to labor’s changing views on immigration, how much of that do you attribute to NAFTA, GATT and the increased importance of public employees to organized labor?

    Illegal immigrants don’t present much of a threat to public employees, do they? Are there a lot of illegal immigrants working in the public sector? …if not, then a union working in the interest of public employees probably shouldn’t waste much in the way of resources fighting a non-threat.

    …and with NAFTA and especially GATT, unions don’t have much hope in expanding their ranks in manufacturing. That’s why they’re going after service workers, etc., right?

    Which brings me to another question. How much of a threat is illegal immigration to most union shops anyway? Are GM and Northwest hiring a lot of illegal immigrants? Aren’t most illegal immigrants working for small companies, maybe even really small companies with less than fifty employees? How many companies with less than fifty employees are union shops?

    I don’t know if immigration was ever a big threat to organized labor, but it doesn’t look like much of a threat now.

    There are negative aspects to higher costs, especially to the poor. Labor costs are a kind of cost. Trying to jack up the cost of labor in real terms by artificially restricting access to certain jobs has negative consequences to the working poor. …and whether it’s labor unions or anti-immigration activists, it doesn’t really matter–restricting access to those jobs and jacking up the cost of living still has negative consequences for the working poor.

    P.S. To what extent, by the way, do you attribute recent difficulties at certain airlines and auto makers to the labor movement?

  39. That a government can choose who to contract with seems to make more sense to me than the idea that the government MUST contract with anyone who presents themself.

    Setting aside whether I agree with your contract analogy, why MUST the government contract with you? Essentially you lucked into this contract through no fault of your own and now you want to use the force of government to protect your ability to live or work where you want while denying the same to another human based on something which is no more morally significant than skin color. That seems to me utterly unjustifiable under any decent moral philosophy.

    At any rate, that view still hasn’t addressed on what grounds you (or your proxy – the government) have the moral right to tell me whom I may hire or associate with. An affront made even more egregious when it is based on something as morally meaningless as place of birth. You agree, I am sure, that the government should have absolutely no right to tell me I can’t associate with a Jewish or Black person, yet being born Mexican should carry no more moral significance than being born Jewish or Black.

    Also, unless you come up with a moral distinction that carries weight, you cannot rely on such a pragmatic and comparatively pedestrian concern as the level of benefits. Imagine that slavery, or Jim Crow, still exists and someone argues that it is simply morally wrong and must end. Would you argue that unless benefits get limited that is not a viable option? Of course not.

    And by the way, since this came up before, I am not claiming that potential immigrants are just like slaves – what I’m saying is that if it is morally wrong to distinguish who gets to live next door to you based on something as arbitrary as place of birth, which I claim is no more significant than skin color, then pragmatic concerns should not stop you from doing what is right. The pragmatic problems (if they do indeed exist at all) will have to be worked out, but they are no reason to perpetuate an injustice.

  40. Ugh… Sorry, the previous handle was from my “Life of Brian” joke response to another poster on another thread. Hate it when that happens. Guess my conver is blown!

  41. Defend the border.

    But even if a person is for open borders they should hold the senate responsible for deception. These same senators claimed up and down that they were for enforcement but then did not approve monies to fund the enforcement. This is unacceptable…no matter what you stance on immigration.

    As a white southerner, it would make VERY uncomfortable to hire a servant other than my own race. Particulary if that person was at my mercy–and that if they didnt do what I wanted them too, I could “turn them in”. I am amazed that this does not bother northerners who have claimed for years that southerners are the oppressors of minorities.

  42. Brian/Peoples Front,

    I appreciate your reply and initially I had a long post asking about the concept of governmental power, the long history of borders being the limit of governmental power and etc. But I ran into a fundamental question — under libertarian philosophy is it immoral to refuse to contract with anyone for any reason? Should the government have the power to force one to contract with someone else to prevent discrimination? If so, under what justification? If not, then if you assume that citizenship is a contract between the citizen and the government cannot the citizenry set any limits they want on who gets to be a citizen on whatever basis they want? The right to associate with anyone seems to me to also carry the right to refuse to associate with anyone — the “no soup for you” philosophy.

    Briefly in terms of borders and sovereignty — if they are immoral what serves to limit government power in regards to other governments? What does/should prevent the US from enforcing US law anywhere that we can project power? Is there any justification to prevent anyone (foreign agents, spies, terrorists) from entering US territory (if this would be meaningful) if they haven’t broken a law yet?

    I’m going to have to think on the morality of borders. I’m afraid though that I’m going to run smack dab into the unintended consequences being worse than the principled argument phenomenon that has always halted my slide to any one unified political theory — except Marxism/Leninism, that’s just stupid.

  43. if you assume that citizenship is a contract between the citizen and the government…

    Citizenship is not a contract. I signed no contract, and if presented with a contract which encoded the relationship the citizens have with the government today, I wouldn’t sign. In fact, if presented with the Constitution and asked to sign it as the contract, I’d sue for breach!

    Most importantly for your appeals to contract analogies, citizenship is not a voluntary association of inter-contracting individuals.

    …cannot the citizenry set any limits they want on who gets to be a citizen on whatever basis they want?

    Yes, the citizenry can set any limits they want on who gets to be a citizen. That’s one of the few powers the Constitution actually gives to Congress.

    However, the citizenry does not have any legitimate power to limit who gets to be a resident, who can associate with whom, or who can travel where. These are plain and simply illegitimate powers that violate the very unalienable rights that governments are instituted to secure.

  44. Briefly in terms of borders and sovereignty — if they are immoral what serves to limit government power in regards to other governments?

    Borders are not immoral. Protecting borders is not immoral. Verifying that those who wish to cross the borders into your territory are not a threat to security or public health is a perfectly legitimate government power.

    Preventing individuals from crossing the border when they are in no way a threat to security or health… That is immoral.

  45. Thanks again for all the cogent commentary. Time to do some thinking.

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