Libertarian National Convention 2016: An Open Letter on Borders and Immigration

  • by: Thomas Knapp
  • target: The Libertarian Party's 2016 platform committee members and national convention delegates

Dear platform committee members and prospective 2016 national convention delegates:

Plank 3.4 of the party's national platform, titled "Free Trade and Migration," reads:

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

I urge the platform committee to recommend, and the delegates to adopt, an amended version of this plank. In this letter, I will first offer arguments regarding the need for amendment, then possible ways of constructively amending the plank.

Argument #1: The current plank is susceptible to authoritarian misinterpretations

Recently I have encountered party members who interpret the final clause of the existing plank -- "[W]e support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property" -- to countenance collectivist authoritarian measures relating to immigration and "border security."

On a plain reading, that interpretation seems perverse and perhaps even willfully abusive of the language. The clause is clearly intended to refer to individual "foreign nationals" who are known to be criminals or terrorists or to carry infectious diseases. Nonetheless, there are those who believe that the clause can be used to justify policies the Libertarian clearly does not support, such as the mass exclusion of entire national, ethnic or religious groups, on the claim that some non-trivial percentage of people answering to those broad descriptions support e.g. the Islamic State.

The language of the party's platform should be as clear, unambiguous, and immune to misinterpretation as possible. The current plank fails on that count.

Argument #2: The current plank is less libertarian than many actually existing state systems

The current LP platform plank on immigration calls for a system that is less libertarian than the actually existing border systems of the European Union's Schengen Agreement area, the United Kingdom's Common Travel area, the CA4 Border Control Agreement area, the Russia/Belarus border and the India/Nepal Border. All of these areas boast, both de facto and de jure, "open borders."

The Libertarian Party should never find itself in the position of demanding that the the US government act so as to keep America less free than other countries.

Argument #3: It is not the job of the Libertarian Party to propose exceptions to its own principles

The purpose of the Libertarian Party, as listed in its bylaws, is "to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of Principles." The bylaws also offer several examples of how the party might go about accomplishing that purpose.

Neither the Statement of Principles nor the laundry list of possible activities includes "proposing the kind of authoritarian policies that America's non-libertarian parties already do a fine job of proposing, passing and implementing."

Even accepting, purely for the sake of argument, that some authoritarian policies could be justifiable, it is not the job of the Libertarian Party to propose or support those policies. That's what we have Republicans and Democrats for.

Conclusion: The current plank on immigration is clearly broken and must be amended or discarded. Fortunately, a number of plausible paths forward are available for the platform committee to recommend and the convention delegates to adopt. Here are four possibilities:

Possible Solutions

The quickest and easiest fix to the problem with the current immigration plank would be to amend its final sentence out of the current plank, which was adopted in 2006:

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

Alternatively, we might reinstate one of the previous two platform planks.

The 2002 and 2004 platform plank on immigration reads:

We hold that human rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of nationality and welcome all refugees to our country.

Prior to that, going at least as far back as 1996 (I cut my research off at the 20-year point), the party's platform plank on immigration reads as follows:

We hold that human rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of nationality. We condemn massive roundups of Hispanic Americans and others by the federal government in its hunt for individuals not possessing required government documents. We strongly oppose all measures that punish employers who hire undocumented workers. Such measures repress free enterprise, harass workers, and systematically discourage employers from hiring Hispanics.

We welcome all refugees to our country and condemn the efforts of U.S. officials to create a new "Berlin Wall" which would keep them captive. We condemn the U.S. government's policy of barring those refugees from our country and preventing Americans from assisting their passage to help them escape tyranny or improve their economic prospects.

Undocumented non-citizens should not be denied the fundamental freedom to labor and to move about unmolested. Furthermore, immigration must not be restricted for reasons of race, religion, political creed, age, or sexual preference.

We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally. We oppose government welfare and resettlement payments to non-citizens just as we oppose government welfare payments to all other persons.

Finally, the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus's draft immigration plank (which is still in committee and may change by convention time) reads:

We hold that one of the basic core principles of a free market, is the freedom to move about voluntarily, as such borders are artificial barriers to trade and movement. You cannot have a free market with a closed or restricted border.

We welcome all refugees to our country and condemn the efforts of U.S. officials to create a new "Iron Curtain" which would keep them captive. We condemn the U.S. government's policy of barring those refugees from our country and preventing Americans from assisting their passage to help them escape tyranny or improve their economic prospects.

Undocumented non-citizens should not be denied the fundamental freedom to labor and to move about unmolested. Furthermore, immigration must not be restricted for reasons of nationality, race, religion, political creed, age, or sexual preference.

We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol, and declare a full pardon for all people who are in the country without government permission.

There might be other suggestions worthy of consideration, but any of these four would address the problem of the existing plank and return the Libertarian Party to a clear, unequivocal and most importantly libertarian immigration position. Again, I urge the platform committee to recommend, and the convention delegates to adopt, new and non-defective language for this plank.

Sign Petition
Sign Petition
You have JavaScript disabled. Without it, our site might not function properly.

privacy policy

By signing, you accept Care2's terms of service.

Having problems signing this? Let us know.