Where Are The States Rights Supporters When It Comes To Sanctuary States?

Conservatives like to whine about “states rights” when it comes to abortion, drugs, and butt sex, but are curiously silent about “states rights” when it comes to California’s sanctuary laws. While the term “sanctuary state” can vary in meaning, it essentially refers to a state that refuses to assist the federal government and its armed agents in the enforcement of federal immigration law.

While this sounds radical, it’s actually not; it is in fact a well-settled constitutional principle that the federal government may not force state law enforcement agencies to do its bidding. In Printz v. United States, the federal government sought to enforce the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which required state law enforcement agencies to perform background checks of prospective handgun purchasers. Local sheriffs from Montana and Arizona challenged the law on the grounds it was unconstitutional to force, or “commandeer” state officers to execute federal law.

The Supreme Court ruled the Brady Act’s attempted commandeering of local law enforcement violated the 10th Amendment. The opinion, authored by none other than conservative darling Antonin Scalia, reasoned as follows:

Enactments of the early Congresses seem to contain no evidence of an assumption that the Federal Government may command the States’ executive power in the absence of a particularized constitutional authorization… The Government misplaces its reliance on portions of The Federalist suggesting that federal responsibilities could be imposed on state officers. None of these statements necessarily implies-what is the critical point here-that Congress could impose these responsibilities without the States’ consent. 

He continues on to explain the concept of dual sovereignty and the impact of a policy that would require state agencies to enforce federal law:

The Framers rejected the concept of a central government that would act upon and through the States, and instead designed a system in which the State and Federal Governments would exercise concurrent authority over the people. The Federal Government’s power would be augmented immeasurably and impermissibly if it were able to impress into its service-and at no cost to itself-the police officers of the 50 States.

So apparently states rights is a big fucking deal to conservatives in selective circumstances (because they hate women and gay people), yet it’s nothing but crickets when it comes to immigration. Suddenly, the 10th amendment, constitutionalism, and small government are a distant memory. So very shocking.

Not that we should cut the liberals any degree of slack. I’ve never heard any mainstream liberal politician come out in support of completely open borders. Their calls for reform and compassion are still framed in the context of an unduly restrictive and violative immigration scheme, and thus are unrealistic and disingenuous. Essentially, they fully support ICE tearing families apart as well, just perhaps at a somewhat lower rate than conservatives (my, aren’t you the humanitarian then?!).

You Can Put a Fence Around Your House, But Not Mine: Property Rights as the Basis for Open Borders

The recent wave of immigrant children coming across U.S. borders from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico has created a great deal of concern for the White House and the American public. While the influx of children presents some unique immigration issues, the immigration debate is not new.

Some are inexplicably unmoved by the plight of desperate children crossing artificial borders in search of a better life, and perhaps, American relatives. But putting emotion aside, the immigration problem is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding by Americans, and indeed, most parts of the world, of private property. As the United States becomes increasingly less free, Americans find themselves barred from, or even jailed for exercising dominion over their own bodies and their private property. It is in this context that the issue of immigration must be analyzed.

Police have the right to stop and frisk anyone they deem to have triggered a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. Resisting will most certainly result in arrest, if not a violent beating. The news is littered with examples of police sexually assaulting people – sometimes boldly, on camera – such is the extent to which the government believes it owns and is entitled to trespass upon the body of individuals. The TSA constantly subjects hordes of American travelers to either being groped by TSA agents, or alternatively, being viewed naked on a full body scanner. It is no secret that TSA agents have targeted attractive women for the privilege of going through these full body scanners (also see here).

The United States continues to have some of the most stringent alcohol laws in the world, and maintains the highest incarceration rate in the world, due largely in part to the insane and overreaching war on drugs (i.e. war on adults making decisions to ingest substances into their bodies). Police regularly steal property from victims who have been convicted of no crime, through the mechanism of civil asset forfeiture, and use the property and/or cash stolen to pad their own paychecks.

These results are not surprising in a society that encourages the forfeiture of the dominion over one’s own body and property to the whim of the government. At the most basic level, almost all Americans support taxation of some form, which is a forcible extraction of wealth from someone who has labored for it. All of these heinous violations occurred because people believe the rights to exercise control over one’s labor, body, and property, can be delegated to a collective of faceless politicians and the unwashed masses, regardless of what the individual desires. This belief is what drives people to support a system that forces them, through taxation, to fund the violations set forth above.

The problem with a collective analysis, and the belief that one has a right to force others to toil and pay for the things to which they feel entitled, is that others can certainly do the same. For instance, if one can acquire a simple majority and obtain the right to force their neighbors to pay for their health insurance, daycare, or food, then predictably, others can acquire a simple majority and obtain the right to force their neighbors to pay for prisons, wars, and police tanks to menace formerly idyllic streets.

Immigration law is yet another way the U.S. government has decreed that Americans do not have the right to do with their property and bodies as they please. The border between Mexico and the United States is a massive and expensive project that has drained unwilling taxpayers of countless dollars and resources earned through the labor from their bodies. It is by definition the case that a substantial portion of taxpayers are unwilling, because if taxes were voluntary, there would be no legal penalties or consequences for evasion thereof, and because people would voluntarily fund the building of such a border if they were truly agreeable and believed it to be in their best interests.

Behind every undocumented, or “illegal” immigrant in the United States, is an exercise in freedom and private property that anti-immigration Americans largely refuse to acknowledge. Undocumented immigrants do not come to the United States because they feel like needlessly imperiling their lives; they come because there are American citizens who want them here. Even as Americans decry floods of immigrants, there are countless corresponding Americans who rent homes to them, sell products to them, do business with them, and sustain their livelihood through mutually beneficial exchanges – whether they want to admit it or not.

If stores and business so desired, they could report all customers whom they suspected  to be undocumented immigrants to the INS; they almost never do. If businesses so desire, they have the ability to verify employee immigration statuses with systems like E-Verify; some businesses incur the expenses to do so, but many do not. If a landlord sees fit, he or she can require immigration status verification before renting to an undocumented immigrant; most landlords choose not to do this. Other Americans employ or hire undocumented immigrants for a variety of other tasks because they benefit from the more affordable services, with no regard as to immigration status. For almost every undocumented immigrant in the United States, there are multitudes of corresponding Americans who engaged in mutually beneficial transactions with this individual.

From a private property perspective, many Americans are in practice welcoming these “illegal” immigrants – by selling things to them, doing business with them, renting them homes, and even befriending them. These Americans have every right to rent their properties, operate their businesses, engage in hiring practices, and associate with people as they see fit.

As for the naysayers (arguably, racists) – those Americans similarly should be able to control their bodies and property as they see fit. They should be free to decline jobs, homes, or business opportunities to undocumented individuals. They may experience a drop in profit or popularity, but such is the concept of freedom; it embodies both the right to control one’s own property, but also entails bearing the consequences thereof. If they want to build walls, barriers, or electric fences of any kind, they are free to do so – only on their property, and at their own expense.

The often-raised complaint of undocumented immigrants abusing social services only bolsters this argument. Social services only exist because American citizens have voted (undocumented immigrants cannot vote) to institute a systemic theft and resulting accumulation of loot, which voters are then eager to fight over. In such a system, it is not hard to understand why voters would not want additional competitors flooding over the borders to divvy up the spoils, but this is hardly a justification for continuing to trample on property rights and freedom of both immigrants and American citizens who should be free to engage in mutual exchange.

If you’re afraid of undocumented immigrants, you can be the first to hang a “whites citizens only” sign in the windows of your home or business. Feel free to build an electric fence around your yard, or pay exorbitant fees for background check systems so you can discriminate against undocumented people to your heart’s content; you have every right. You do not, however, have the right to forcibly keep undocumented immigrants out of other peoples’ business or homes, or force others to pay for your paranoid nationalism.