The issue of immigration touches on fundamental cultural and economic values that are dear to many people in the United States and around the world. Immigration involves changes; whether that change involves new languages, foods, traditions, or industries—or even whether it brings positive benefits to a majority of people in a society—is irrelevant to its detractors.
These critics most aptly belong to the label of curator because their argument declares an inherent value in conservation. While politicians and commentators may proclaim themselves conservative and simultaneously promote free immigration, they are not in the same category as those who oppose immigration, nor should the label be apply to these libertarian-minded defenders.
The value of conservation is central to the anti-immigration position because immigration inevitably disrupts the homogeneity of a society’s traditions by bringing in new cultures and ideas. A society that regards certain religious and economic traditions as essential to its character will necessarily feel under attack when new religions and new workers enter that society, producing the “threat” of change to the original inhabitants.
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbana recent attendee of CPAC (“the largest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world,” according to the conference website), explained this attitude during a joint press briefing with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna “The position that I defend is a cultural position, based on civilization.
Orban further elaborated on this position to CPAC saying, “This war is a culture war. We must revitalize our churches, our families, our universities and our community institutions.
The main implication of Orban’s assertion is that immigrants are detrimental to the institutions he values and that conservatives should advocate policies that will prevent the detrimental changes from occurring. Former US President Donald Trump echoed Orban’s warning in his presidential campaign announcement: “When Mexico sends its people, it doesn’t send its best, it sends people who have a lot of problems.” .
Trump’s statement is objectively false; Mexicans who choose to cross the border, whether they do so legally or not, are primarily productivity-minded individuals who seek higher wages, increased security and a better life for themselves and their families, not criminals.
According to Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, in 2018 illegal immigrants were approximately 50% less likely to be convicted of a crime than ethnic Americans in Texas, which is the only state to record the immigration status of convicted persons. Additionally, data from the New American Economy Research Fund showed that 96.7% of Mexicans undocumented workers contribute to the economy and have purchasing power of $82.2 billion.
The economic argument alone should suffice to justify an open immigration policy; however, it does not convince conservatives because of the primacy they place on maintaining culture. According to them, even economic growth that involves social change is an evil that must be prevented because, as Orban asserts, the maintenance of “community institutions” is the primary objective.
Trump and Orban both establish a dichotomy between civilization and immigration. The civilization they refer to is their conception of “Western Civilization”, which they see as supporting traditional values and Christianity and, therefore, morality. This dichotomy reveals the cornerstone of conservative thinking on immigration and highlights the means by which their beliefs can be challenged.
This medium is morality; conservatives support policies that uphold Christianity and traditional values – whether they involve immigration quotas, tariffs on foreign-made goods, or abortion bans – because they see them as inherently moral , and not because of statistics or calls for empathy.
The argument for immigration must therefore be based on moral grounds, and the only moral reasoning for immigration comes from libertarianism, specifically the principle of voluntary action. Indeed, it follows from the principle of volunteering that the only moral immigration policy is that of open borders.
In his second treatise on government, John Locke pose the moral principle of voluntarism: “Men being, as we have said, by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be excluded from this state, and subject to the political power of others, without his own consent. .”
The reasoning is clear: because men are individuals “by nature” with their own inherent capacity to act, any use of force violates their rights. Thus, any restriction on immigration violates the inherent rights of individuals to choose where they wish to live. Unless there is a clear threat to national defense, no government has the right to restrict the movement of its people or the citizens of its neighbors.
Companies that wish to hire migrant workers or move their factories across borders should not be prevented from doing so. Workers do not have the right to compel companies to keep them employed. On the contrary, the companies reserve the right to hire the employees of their choice, even if these employees come from another country.
Conservatives who wish to maintain their institutions can do so in a free society. Muslim immigrants who open a mosque do not violate the right of Christians to continue to attend church. What conservatives cannot do in a free society, however, is declare their religion to be central to the traditions of the state and take steps to prohibit the practice of any opposing religion.
As long as they do not violate anyone’s rights, immigrants should be able to buy goods, trade, speak their language and practice their faith in any way they choose and within all borders. These actions are independent, consensual and do not impose any burden on the country in which they occur.
The conservative goal of maintaining institutions may be moral, but there is no inherent value in conservation. Traditions and institutions should only be maintained because individuals choose to do so, forcing individuals to continue to practice a tradition or participate in an institution is impermissible in a free society.
The misunderstanding of the concept of Western civilization shows how tradition can be irrationally defended. Western civilization is a moral concept when applied to countries that recognize enlightenment and protect individual rights. Societies, like Hungary, that reject individual liberty through attacks on immigrants and LGBTQ+ rights should not be considered “Western” just because they are also overwhelmingly Christian.
A policy of open borders is in line with the correct understanding of Western civilization because it involves the protection of individual rights; nations with this policy, no matter where they exist geographically, should be considered Western.
Arguments by immigration advocates about the negative effects of immigration on crime and the economy have been widely discredited, however, conservatives still rely on the primacy they place on their culture as a tool to avoid these proofs. Thus, advocacy for open borders as the most applicable immigration policy to a free society must take on this moral argument and demonstrate its illegitimacy.
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