Most of the discussion on what the libertarian position is on immigration is based on assumptions. The assumptions themselves are based on interpretations about how libertarians ought to think in a non-ideal, non-principled society such as the one we have today. We have various factors that do not involve principled libertarianism whatsoever but those involved in this discussion wish to insert what they think is somehow a principled libertarian position on the matter anyway.
I state that this is simply impossible, because any supposed libertarian position in the current circumstances must ignore the realities of the non-ideal society in order to make its case. It must ignore the reality of the cost of their position to innocent, non-violent citizens. It must ignore all non-libertarian consequences of the position they hold, if it were to put into place. For this very reason, their position simply cannot be ‘principled’, because there is no principled libertarian position that will directly result in the violation of the negative rights of innocent people.
There is a principled libertarian position, but this is only possible in ideal circumstances, or for the achievement of the ideal circumstances. Not for the achievement of a situation that makes things even worse for non-violent citizens.
A truly libertarian society, is a society based on the consistent application of the two staples of libertarianism: private property rights and non-aggression. The consistent application of these leads to market anarchism; that is to say: anarchism based on voluntary, non-aggressive interactions.
It is in this libertarian society, based on these two staples, that a principled stance can be taken. The principled stance would be that no one except private property owners would get to decide who gets access to the private property of those owners. It means that people who get such access, must have gotten permission from those owners in some shape or form. If there is no such permission, any entrance or use of another’s private property is considered trespassing. For obvious reasons, and as explained in previous articles, this renders notions of “open borders” or “freedom of movement” entirely meaningless, because the borders would be those of private property and they would clearly not be “open”, nor would there be freedom to move onto the private property of others.
And since, in an anarchic society, all occupied*, bought and/or homesteaded property would be privately held (even if private owners should decide to combine their properties with others to form ‘communal’ property), it is obvious there would be very little movement that is free indeed.
It is obvious from this ‘ideal’ situation, then, that there is no such thing as a libertarian position, principled or otherwise legitimate, where immigrants and refugees are “free to move” onto property that is currently owned. For whether private citizens own property, or the government does according to the legal reality of the day, the fact is that someone owns it, and that if the government didn’t take property by force from its rightful owner, than its rightful owner would own it.
Either way the immigrant or refugee cannot possibly have a “right” to move on currently owned property, which by definition includes all previously homesteaded land that is currently occupied*, all forms of produced infrastructure including roads, and all buildings.
It is for this reason that a libertarian position that declares that immigrants and refugees have a right to freedom of movement, is frankly horse shit. The position that immigrants and refugees have a right to freedom of movement on, or usage of currently owned property without express permission from the (rightful) owner, must ignore the very principle of private property rights, and therefore also the principle of non-aggression. The only thing a libertarian with a principled position can state, is that as far as he is concerned immigrants and refugees are welcome on HIS private property, and lambaste government and statists when they want to deny even this position. Those that somehow see a “freedom of movement” right in the current situation, are arguing not from a principled libertarian point of view, but from a progressive liberal point of view where private property rights are ignored in favor of progressive buzzwords like “compassion” or “tolerance” for poor people from war-torn areas.
Even if currently illegitimately owned property cannot be tracked to a rightful owner (because it is currently held by government for instance) this would not change the obvious fact that it is owned by SOME rightful owner somewhere, or a collection of them, which demolishes any notion of immigrants and refugees having a “right” to enter it or use it. The rightful owners have a right to make decisions on whom gets permission to enter or use it, but immigrants and refugees themselves do not have a right to enter or use it without permission from the rightful owner.
Of course, any property that truly does not have a rightful owner is open to homesteading for anyone, speaking from a libertarian standpoint. But let’s be realistic, how many immigrants and refugees would limit themselves to doing precisely that? For those that would, we would make an exception in this debate. But it is obvious that this debate is NOT solely about such “perfect” immigrants and refugees.
So the long story short, this debate on immigration and refugees revolves around the non-ideal situation of a multitude of aggressions being committed against non-aggressive people, where any stance you take will inevitably result in such aggression. Libertarians do not morally have to accept this, even if they must legally and politically. Libertarians can be against immigrants and refugees flocking into countries where they enter and use the property of others without their permission, regardless of what role the government ultimately plays in all of it.
Just because a burglar breaks open your door and declares the house to be his, does not mean that you must morally condone third parties walking in and sitting on the couch you paid for, much less claim they have some right to do so. Not even if the same burglar has vandalized and destroyed the third party’s house before it.
The only principled libertarian position on immigration, is that you get to decide, or SHOULD get to decide anyway, whether immigrants and refugees are welcome on your own property, and that they should have access to any property not currently owned by anyone legitimate.
All the rest is no more than ideology-fueled opinion mongering at the expense of what actually *is* the principled libertarian position.
*Occupied space is by definition owned. If it is occupied by an illegitimate owner, than the legitimate owner owns the space. If it is unowned land the moment it becomes occupied, it becomes owned by the occupant, at least for as long as the occupant occupies it, and longer if the occupant decides to homestead it and make it his.