Libertarians believe that all real property should be privately owned, that the government should not own land. To be consistent, then, our position on a foreign national entering our country should be exactly what it would be if all land were already in private hands.
Individual ownership of a piece of property amounts to the sole right to control and use that property. This is the basis of Individual property rights. A property owner has the sole right to dictate the terms upon which someone may enter his property. To enter on any other terms is to trespass.
When a foreign national desires to enter the United States: The only way he/she can do so without entering illegally, (i.e. trespassing), is to comply with the terms and conditions set down by the property’s owners.
In this case, the property’s owners are the citizens. No one has a right to enter this country without permission.
A right to travel?
Individuals possess an inalienable, inherent right to travel unimpeded in the public thoroughfare. However, this right to travel stops at another individual’s property line. If all property were privately owned, then there would be no right to travel, only a privilege at best—with the owner’s permission.
Anyone wishing to enter who is willing to comply with the established terms and conditions for entry, should not be arbitrarily denied entry. We are clear on the issues that are relevant to immigration in terms of personal and economic freedoms: An unrestricted labor pool is necessary for the operation of free markets therefore, if a foreign national seeks entry to this country to work, they should not be restrained.
Rights require responsibility, so we are forced to address some questions: What obligations go with these rights? What are the obligations of someone wishing to enter the country? We cannot have a political party dedicated to the rights and responsibilities of the individual, and then say that people have the “right” to cross our border unrestrained.
Open vs. Unregulated
Saying that a border is “open” does not mean that it is unregulated, and saying that a border is “regulated” does not mean that it is closed.
If the terms and conditions of entry are public and reasonable, then entry is a matter of formality. What, then, are the reasonable controls that Libertarians would advocate? Obviously we would require that anyone who wishes to enter must comply with the laws of the country. They must agree to be as subject to the authority of the law as the rest of us. Libertarians are advocates of the rule of law. It is our obligation to set down those rules plainly and make them available to all who would enter. As a basic testament to an immigrant’s willingness to comply with our laws, he must be willing to be recognized as an immigrant, and to do so at a recognized point of entry. Anyone entering illegally has already demonstrated a prima facia lack of willingness to comply with our laws.
There is merit to the arguments that we have no obligation to allow entry to someone with a virulent and contagious illness, a criminal record, or other undesirable characteristics.
Of course, for anyone to be able to comply with any of these requirements, they must provide some form of identification. We live in a world where collectivism is a dominant cultural mindset and terrorists wage private and state-supported war against the United States. In a post-9/11 world, if peaceful people are to be allowed to cross borders freely, we must have some mechanism for determining that they are peaceful.