Liberty includes the right to locomotion. When free government is formed, it is by the consent of the people in forming that government. What is it that binds those who were born in that nation to obey its laws when they are of age? Remaining in the nation.
A child is not bound by the decisions of its parents. Although the parents may decide to be citizens of a nation, a child, when of age to make independent decisions, may decide to leave. This is an important aspect of liberty. “If you don’t like it, move to another country.” This statement is often thrown around inappropriately when there are disagreements about politics. However, it is the right of individuals to do so. If they remain, they are bound to uphold the decisions of the majority, where those decisions fall within the agreed upon rules of government that are established by the Constitution. Governments that prevent or prohibit citizens from leaving the nation have certainly reached tyranny and have left rebellion against the government (whether violent or non-violent) as the only remaining method of reclaiming individual rights.
If we imagine a worldwide government, the conflict is apparent that the liberty of citizens is already lost, due to the inability of that citizen to leave the jurisdiction of the government. They no longer have a choice about which form of government they will follow. Already, we have reached a peculiar point in history in which there seems to be no place on the earth without a government. Many of these governments have created restrictive rules about citizenship, immigration, and even visas, or permission to visit the nation. From a security standpoint, these laws have many benefits. From the standpoint of liberty to flee one government and seek another, this introduces some challenges.
The right of movement and leaving a government is necessary for liberty, but it does not necessarily follow that we have a right to join any society or government that we choose. If a people are to secure the type of government they choose, they must be allowed to set standards for entrance into that group. This has almost always included people who were born as a native of that nation, which means being born to those who are already citizens of that nation. Take the example of a man and a woman, who are citizens of one nation, but have a child while visiting another nation. It would not be reasonable to think that they would be prevented from bringing their child back to the nation of their citizenship, considering the duties and obligations of those parents towards that child. If the child, who is yet unable to give consent to the government of the parents’ nation, does not have a right to give consent and remain when able to do so, he would be forced to leave that nation. If forced to leave the nation, where would he go?
We cannot say that a child, born to two parents with citizenship in another nation, has a right, by nature, to citizenship in the nation where he was born (although this may be allowed by the laws of the birth nation). The child, by birth, is under no contract, because that child is unable to consent to anything. Neither is the nation obligated to preserve the rights of anyone with whom it does not have a contract, which belongs to the citizens of that nation. The parents, not being party to the contract of the government they visit, are in a state of nature with that government, bound only to respect the laws established by their hosts, without violation of their own natural rights.
Here we have the dilemma of immigration. To what degree do we allow those of other nations to seek citizenship in our nation?
Some primary complaints about immigration include: 1) Increased competition for scarce jobs; 2) The use of government resources (particularly social services and government assistance); and 3) Failure to contribute taxes (illegal immigration). There are also complaints from the side of those that are (or would like to) attempt legal immigration, but I will address these later.
Although there have always been concerns and prejudices regarding immigration, the need to keep track of legal immigrants into the country increased with the advent of income taxes. When people were primarily taxed based on purchases or real property, the taxes could be assessed without concern for citizenship. Immigration was largely irrelevant to these methods of assessing taxes.
Once taxes were based on income, it become necessary to keep track of how much each person was paying individually. This task required an increased ability to keep track of who was in the United States and who was working. If the government did not know who was here and who was working, it would be unable to ensure that they were actually paying income taxes.
The need and the ability of the government to keep track of workers increased with the advent of Social Security. Not only did the government need to know who was working and how much they made, it required an account (or record) to be kept of the wages earned and the taxes paid by each worker every year. As a program for citizens of the United States, it also became increasingly important for the government to distinguish between workers who were citizens and those who were not, as this was relevant to the future obligation of the government to make Social Security payments.
As social programs and labor laws increased (including Medicare and minimum wage laws), keeping track of workers became increasingly important for the viability of government. In addition, minimum wage laws increased the appeal of hiring workers who were not citizens. Where income taxes created a necessity for government record-keeping of workers, it also created a mutual incentive for employers and illegal immigrants to avoid reporting to the government. Employers could pay less in both taxes and hourly wage, while the workers could earn some income, while avoiding the increased costs and bureaucracy in gaining work visas and citizenship (resulting from the same government measures).
The proper role of government, however, is the protection of our individual rights. Operating outside of the law often left workers vulnerable to violations of their rights and created a distinct market for human trafficking.
These measures, although in some cases attempts to protect current American citizens, resulted in different classes of work, decreasing the labor market for citizens in some areas. Instead of protecting jobs for citizens, it made some jobs unprofitable for citizens, while hiring citizens for some jobs meant increased costs.
As Congress typically does, it attempted to resolve this problem by increasing the regulation, while also increasing the burden on employers. A following step in this evolution is that increasing numbers of illegal immigrants went from working under-the-table to stealing and purchasing stolen identities (social security info, etc.) in order to work as a “legal,” tax-paying employee, at the expense of those whose identities were stolen.
The results have neither decreased the workforce of illegal employees, nor has it decreased the use of government resources by non-citizens. In fact, laws have increased the access of those who are not legal citizens to taxpayer provided services.
There are steps to improve access to legal immigration, rather than the barriers that have been created. This will only solve part of the problem. As long as we have a tax system based on income and government-provided social programs, there will always be incentives to avoid the standard employer-employee relationship. Income taxes and social programs have REQUIRED the government to be concerned about immigration, because the viability of government services and social programs rely on a strict accounting of workers.