Opening borders would solve many problems

June 13, 2006

Among the many measures and half-measures
that are being proposed to solve the crisis of illegal immigration,
there have been some real doozies: a 700-mile wall to keep people out
(or in?); a temporary guest-worker program that may end up harming both
American and Mexican employees; even a scheme for the largest mass
deportation in U.S. history.

But here’s
one good idea you won’t hear about. Let’s allow the North American Free
Trade Agreement to live up to its promise and permit citizens of
Canada, the United States and Mexico to move and work freely among the
three countries.

If that sounds crazy,
it’s only because a century’s worth of regulatory corrosion and toxic
bureaucracy have made us forget that this is how things used to be. For
most of American history, immigration was either open or so lightly
regulated that the United States was effectively open to everybody.

policy of borders without visas would in fact be more restrictive and
formal than the system that applied through much of American history
because it would depend on proper identification — either a passport or
some other recognized papers — to cross from one country into the other.

are two objections to an open border policy: national security and
economics. One is specious; the other is based on ignorance of the way
free markets work and free people behave.

national security. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, this
line of thinking goes, we cannot afford any laxity at our borders. This
case breaks down on logic, facts and history. We already have laxity at
both our northern and southern borders. If you believe undocumented
immigrants are a security threat, things could not be more dangerous
than they are now, because the near-impossibility of entering the
United States legally drives thousands of people to cross the border in

Free movement would be more secure
than our current system, removing Mexican workers’ incentive to swim
across the Rio Grande and allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection
to track everybody who’s entering the country legitimately, with 100
percent assurance that anybody who crosses the border in secret is up
to no good.

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