The Law

Bad Arguments Against Immigration

The Economic Argument
Arguments against immigration on economic grounds basically boil down to “They took our jobs!”. Some feel that allowing people to freely cross borders will result in a flood of low-wage labor that will “steal” jobs from natural born citizens. Labor is a factor of production, just like raw materials or financial capital. Restricting the flow of capital and labor will always decrease economic prosperity. Access to more resources – human or otherwise – always increases wealth and opportunity. If this does not make sense to you, I recommend Frederic Bastiat’s “What is Seen and What is Unseen”, chapter 7, as well as his brilliantly satirical “Candle Maker's Petition

The Culture Argument
Others argue that immigration must be restricted in order to protect the nation’s unique cultural heritage. I submit to you that any culture which must be maintained by force is not an authentic culture and is probably a bad one. Cultures freely arise because they provide benefits to those who participate in them. Cultures are always changing. Getting government in the business of protecting culture is dangerous and counter-productive. First, who gets to define what constitutes culture? Bureaucrats don’t have the best track record in such matters. Second, do we really want to live in a culture that is forced upon us by government prohibitions, restrictions and mandates? (I know this stands in contrast to PI's stance, but in my opinion the same goes for language, which is part of culture.)

The Welfare Argument
Advocates of limited government sometimes argue against immigration on the grounds that immigrants make use of the welfare state and increase the cost of government. State-sponsored welfare programs are a problem. Stopping immigration because immigrants might use welfare programs treats one tiny symptom, not the disease itself. If you routinely dumped garbage on your front lawn and found raccoons frequenting your property, would you try to ban raccoons or would you clean the up the garbage? Though I think the vast majority of immigrants immigrate for jobs, freedom and opportunity, I’m sure some come and make use of government handouts (though far less than U.S. Citizens, and on average less than they pay in taxes). The handouts are an attractive nuisance and should be addressed on their own merits, not by attempting to ban the free movement of people.

The Safety Argument
Some argue that allowing easy immigration will bring bands of criminals into their country and make them less safe. First, if something is a crime it is already, by definition, illegal. Threats to life and property are already protected against via the existing police/military operations. Putting up a wall and stopping anyone from crossing it on the grounds that some of them may be criminals is ludicrous. By this logic, governments should perpetually engage in random home searches because they might discover criminal activity. Closed borders probably don’t stop criminals, but let’s pretend that they could; if we could keep foreign criminals out by keeping out anyone foreign, what would we gain? We’d have spent tons of resources keeping out foreigners, most of whom aren’t criminals, and we’d have that much less to use fighting domestic crime. Banning people from movement because some of them may be criminals is even dumber than banning gun ownership because some people may use them for crime. I trust PI readers to see the many problems with pre-emptive Minority Report style crime fighting.

The Right Argument
Freedom to immigrate can be defended from several angles, but I believe the most important argument is based on rights. Imagine you and I have pieces of property that share a border. You wish to traverse my property and I wish to let you, but lawmakers prohibit it. What business do they have dictating whether we can make decisions about our own property? Sure, they were democratically elected, but what business do others have of voting to determine how you and I peacefully use our property?

What if government issued a decree that business owners were prohibited from hiring anyone born on a Tuesday? It’s no different when they prohibit hiring anyone born in another country. Shouldn’t the business owner be free to hire whom he wishes? If an individual wishes to travel, work, buy, or sell peacefully and all other parties involved agree, why should government prohibit it?

When you think up other arguments against immigration, ask yourself why they should not also be applied in state to state immigration? City to city? Home to home?

At bottom I think much anti-immigration sentiment comes from a fear of people unlike us. I support anyone’s right to be prejudiced, or to associate only with those of like culture. But putting that attitude into public policy not only hampers wealth and progress, it violates my right to associate peacefully with whom I choose.

Kelo v. New London, Three Years Later

On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to our Constitution, ruling in a 5-4 decision that Americans only have a right to keep their homes, businesses, and houses of worship until their government decides a new owner would generate more tax revenue. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor pointed out in her dissent, the majority's ruling in Kelo v. New London means that "[t]he specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

The public's reaction to the Kelo decision was immediate and impassioned, making the case one of the most reviled Supreme Court opinions in recent history. Citizens throughout the nation demanded that their state governments act to make sure their property rights were secure. As a result, 42 states passed at least one bill in response to Kelo, although some bills (such as the eminent domain "reform" passed in my current home state of Missouri) were far less effective than others.

Regrettably, the Supreme Court marked this anniversary by announcing today that it will not consider a case that might have given them the chance to scale back some of the damage done by Kelo. Suzette Kelo, on the other hand, is helping to spearhead the continuing effort to see property rights protected in this country, and she was present for the grand reopening of the little pink house that was at the center of the controversy. It has been relocated to another part of the city, where it will stand as a monument to the struggle that she and her neighbors shared with hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens who are threatened with eminent domain. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, three years after New London won its case by persuading five justices that the displacement of these tax-paying property owners was necessary to complete the city's revitalization, the "redevelopment site" remains a wasteland.

Who Wants to be an Enemy Combatant?

Terrorism, Guantanamo, and Boumediene v. Bush

by M. Harrison



On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that the writ of habeas corpus applied to Guantanamo Bay detainees. The case was the first extension of habeas corpus - a legal tool to challenge the legality of one's imprisonment or detention - to aliens detained on foreign soil.


The decision was 5-4, and it quite riled the dissenting justices. Demonstrating their typical originalist belief that ancient legal doctrines can never adapt to new circumstances, both Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts filed cantankerous dissenting opinions.


Both justices felt the foreign extension of the writ of habeas was unnecessary because a) it never had been done before and b) Congress, in its infinite wisdom, enacted the Detainee Treatment Act that was supposed to do the same thing for those unfortunate souls in Gitmo.


Even though the Detainee Treatment Act explicitly denied the application of habeas to Gitmo detainees, the dissenters thought it was good enough because it provided perfunctory oversight procedures as a putative substitute. According to Justice Roberts, since Congress is elected by people, Congress tried to give some review to Gitmo proceedings, and Congress passed the DTA with the noble intentions of keeping America safe, any judicial interference with the DTA is really the denial of the will of the people. It was a nice try for political theatre, but ill-reasoned as a matter of Constitutional law.

Bar None

Bar None

The absurdity of law licensing

By: Dave Roland

My wife knows that I must really love her because I agreed to move to her home state of Missouri with the full knowledge that I'd have to take that state's bar exam before I could legally practice law there. For anyone who's never had to take a bar exam, trust me when I say that the whole process is a nightmare. Just preparing all the materials necessary to gain approval to take the exam is a hassle, to say nothing of the strain of studying for the test itself. Across the nation, most states require you to graduate from an ABA-accredited school just to sit for the exam, and of all those law school graduates taking the tests, fewer than two of every three will pass any given administration.

More frustrating than the high failure rate of these exams is the fact that they are essentially futile.

The District of Columbia v. Heller

The District of Columbia v. Heller

A watershed battle over the Second Amendment in America's captial

By Joe Holmes


"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson


The Bill of Rights clearly articulates rights guaranteed to all citizens of the United States. Rights are largely a moral concept – the concept that facilitates individuals living within a larger society. The Bill of Rights essentially gives legal meaning to the moral rights expected of a free society. Stated another way, individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law. Since it cannot rightly be said that “society” is a tangible entity capable of coherent, singular action, rights can only apply to individuals.

But many government officials seem to disagree. A case currently before the United States Supreme Court may change this conception of individual rights altogether. District of Columbia v. Heller, a case disputing the constitutionality of a Washington DC law banning handgun ownership, seeks to undermine the right to bear arms and the nature of Constitutional rights in general.