On April 16 on National Review Online, Daniel T. Griswold, the head of immigration policy for the libertarian Cato Institute, attacked National Review magazine complaining that in three “consecutive” issues, “anti-immigrant crusaders,” including John O’Sullivan and Mark Krikorian, have “pushed every button to whip up hostility to immigration.” Let us ignore the nasty smears—O’Sullivan and Krikorian are not “anti-immigrant,” but, like most people, simply disagree with dogmatic libertarians on immigration policy—and focus on Griswold’s substantive position.
Near the end of the NRO article Griswold insists that he is not for “open borders,” but his record suggests otherwise. A story in the Christian Science Monitor (August 30, 2000) by Scott Baldauf is particularly revealing. Baldauf describes a new project of the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Border Patrol that specifically targets highly sophisticated criminal smuggling rings that employ infrared scopes, two-way radios, and computer databases. The project goes after smugglers associated with organized crime rather than simply individuals who cross the border illegally.
These criminal gangs have done enormous damage. One gang, headed by Mexican criminal Nick Diaz smuggled about 12,000 foreigners, most of them from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and India, into the United States. These illegal immigrants paid $20,000 a piece to be placed in safe houses in 38 different states. Senator Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) praised the new INS/Border Patrol initiative. So too, did Judy Marks, a spokeswoman for the National Immigration Forum, a left-wing advocacy group, that nearly always opposes any form of border control.
But not Dan Griswold of the Cato Institute. Instead, Griswold specifically attacked the new Border Patrol initiative that targets organized crime. Scott Baldauf records Griswold’s response as follows: “Noting the INS’s new strategy, he sighs, ‘It’s just another example of government trying to stop people from doing something that is natural, to better their conditions.’“ In addition, Baldauf quotes Griswold as declaring: “The problem with illegal immigration is not the immigration; it’s that it’s illegal.”
Griswold’s position expresses utter contempt for American democracy and the principles of republican self-government. Our democratic republic is based on the ideal of “government by consent of the governed.” As a self-governing free people, we Americans are supposed to decide who may, or may not, enter our country. Mr. Griswold doesn’t seem to understand the difference between American citizens and foreign citizens. The “government” Mr. Griswold refers to are the underpaid, overworked agents of the U.S. Border Patrol performing their dangerous tasks for the safety of all of us; the “people,” that he refers to are illegal foreigners mostly from Muslim nations who paid thugs $20,000 to violate our laws.
Apparently, Mr. Griswold believes that those 12, 000 illegal aliens from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, India, Mexico, and elsewhere had the right to enter the U.S. without the “consent of the governed “ (i.e., without the consent of the American people); because as a dogmatic libertarian he seems to think that “government” (any government) should not stop “people” (any people) from doing “something that is natural.” Thank God “government,” meaning in reality, our overworked law enforcement guys, prevented a “person,” one Zacarias Moussaoui, from doing what was “natural” for him.
Mr. Griswold’s position is neither classical liberalism nor sensible libertarianism, of the type represented by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Frederich A. Hayek. Hayek, who stood first and foremost for the “rule of law,” would surely have repudiated an extreme laissez-faire dogmatism that argues that a free society should not establish and enforce rules to regulate the admission of non-citizens. Moreover, as George Nash wrote in The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, Hayek believed that the establishment of the rule of law “often required vigorous action” by the classical liberal state “to facilitate . . . the continued functioning of a free society.” In The Constitution of Liberty, Hayek explicitly states that because of “large immigration,” the United States could have had “serious problems” in promoting “common standards of values,” “if it had not been for a deliberate policy of ‘Americanization’ through the public school system. . . .”
Actually, Griswold is not against all “government” border control, he favors Mexican and Canadian government action, it is simply the U.S. Border Patrol that is the target of his ire. At a National Immigration Forum conference in Washington, D.C. on February 1, 2002, he advocated a free exchange of people as well as goods and services, within a “North American perimeter;” meaning that a substantial part of the security checks for terrorists would come at the Mexican and Canadian borders. In other words, while heaping abuse on “government,” Griswold wants to entrust American border security (and thus American lives) to bureaucrats from the often, lax Canadian, and often corrupt, Mexican, governments.
Finally, Griswold echoes the mantra constantly repeated by open-borders advocates that immigration has nothing to with terrorism because the September 11 terrorists entered the country on student and tourist, rather than immigrant, visas. However, as Steve Camorata of the Center for Immigration Studies notes, the 48 Islamic radicals charged or convicted of terrorism since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 used every conceivable method to enter the United States. They were legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, tourists, students, business travelers, and even asylum seekers. Thus, six of the Islamic militants who came as immigrants became naturalized U.S. citizens, eleven are legal permanent residents, twelve are illegal immigrants, thirteen are tourists, two are students, and three are asylum seekers.
Ali Mohamed, the immigrant, who wrote the al Qaeda terrorist handbook and participated in a bombing of a U.S. embassy is a naturalized American citizen. Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, the immigrant who served as the ringleader of the plot to bomb New York city landmarks, is a legal permanent resident. Abdel Hakim Tizegha, an illegal immigrant who sneaked across the Canadian border, was involved in the millennium plot to blow up LAX. One of the terrorists, Mahmud Abouhalima, became a permanent resident because his status was legalized or “regularized” as an agricultural worker during the last major amnesty in 1986. And so it goes.
Despite all this, Griswold supports another amnesty, and tells us not to be concerned with immigrant visas, or, indeed, with illegal immigration at all (“the problem with illegal immigration is that it is illegal.”) While national security-oriented conservatives (and liberals) will be able to work with Hayekian libertarians (like Cato’s Doug Bandow, the former Reagan official, who led the fight against the “Law of the Sea” treaty), we will find ourselves increasingly at odds with Griswold’s brand of dogmatism.
In peacetime, arguing with dogmatic libertarians used to be an amusing parlor game, today it is serious business.
This article originally appeared on National Review Online on May 9, 2002, and is reprinted with permission.