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Sovereignty is the very essence of what makes a “nation” a “nation”—a free and independent state in which the people of that nation exercise total control over the governance of that nation. Clear and enforceable borders are an essential element of that sovereignty. Without them, the nation itself cannot be defined, and the sovereignty of that nation falls as a matter of course.
These truisms have been bedrock concepts of both political science and international law for centuries, essentially tracing their roots to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. A nation’s sovereignty is, in fact, enshrined in the central body of international law, the United Nations Charter, which says that, “nothing should authorise intervention in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”
But without enforceable borders, what determines the “domestic jurisdiction” for a state? And just how can a state govern itself if its borders are not secure?
Europe, and the EU member nations have been grappling with these issues—especially with the waves of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East. Once a refugee arrives in Southern Europe, that refugee essentially has unfettered access to other EU member nations, which has created huge problems in public policy—from managing essential services to crime to dealing with Europe’s well-known social welfare state.
This was an important factor in Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union—the pressure being placed on the United Kingdom to further open their borders—as the British people were facing a huge threat from immigrants sneaking through the Chunnel from refugee camps formed right outside it.
It is not as though the world hasn’t been well-aware of these problems for years. In fact, in the late 1990’s, celebrated free-market economist Milton Friedman remarked in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that, “It’s just obvious… you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
This is not to say that a nation should have closed borders—far from it. One of the things that makes America the most exceptional nation on the planet is that anyone can migrate here (legally) and become an American.
But when you have a combination of a labyrinthine immigration system and you essentially fail to punish illegal migration, you create massive disincentives towards doing the right thing. And you exacerbate those disincentives when you are promising all-manner of giveaways to those who are considering the arduous journey of migration.
However, the impact to the public treasury is only one aspect of this. An essential aspect of sovereignty is the ability of a nation to control the time, manner, place, and method of migration. This allows a country to figure out the best way to absorb new populations, to create policies to assimilate those who migrate into a nation’s legal and political culture, and to ensure that the overall security of that country isn’t compromised.
Otherwise, what ensues is the undermining of the very things that make that nation what it is.
Founding father (and law professor to Thomas Jefferson) George Wythe believed fervently, for instance, in the importance of an educated populace. Without that education, without that understanding of who we are as an American people, the republic would collapse.
So, now assume that you have a situation in which illegal migration is incentivized. You have a little in the way of punishment for those who migrate illegally, it is an inordinately expensive proposition to remove the millions who are illegally present. You have made it easy for those ineligible to participate in the public decision-making of this nation to participate. You are apportioning representation within the political process in a manner which includes those who have no legal voice, so that the voice of the citizenry is diminished. All the while, those who are within a nation illegally may not have any knowledge, understanding, appreciation for or allegiance to the principles upon which that nation was created.
As Margaret Thatcher quipped, “When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you will always have the consent of Paul.” And when you have an influx of illegal immigrants into a country and give them, through both action and inaction, a voice in the political process, it is a shortcut to the destruction of that country.
Without borders, sovereignty ceases to exist. Without that sovereignty, there is no nation.
Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty and host of the Andrew Langer Show on WBAL NewsRadio 1090.
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