The US government, as reported on during June 2018, was separating families seeking asylum through illegal means i.e. crossing the boarder illegally and not, as is legally required, reporting to “ports of entry.”
Having said that, however, there has been some reported cases in which (potential) immigrant families had been separated after having followed the legal means of presenting themselves at the rightful ports of entry. According to Trump administration officials, they only separate families at ports of entry if they have a warranted suspicion that the child may be in an unsafe situation, or, if they do not have reason to believe an adult accompanying a child is in fact their legal custodian.
Lami Kriel, of the Houston Chronical, first reported in November 2017 that families were being divided by boarder control after arriving in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The New York Times followed the story on and reported that from October 2017 to April 20, 2018, 700 families were separated as a consequence of Trump’s no-holds-barred immigration policy. Lastly, Reuters reported that 1,800 families had been split from between October 2016 and February 2018, inferring this kind of state enforced algorithm had been running for quite some time.
Despite Trump rescinding this immigration policy entailing human rights abuses, meant to deter illegal immigration, this episode in the administrations history still raises issues concerning immigration and its role in a liberalist society. In particular, can a Republican party — which includes such libertarian characters like Rand Paul— ever justify the government interfering upon peoples right to move freely; that is, does the state ever have the right, under liberalist principles, to defend a nation’s cultural homeostasis and held value systems over individuals’ freedom of movement, expression and speech?
The House, Senate and Executive are all controlled by the party of Reagan – the Republicans. Their values are, usually, presented within a framework of classical liberalism which necessitates individual freedom and, logically proceeding this moral imperative, the restriction of government interference into the intricacies of individual choice and the broader as a whole society. Can the erecting and enforcement of national boarders, with state penalisation if crossed, really be upheld within the Republicans own liberalist ideology?
Ronald Reagan once said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Liz Goodwin of the Boston Globe reports that in several instances of family separation, children were taken “by Border Patrol agents who said they were going to give them a bath. As the hours passed, it dawned on the mothers the kids were not coming back.” Reagans words on government have never been so apt; never did he (probably) foresee that those words would apply to his own political governing party. Perhaps a “pseudo” should be attached to the “liberalism” when next describing the modern day Republican party.
Nicholas Maloberti, a contributor to the Libertarian Papers Journal, opines that “individuals should be allowed to use force as a means of protecting their private spheres of moral freedom against others’ opportunistic behaviour.” One could solemnly argue, then, that an immigrant family should — by rights of liberal moral freedom, a right the Republican party supposedly upholds — have the ability to vehemently fight back against the opportunistic political manoeuvring of President Trump, who wields state power and uses it to ponder to his xenophobic baseline of supporters.
Liberalism, or the set of liberalist principles that ought to align with the Republican party, tends to assert that the initial burden of justification to restrict freedom—in this case a freedom of movement—stands with those who propose restrictions of freedom, not to those that oppose such restrictions. As Joel Feinberg writes, “Most writers on our subject have endorsed a kind of ‘presumption in favor of liberty.’ … Liberty should be the norm; coercion always needs some special justification.”
Witty Republicans and Trump loyalists could, perhaps, offer-up a line of argument justifying that immigration barriers and enforcement are a manifestation of the right of association and its parallel right to exclude others. Or, as Christopher Wellman writes, “just as an individual has a right to determine whom (if anyone) he or she would like to marry, a group of fellow-citizens has a right to determine whom (if anyone) it would like to invite into its political community. And just as an individual’s freedom of association entitles one to remain single, a state’s freedom of association entitles it to exclude all foreigners from its political community”
This stanza of reasoning is predicated on the logic of ownership; for instance, President Trump might argue that the American citizenry collectively own their territory or political institutions and these ownership rights allow the state the power to deny those that would trespass on their property.
Yet, what if a potential immigrant has friends and family living within the United States, wouldn’t immigration barriers and restrictions stop them from also enjoying their freedom of association? The purposeful separation of a child from a parent is certainly alien to the liberal necessity concerning the right of association. Immigration restrictions, moreover, infringe upon the freedom of foreigners as well as national citizens to integrate and freely associate of their own volition. And what about market liberalism; surely it cannot be the principle of the Republican party to restrict market access, allowing those who’re only born in America to participate? Free market be damned.
Indeed, Raegan himself uttered his own support, on the same grounds as the argument above, for immigration when — on Labour Day in 1980 from Liberty State Park in New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty occupying the backdrop of the scene – he said with conviction “these families came here to work, they came to build, others came to America in different ways, from other islands, under different and often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolises what they all managed to build, no matter why they came from or how they came or how much they suffered.” This speech concerned the families that, with hope, once strode through Ellis Island right beside the Statue of Liberty to build America. If freedom of association meant these families could’ve been expelled, there would have been no America as we see and know it today.
Thus, a liberal justification of freedom to associate around a national identity, as well as expel others from that clique, can be argued, but the counter is potent and more in line with the individual as a moral agent who should have undeniable liberty.
Republican Steve King tweeted, in March 2017, that “We (U.S.) can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” King, in his tweet, hints to the argument against immigration that suggests state’s have the legitimate right to control cultural and demographic changes originating from external forces. David Miller, a liberal nationalist and political theorist, argues for immigration restrictions by, and analogously to Steve King, stating that “the public culture of their country is something that people have an interest in controlling: they want to be able to shape the way that their nation develops, including the values that are contained in the public culture.”
Immigration can certainly mutate the innate polymorphisms that a cultures’ expressed genotype is composed of. Take the obvious: immigration increases a nation’s population density, and once an immigrant gains citizenship they can take agency during democratic elections. Immigrants, in addition, come with their own cultural biases and cognitive patterns, which can change a nation’s collective consciousness. If a nation’s citizens have elevated rights to adjudicate over their national community, then, it would seem to follow that state’s have rights to restrict immigration – an argument known as self-determination.
A state’s reproductive rights can, too, change the composition of the American citizenry and its culture, without any immigration necessary. For instance, it’s true to say that the state of Utah has the highest birth rate per every 1,000 people in the entire U.S. Now, lets say the people of Utah diverge, in comparison to the rest of the U.S., in their held values and cultural norms. The people of Utah successfully pass these values and cultural norms onto their children who, due to Utah’s birth rate, are of plenty. Slowly, but surely, the values and cultural norms this population hold are spread throughout the land, therefore altering the nation’s political and cultural complexion. That is, although the origins of these changes to the U.S. are different, they still result in the same kind of changes as would be induced by immigration.
In this case of reproductive rights, would the argument of self-determination be adequate reasoning to allow the federal government the ability to restrict Utah’s reproductive freedoms?
Imagine the federal government passes legislation that prohibits Utah from reproducing over and above the average national birth rate, which would slow population growth and cultural change. If American citizens have the right to resist cultural and value change— as is encapsulated within the self-determination argument— then it’s hard to see why, on the one hand, its liberally permissible to restrict the freedom of movement and to immigrate, yet, on the other hand, its impermissible to restrict freedom of reproductive liberty. The same deliberations that justify the right to exclude immigrants from the U.S. – the entitlement to control a nation’s present and future cultural destination – also appear to justify the right to restrict freedom of reproduction.
Cultural change, moreover, can be disseminated through a nation by other means besides that of immigration and population reproduction. 86 per cent of the American population can read at least to a fifth-grade level. This, by default, opens-up the opportunity of cultural and value change through the medium of simply reading. For instance, say an American publisher releases a book that entails the teachings of the Buddha; this book reaches mammoth sales in America, staying at the top of the New York Times best seller list for several weeks. For this reason, American culture has changed exponentially, as, now, 80 per cent of the population now meditate and have left their Christian roots behind. The self-determination argument would maintain that the state has the right, in order to maintain cultural homeostasis, to expel and ban this book.
This reasoning would immediately infringe upon freedom of expression and speech. And, before I hear calls of unrealism in this thought experiment by those who would contend the state wouldn’t actually go this far, just remember, President Trump did actually try to block the publication of the book Fire and Fury, written by Michael Wolff, that documented Trumps sheer incompetence.
Trump’s anathema to traditional liberalism clearly isn’t restricted to the issue of immigration. Despotism is the summary of President Trump’s character. It’s his anchor of which every decision is stabilised. Using state power to abuse human rights and separate families in order to “make America great again,” as well as to maintain American values can, as this essay has argued, inadvertently commandeer other state infringements on dearly held liberal freedoms and on the constitution itself.
The Republican party, and its contortion of liberalism, has been renovated to uphold the noun ‘Trump’ in big gold letters.