How About Closed Borders Between the States?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Here is an idea to consider, based on the protectionist and anti-immigration positions held by leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and many of his fellow conservatives: Let’s end the system of open borders between the respective states of the Union and impose the same type of controlled system of trade and immigration that Trump favors for America’s international borders.
Now, I know how some will immediately respond and so let me address that issue right off the bat. Some will say, “That wouldn’t be constitutional, Jacob. The Framers specifically provided for a system of open borders between the respective states.”
Yes, that’s true, but the Constitution can be amended. It’s been amended several times, including ten amendments that were enacted immediately after the Constitution was enacted. So, the Constitution can be amended to bring an end to America’s system of open borders between the states and to impose a system of closed or controlled borders between the states.
So, that’s the question I’m posing: Should the American people amend the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of bringing a system of closed or controlled borders between the states?
Of course, the first question is: Is such a proposal practical? The answer is: Of course it is. Each state would simply set up customs and immigration checkpoints at every border crossing between one state and another. Each state could also bring into existence state border patrols whose job would be to ensure that no one came into the state illegally. Consider all the new jobs that would be coming into existence with the new state border patrol and customs agencies.
Let’s first talk about trade.
Conservatives want to restrict foreign goods from coming into the United States. They say that that will produce economic prosperity for the American people because they’ll be forced to buy from American businesses. Ideally, I suppose, their preference would be to ban all foreign goods and make Americans totally self-sufficient.
Okay, then why wouldn’t the same principle apply domestically? That is, if trade restrictions make a nation more prosperous, then doesn’t it stand to reason that trade restrictions will make a state more prosperous? Thus, once we get the Constitution amended, each state would enact trade restrictions or, better yet, trade bans that would drastically reduce or even eliminate goods from one state being sent into another state. Think of all the jobs that would be saved and even created within each state. Think of the tremendous prosperity this would bring to all 50 states of the Union.
Another advantage of domestic protectionism would be the elimination of trade imbalances between the states, just as international protectionism would, it is claimed, eliminate America’s trade imbalances with other nations. I don’t know whether Virginia runs a trade surplus with Maryland or whether it’s the other way around, but regardless, controlled borders would eliminate the problem, one way or the other. Just think, by eliminating trade between the respective states, we’d never have to worry about trade imbalances between the states ever again.
One of the biggest advantages of controlled borders between the states is that each state could prohibit businesses from moving to other states, much like Trump and conservatives want to stop American businesses from moving to foreign countries. Think about the positive effect on employment if businesses could no longer pick up stakes and move to another state or even establish a branch in other states. Every business would be required to remain in the state in which it is doing business, thereby providing job security to all its employees.
Okay, now that we’ve established how controlled borders and trade protectionism between the respective states would bring economic prosperity to America, let’s move on to immigration.
Yes, I know, there will be an immediate objection to the idea of imposing immigration controls between the respective states. People will say the same thing they say about trade restrictions — that it just wouldn’t be constitutional. But again, the Constitution can be amended. If domestic immigration controls are a good idea, why not amend the Constitution to permit them?
Let’s examine the benefits of domestic immigration controls in the context of the benefits that Donald Trump and other proponents of immigration controls claim such controls bring internationally.
Just think: With domestic immigration controls, people from states that provide small amounts of welfare will no longer be free to move to states with generous welfare. Why do you think there are so many people living in California and New York? It’s got to be because of welfare. Why else would people move to those states? Is it fair that California and New York taxpayers have to pay for the welfare for people from other states who have moved into those two states? No fairer than it is for Americans to have to pay for welfare for people from other countries.
Without immigration controls it is entirely possible that everybody in the United States could suddenly move to New York City, just like it’s possible that everyone in the world could suddenly move to the United States if U.S. borders were open. That’s a risk we just can’t afford to take. Think what a disaster it would be if all the other states were suddenly empty of people and if all Americans were now living in New York City. Controlled borders would prevent that problem.
What about terrorism? Do we really want a nation in which terrorists are free to move from state to state? Wouldn’t it be safer to confine terrorists to the states in which they are living?
Moreover, just think about the fact that no one knows how many people are crossing state borders every day or even who they are. Is that frightening or what? Controlled borders would fix that problem, especially since everyone would have to carry state identification cards, which state officials could use to ferret out terrorists and even plan our lives better.
Also, let’s not forget about culture. We often think that America has one culture, but try convincing a person from New York City’s Chinatown who visits Savannah or New Orleans of that. Better yet, consider Texas, whose culture, in some respects, has more in common with Mexico than it does with New York. Several years ago, New Yorkers, besieged by an economic recession in New York, were freely moving to Texas in droves, where they were stealing jobs from Texans and, even worse, polluting Texas culture with the standard New York culture of arrogance and obnoxiousness. Texas businesses were even forced to post signs saying, “We don’t care how you did it in New York.”
With immigration controls between the states, all that would come to a stop. Texas could stop people from moving in from the north much like U.S. officials currently stop people from moving into Texas from the south.
If you see the fallacies of establishing borders controls domestically, then all you need to do is just apply the principles of free trade and open immigration that we have within the United States to the international arena. God has created a consistent universe, one in which principles of natural law, human action, and economic principles apply consistently and universally.