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The Power to Restrict Immigration Is Not Delegated to the U.S. Government

Here’s a letter to a Cafe Hayek patron:

Mr. T___:

On this matter you and I are in agreement: we Americans today would be even freer and more prosperous had the national government never exercised powers other than those that the framers intended, which, as you correctly note, are limited to the powers expressly delegated to the national government in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.

So allow me to pose to you a friendly question. Given your belief that the U.S. government ought never exercise any powers other than those enumerated in Art. I, Sec. 8, why do you support U.S. government restrictions on immigration? Nowhere in this section of the Constitution – or, for that matter, anywhere else in that document – is the national government delegated the power to restrict immigration. The closest the Constitution comes to addressing immigration is when in Art. I, Sec. 8 it empowers the national government “[t]o establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” But this power clearly does not include the power to restrict or to otherwise regulate immigration.

You might be correct that tighter immigration restrictions are desirable and should be imposed by Uncle Sam – meaning that I might be mistaken to disagree with you on this matter. But you slip into inconsistency if, after insisting that Uncle Sam has no business exerting any powers not expressed in Art. I, Sec. 8, you advocate active national-government imposition and enforcement of immigration restrictions.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030