Is There a Right to Immigration? A Libertarian Perspective

Human Rights Review, 2003

29 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2011

See all articles by Walter E. Block

Walter E. Block

Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business

Gene Callahan

SUNY Purchase College


The question of whether there is a right to immigrate, and, if so, what limits may exist on that right, is a controversial one for rights theorists. Even thinkers sharing many fundamental normative principles can come to radically different policy conclusions on immigration. To illustrate some of the difficulties with the issue, we will examine the controversy over immigration among those who adhere to the classic liberal view on the primacy of property rights for normative politics - what is often, today, called libertarianism.

There are some who take the position that any compromise whatsoever with free and unrestricted immigration must perforce be ruled incompatible with libertarianism. After all, the immigrant, merely by appearing at our shores, particularly at the invitation of a citizen and property owner, cannot be said by that fact alone to have initiated violence against an innocent person. Not being guilty of a violation of the basic libertarian principle of not initiating aggression, there is no justification for visiting any violence upon him. Since forceful removal from our shores would indeed constitute an initiation of force against him, this would be improper.

A number of libertarians argue to the contrary. We will employ Hoppe (1995, 1998, 2001) as our paradigmatic example, both because of the clarity of his arguments and his prominence among those making this case. Hoppe maintains that there can no more be a libertarian defense for unrestricted immigration than there can be one for unrestricted trespass, or for forced integration, or for the violation of the law of free association, or for the elimination of property rights. Just as trespass and coerced integration violate private property rights, so does free immigration.

Suggested Citation

Block, Walter E. and Callahan, Gene, Is There a Right to Immigration? A Libertarian Perspective. Human Rights Review, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Walter E. Block (Contact Author)

Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business ( email )

6363 St. Charles Avenue
Box 15, Miller 321
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States
(504) 864-7944 (Phone)
(504) 864-7970 (Fax)

Gene Callahan

SUNY Purchase College ( email )

735 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
United States

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