Trump's Immoral Immigration Tactics: What's the Libertarian View?

In the US, children are taken from their parents. In Europe, the Schengen Agreement may collapse. What's going on?

We've come a long way from "Mr. Gorbachev - tear down this wall."

In case you forgot, here's an excellent reminder clip from June 12, 1987.

Tear Down That Wall in Global Reverse

  1. An extremely contentious political debate is recently underway in the US. Illegal immigrants are frequently separated from their kids and held in hellhole facilities. Even some prominent Republicans disagree with Trump's policies.
  2. Trump wants a wall with Mexico, and he insists Mexico will pay for it.
  3. Today, Trump Mocks Germany in Immigration Tweet. The German government and the Schengen Agreement of no EU border checks may both collapse.
  4. On June 11, Italy stirred up a storm by refusing to allow a ship with refugees to dock. The result was Eurozone Immigration Crisis 2.0. Matteo Salvini, who refused to let ship carrying 629 refugees and migrants to dock, says: ‘We have opened a front in Brussels’.
  5. Australia has a "no immigration boat" policy. At its peak, 18,000 people arrived in Australia illegally by sea according to an October 2017 BBC report. Boats are now turned away and forced back to Indonesia.
  6. PBS reports Venezuelan Refugee Crisis Faces a Backlash Across Latin America. Five thousand Venezuelans flee the economic collapse at home every day and resettle across Latin America, a region with a tradition of open borders. But now, countries are facing a backlash. This month, the governor of Roraima in northern Brazil sued the federal government, demanding it close the border and provide aid to states.

Contentious Debate

The Texas Monthly asks What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated?

Some of the details are sickening. I cannot support them.

Judging from the mothers and fathers I’ve spoken to and those my staff has spoken to, there are several different processes. Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.”

These are people seeking asylum. Bear in mind they did arrive illegally.

They effectively US closed the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge by shutting down the asylum application process to a trickle. The potential refugees illegally crossed by raft and in many cases turned themselves over to the border patrol. the above paragraph shows the result.

Here is the policy: If you come to a bridge, we’re not going to prosecute you, but if you come over the river, we’re prosecuting you.

I was talking to one mother, and she said, “Don’t take my child away,” and the child started screaming and vomiting and crying hysterically, and she asked the officers, “Can I at least have five minutes to console her?” They said no. In another case, the father said, “Can I comfort my child? Can I hold him for a few minutes?” The officer said, “You must let them go, and if you don’t let them go, I will write you up for an altercation, which will mean that you are the one that had the additional charges charged against you.” So the father just let the child go.

Parents are not getting any information on what their rights are to communicate to get their child before they are deported, what reunification may look like. We spoke to nine parents on this Monday, which was the 11th, and these were adults in detention centers outside of Houston. They had been separated from their child between May 23 and May 25, and as of June 11, not one of them had been able to talk to their child or knew a phone number that functioned from the detention center director. None of them had direct information from immigration on where their child was located.

Bear in mind, we are talking about kids 5 years old and in some reported cases younger. These kids likely cannot spell their parents' names or know their former street address. Reunification may not even be possible if there is any slip up in communication or ID process.

Change the Laws

Secretary of Homeland Security

That last Tweet is controversial. Even if one gives Nielsen the complete benefit of the doubt where "border" means "legal crossing for those seeking asylum", she already admitted they will separate kids from their parents if they believe a need to do so to protect the kids.

Importantly, the decision a child is in danger can be real, imagined, or purposely fabricated.

Laura Bush Former First Lady

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Sen. Susan Collins says Family Separation Policy 'Inconsistent' With American Values.

Collins said she’s still waiting to hear from the Trump administration with more information on the practice. However, she said it’s already known that separating migrant children from their parents “doesn’t act as deterrent” and “is inconsistent with our American values.”

“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“That is traumatizing to children who are innocent victims,” she added.

Collins is correct on all counts.

What's Going On? A Simple Explanation

  1. Opportunity
  2. Free Benefits

That's it. People want to move from Africa and the Mideast to Europe, and to the US from Latin America (and in general), because of opportunity and free benefits.

Those two categories overlap as free benefits in education and healthcare in and of themselves create opportunity. However, many would elect to migrate to the US on opportunity alone.

The US has its flaws, like constant warmongering and external meddling coupled with hypocrisy on both.

But the fact remains that in the G7 the US has among the most open and free markets.

That is what creates opportunity.

Friendly Discussion

I exchange emails with two friends on economics and Trump-related political issues every day.

One of them (X) is a free market capitalist, the other (Y) is a self-admitted socialist.

As you may guess, I most often agree with X. But on this issue we all agree that Trump's handling is despicable.

Yet, Trump's behavior is easy to explain. If word gets out that children are forcibly taken from their parents, many will stop trying to get in.

Meanwhile, Trump has put a gun to the head of Democrats to get what he wants: a wall.

This is might-makes-right strategy no matter how many kids lives gets destroyed in the process.

US vs Europe

The US has huge barriers known as oceans, specifically the Atlantic and the Pacific. Except through Mexico, it's tough to get here.

It is much easier to get into the EU through Turkey or from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, Chancellor Merkel welcomed the refugees with open arms. Refugees came in a flood. But they did not want to stop in Greece or Italy, they wanted to go to Germany.

Why? Because Germany had the most benefits.

The EU is a basket of pathetic regulations. If it could, the EU would bust up Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel.

Yesterday, I wrote: Trade War Stupidity: US Chip Makers to Pay Tariffs On Their Own Chips

Friend (X) replied "Our high tech guys can kick the shit out of the world competitively and don’t want stinking tariffs. In truth, trade protection is not about workers. It’s to protect the grandees of non-competitive US firms that want to kill competition and enhance their firm’s stock value."

Bingo. Tariffs are for the same reason everywhere: to kill competition.

Break Up Google?

A Boston Globe editorial ridiculously said Break up Google.

I may comment further on that story, but the attitude is wrong. The US leads the word in technology because it does not hinder business.

Venezuela Hell-Hole

In Latin America, who does not want to escape the socialist hell-hole known as Venezuela?

Escape from Venezuela may mean going to another socialist country, but it's a matter of degree. Nearly every country is better than Venezuela.

If Venezuelans could get here, and we would let them in, they would come. This leads us to the critical point.

Milton Friedman on Incompatibilities

In an Email to Henryk A. Kowalczyk, Milton Friedman wrote:

Immigration is a particularly difficult subject. There is no doubt that free and open immigration is the right policy in a libertarian state, but in a welfare state it is a different story: the supply of immigrants will become infinite. Your proposal that someone only be able to come for employment is a good one but it would not solve the problem completely. The real hitch is in denying social benefits to the immigrants who are here. That is very hard to do, much harder than you would think as we have found out in California. But nonetheless, we clearly want to move in the direction that you are talking about so this is a question of nitpicking, not of serious objection.

Libertarian View

A reader made a comment just the other day that he stopped being a Libertarian because of the open immigration issue.

He view is incorrect. Libertarians do not object to open immigration under the current scheme of things.

On Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux made this note on a previous Anti-Immigration Argument.

Since the appearance of this column [Mish Comment: That is a broken link] of mine, on immigration, several friends (as well as non-friends) have accused me of ignoring the fact that Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, and some other free-market advocates oppose more-open immigration.

But let’s be clear. In the case of Milton Friedman, his only reason for opposing more-open borders was the existence in the U.S. of a welfare state. Friedman emphatically did not make the anti-immigration argument that I criticize in my column. (And he would not have made that argument. Just before he died, I asked him by e-mail if he’d favor a return to the pre-1920s immigration regime if the U.S. abolished its welfare state. He wrote back saying yes.)

Unfortunately, the link to the Boudreaux's referenced article is broken. I have his Email address and will ask him to fix the link.

Note that following WWI immigrants received relatively few benefits and had to quickly learn English and get a job to survive.

Complex Issue

Clearly this is complex issue. But unless we address the fundamental issue of free benefits, the problem will not go away.

In that regard, Europe is much worse off for numerous reasons, as stated above.

Unlimited Demand for Free Services

I respect Friedman's view and do not believe it is incompatible, under current conditions, with the Libertarian view.

Let's make it clear with a simple indisputable fact that I have made many times: "There is an unlimited demand for free benefits and services."

That fact makes it perfectly logical for Libertarians to oppose immigration under the current setup.

However, that fact does not justify the immoral response of President Trump and his willingness to destroy families to get his way.


I received an Email from Don Boudreaux on the broken link. He fixed it. The link points to Libertarians & Immigration.

Inquiring minds may wish to give it a look.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike Mish Shedlock


Reject them. Send them back as a family. What the hell is wrong with that? Is there a need to break them up? Indeed, breaking them up and keeping the kids here is an increased cost on the US.

Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike Mish Shedlock


In case you do not know. This is how the process works. The parents are labeled as criminals for breaking immigration laws. The kids are not charged. The separation is forced.


This is a strange game of brinkmanship. It seems obvious that these people should be turned away as a family rather than purposely separated. I agree with Mish's point that it would be easy to misplace small kids, and what happens then? Do they get put up for adoption in the US? Housed in detention centers that cost a ton? And how long would they be housed there? What criminal charges could they possibly face at that age to justify a lengthy detention? It's a legal minefield that could be easily avoided.

If Trump couldn't get funding for the wall in the $1.3T omnibus behemoth, it's probably not going to happen. This strategy is giving his opponents ammo and there will be plenty of R's that don't like the optics. He may as well continue his strategy of permanent focus overseas (other than sports, duh) and forget he ever said anything about a wall. There is no Trumpian 9D chess argument here. Just turn the illegals away, families intact, or face crummy press.


I agree with sending back the entire family as soon as they're caught, but you just said we can't do that for those who claim asylum. So they'll ALL just claim asylum. That'll open the floodgates.

The parents are criminals, by the way. Their first act on US soil is to disregard our immigration laws. That cannot be rewarded. Why would anyone else wait in line for the legal immigration process if they are?

Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike Mish Shedlock


"One cannot claim political asylum for being poor." I agree - The very heart of the problem in Europe. But the kids are guilty of crossing illegally too. Why break them up? It is immoral to do so.


It is not immoral to separate children from irresponsible parents incapable of caring for them. It happens every day, rightfully so.


Ok, I'll bite. What do we do with the kids from that point forward? Once we grab them, we're taking responsibility for them on way or another. You seem willing to incur great expenses just to make a nebulous point. Comparing this to something like Child Protective Services is a stretch, since CPS takes kids who are already being raised in the US.

Turning the whole family away is much easier, much cheaper, and arguably better for all involved.


Immigration is a complex issue. Never before in the world have we had individual countries representing all different races, cultures, religions like we are starting to see today. Even the US, a "nation of immigrants", for the first 200 yrs of its existence was a nation of almost exclusively European immigrants ranging from 85-88% of the USA population being people of European decent, over that first 200 years. Only post 1965 did the minority population begin to grow immensely in the USA (and Europe and Canada).

The question is, should countries such as in Europe be allowed to make their OWN decision to retain their historic racial composition and culture and tightly control immigration? If say France, Italy, Britain become 50% non EU people will they really still be France, Italy and Britain anymore? Maybe that is OK, I don’t know. But I don’t think these countries should be forced to take floods of immigrants. They should be able to make the decision themselves. Knowing that if their population shrinks or falls there will be economic consequences. But maybe those economic consequences are worth it to retain your nations culture and unique identity? 60% of Italy’s population is strongly in favor of major immigration reform. It is THEIR country. They should be able to decide what the hell they want to do! Not the global liberal media!

Japan is still 99% Japanese. They haven’t taken in floods of immigrants. Why isn’t the liberal media all over their case? Why? Their country isn’t full of SJW libs like USA, Canada, Western Europe are.

It just bothers me that the left media and many politicians "indoctrinate" us that mass immigration is some kind of “proclamation” that came down from above and cannot even be questioned. Liberals seems to have this ‘religious like fervor" to “diversify” western democracies. And if anyone even questions this in the tinyest of ways, they are demonized and labeled by the left media and left politicians as “racist”, “xenophobes”.


Mish - as long as there are freebies and a way to get the front of the line, there will always be a scam. I remember in NYC in 1990s, all of sudden there were a rash of fires in buildings just crammed packed with Chinese immigrants (both legal and illegal).


At the time, if you were made homeless due to a fire - you went to the front of the NYC subsided rent control line (which some people have been waiting for apartments for decades)


We must send the entire family back immediately. What prompted my post in the first place was the canard that we must have a separate process for those claiming asylum. That will immediately be abused by all involved, as Europe has demonstrated. It's already being abused, that's what has caused this spike in the separations!


"send the entire family back immediately" -- the problem is that, because of all the legal mumbo-jumbo, the US cannot send anyone back "immediately". This is not like post-WWII, when President Eisenhower could rent a ship, put all the illegal immigrant wetbacks on it, and send the ship to Mexico. Instead, the law-breakers get released into the US with a solemn promise to show up in court at some future date. Ha! Ha!

At least the children are not being held in dog cages, like they were when Obama ran the show.


From what I've read, admissions officers have the power to find people inadmissible at the border (in the event of asylum request) and deport immediately in a process known as "summary exclusion".

There is a loophole where asylum seekers can claim that they fear persecution, but even that is subject to an "credible fear" interview, given by an asylum officer within 1-2 days. If the officer is unconvinced, the asylum seeker must request a hearing before an immigration judge to avoid immediate deportation, and that hearing must take place within 7 days (and can be done by telephone to speed up the process).

So all told, the entire process, assuming the asylum seekers use all loopholes available, should conclude in a little over a week at most. If various entities choose not to follow their own (US) law, well, that's another issue.


I am sorry for poking holes into your theory. Now, in the real world, what do you think would happen if a president proposed this libertarian solution? Besides being called "worse than Hitler" by media.


Trump's tactic is not immoral. The democrats do not care about those children. Obama put children in cages and democrats said nothing. Their outrage is fake.

The democrats refuse to negotiate a change in immigration law.

What is reeally immoral is that the democratic party is ruining California by inciting illegal immigration, which is driving up the cost of housing, resulting in poor Californinans to winfd up homeless.


What percentage of the kids are unaccompanied or accompanied by a non-family member? Why do you promote the propaganda that the majority of kids are being ripped from their family, when the majority are not coming with a family member?

What are most Americans going to do after the coming financial reset and the Collectivist try to impose their totalitarian grip? Are they going to run to some other country, or will they stay and fight for freedom? Do we want people that run and are unwilling to fight for a better life in their own country? If we accept these people, we will eventually get the same result they let happen in their home country.


I can’t believe Mish fell for this whole public relations stunt by the left media of the pictures of the kids in fenced areas. They are probably getting fed better, treated better, and safer then they have ever been in their lives. Massively overhyped liberal click bait and a big nothing burger.

No. 26-50

I have read that a fair amount of the children are not related to the adults and are brought in as a ploy. There is also the fact that some of the children are outright abducted for this purpose. Should we just ignore that possibility. ? I don't believe these kids are being treated inhumanely you are promoting fake news. Is it humane to drag these kids through god knows what in order to get to this country? You make it sound like these children are going to be irreversibly traumatized. Don't be so dramatic. Its a liberal ploy. My own personal opinion is that we should let anyone into this country that can work, and pay taxes. Deny access to welfare benefits. The border must be secured and then figure out what to do with those here. If they are gainfully employed without a criminal record find a way to mainstream them.

Sandy K
Sandy K

Thanks for a well nuanced article, whereas all one sees all over the place is a knee jerk polarized responses lacking any maturity and any poised thought.

What would Tom Woods or Sowell say? I suspect same as you - Either return them all as a family, or (more correctly IMO) reform the welfare system to not be that easy to access or to abuse (or remove it completely). Hard to do, maybe, but the right thing is always harder but more fruitful in the long run.

Another reader said separate them from parents incapable of caring properly, and its the state's right to do so? Wow, is that ever a statist view? The state knows better?


The end justifies the means. There are other leaders who felt this way; Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin etc.


I don't believe it is as simple as rejecting and sending them back as a family. Many claiming asylum are released into the country to wait for their court date. Almost all disappeared and never showed up. I don't believe the current law allows the borders patrol to send them back if they claim asylum. Also, many are 2nd or 3rd time offenders. More than 80% of asylum seekers were rejected. If they are real asylum seekers, they should go through the official channel, and not risk getting caught crossing the border illegally and then claim asylum. I may not be correct but I believe the current situation is not so simplistic.