With the United States government shutdown continuing into a domestic record length, we have heard tons of various arguments both for and against the wall. In my personal opinion, there have been valid and consideration-worthy arguments from both sides. The worst argument though (and there were quite a few to pick from each side) comes from supporters of the wall with their question: “Don’t you lock your doors?”
When we are discussing reason to oppose the wall there are strong arguments such as upholding the ideal of freedom of movement, the potential ineffectiveness due to alternative routes of entry, or the argument that the expense makes little sense when the majority of illegal immigrants are in the U.S. because of expired visas rather than forced crossings.
When we look at the arguments in favor of the wall we can also see good arguments such comparing costs between a single, one time barrier with minimal upkeep verse the annual budget of ICE (which funny enough is usually around the $5.7 billion mark each year), or even its value simply as a show of strength and commitment to preventing circumvention of the laws of the land. Both sides have their talking points, each of which carries its own weight. The “lock your door” argument is not among them.
Right out the gate, this argument runs into issues with False Equivalency. The ways that a border operates are vastly different from that of a single house. For starters, the country isn’t one entity’s private property the way a dwelling is. Even with the state acting as caretaker for our borders, they cannot simply lock the door as this argument suggests, wall or not.
A far more sinister issue with comparing the entire country to private property in this way is with the aspect of removal. Assuming they aren’t homeless, ICE agents would need to forcibly enter the property belonging either to private citizens or in many cases the undocumented immigrants themselves, in order to forcibly remove the offenders. By extension, this sets the precedent and supports the violation of property rights based on the arbitrary and ever-changing rules around immigration. In addition, a surprising amount of undocumented immigrants are also homeowners. An estimated 3.4 million illegal immigrants own real estate in the USA (and are better are paying back mortgages in general), and by extension, the removal from the country also prevents them from accessing their property. Now before another poor comparison is drawn, this is very different from being arrested as well. In the case of arrest they are being held against their will for violation of the law; in the case of illegal immigration, they’re being barred from having a route of entry to their property while supposedly being free.
Part of it that I find a tad humorous is the way it can be flipped towards open borders. As the bulk of our readership is libertarian I’m certain that you’ve already heard the arguments for replacing the border with nothing more than the private property of the surrounding landowners. If we are saying the border is like the door to someone’s home then we also need to acknowledge that I don’t get a say on whether or not my neighbor locks theirs. Because of this baseline concept, one could almost agree with treating the border like a household door; by replacing the border with private citizen’s property lines. I’ll assume though that that isn’t where the users of the argument were aiming to go.
There is also the coldness of the argument to consider. While appeals to emotion are indeed a fallacy, when you consider the condition that many who are illegally smuggled into the country are in when they get here, making the comparison that they’re the type you would lock the door on doesn’t paint the arguer in the best light. The last note I’ll make about this argument is that, while cute, infantilizes the issue at hand. There numerous variables, principles, policies, and aspects at play here that reducing it in this way is a gross simplification bordering on absurd.
In conclusion, regardless of whether you argue in favor or against the wall or immigration restrictions in general, this particular argument is a poor one to use. If we’re going to lock the door, it should be to prevent the entry of the types that keep making these bad arguments.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.