Robert Higgs’ life story

Robert Higgs muses on his own life story as an intranational migrant and the lessons that holds for immigration. The full text of his musings are at The Difference Between an Illegal Immigrant and Me: A Little Memoir and Some Questions It Raises published on the Independent Institute website on February 20, 2008. Higgs begins as follows:

I was born in what the local rulers represented to be the sovereign state of Oklahoma. This circumstance was not my fault. I suppose I might blame my parents, but they had a similar excuse, my father having been born in the same jurisdiction and my mother having been brought there as an infant. In any event, by virtue of my birthplace, I became a citizen of that state and, as such, I bore a heavy burden of misfortune.

He later writes:

Lest you wonder about the point of this mundane little narrative, I hasten to emphasize that my father had done something quite remarkable: he had left the sovereign state of Oklahoma, crossed the sovereign states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and entered into and established permanent residence in the sovereign state of California, all without the permission of any of the rulers of these states. Imagine that!

Ho-hum, you say; any American can do the same whenever he wants. Well, yes, that’s true. But Americans can do so only because the sovereign states that belong to the federal umbrella state known as the United States of America have worked out a system of essentially unimpeded cross-border passages, and their laws recognize that in general anyone with permission from the U.S. authorities to be in the United States may move freely within the constituent states of the union. No law forbade my father to leave Oklahoma without approval by the Oklahoma government, and no law forbade him to enter California without approval by the California government. (Earlier, in 1937, California did enact a statute that became known as the “anti-Okie law,” aimed at preventing certain Americans from entering the state, but the law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1941 in Edwards v. California [314 U.S. 160].)

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