Why is there no right to live where you please?

Third, and perhaps most crucially, to affirm the right to live where you please is not to advocate an abolition of borders, citizenship, or the restriction of certain political rights and privileges to citizens. (You could affirm both, but it is not necessary.) “People can have a natural right to freedom of movement without also having a natural right to citizenship or voting,” explains George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin.

But now that the question of citizenship has been raised, it would be wise to address it outright. Perhaps you may find convincing my proposal of a right to travel and even to live where we please for Americans in America — but not for citizens of other countries who wish to live here with us. There are obviously complex financial, political, legal, infrastructural, and governmental constraints if billions of “them” wanted to come live here with the 320 million of “us.” But as a general matter, the Constitution does not predicate rights on citizenship — or, when it does, it explicitly uses the language of “citizens” rather than “people.”

This is not a controversial claim. As far back as 1893, in a time marked by significant anti-Asian prejudice, the Supreme Court held in Fong Yue Ting v. U.S. that Chinese immigrants, “like all other aliens residing in the United States,” are protected by our laws. Foreigners in the United States have an equal right to free exercise of religion, assembly, speech, privacy, dues process, and so on. Lack of citizenship makes no difference. Thus, if we have a right to live where we want here, so do they. These fundamental rights stem from our humanity, not our citizenship.

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