Whether economic migrants from this hemisphere or refugees fleeing the brutality of the Islamic State, we should have but one thing to say, “welcome.”
In our increasingly globalized world, we have seen the positive effects that the free flow of capital, goods, and services have had on economic and social progress. From the fall of communism, to the drastic reductions in global poverty, eradicating the world of insular-looking beliefs and embracing internationalism has been the chief driving force of world progress. The movement of trade has facilitated the flow of democratic ideals and economic neoliberalism to the betterment of humanity at large. All of this begs the question: If the free flow of trade in the form capital, goods, and services has led to such advancement, then why do we still heavily restrict the movement of people?
Though the true answer to why people seek to curtail migration likely lies in the subjective realm of the desire to keep national cultural identities, we are able to break down and expose the myths that immigration curtailers proclaim in an effort to justify their policies. Chief among their claims are the beliefs that immigration harms the economy for native-born workers, and that immigrants bring crime and an increased risk of terrorism. Luckily for advocates of open borders, both of these are connected and quite easy to disprove.
Critics of immigration tend to claim that when workers arrive from foreign nations they either take jobs away from native-born citizens, that they decrease the wages of those who currently have jobs, or both, leading to general economic decline. This idea falls victim to the lump labor fallacy, If an immigrant has a job, that is a job a native-born worker could have, therefore immigrants take jobs from citizens. The problem with this idea is that it fails to recognize that economies grow richer when their population increases. When new immigrants come they demand the goods and services that native-born people also desire; this, in turn, creates more jobs to produce those goods and services. This was studied extensively by David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. He studied the Mariel Boatlift, a mass migration of 120,000 Cubans to Miami-Dade County, Florida, of which 45,000 were of working age. Mr. Card found that in the short term, native-born workers had no measurable impact on their levels of employment or wages, while the Cuban refugees saw their incomes expand profoundly in comparison to the lives they led back in Cuba(1). In another study done by Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri of Universita’ di Bologna and the University of California, Davis, respectively, found that immigration had a small, but noticeable, positive impact on the wages of all classifications of workers(2). This makes sense; immigrants are not substitutes for native-born workers, rather they are complimentary. In the words of the Alex Tabbarok, an economist from George Mason University, “The immigrant who mows the lawn of the nuclear physicist indirectly helps discover the secrets of the universe(3)”.
The economic impacts of immigration don't end with a slight increase in wage growth for native workers, rather, the impact to the growth of the global economy in a world without borders would be profound. In a research paper titled “Economics and Emigration: Trillion Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?”, Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a professor of economics at New York University, estimates that a globe devoid of borders would increase Gross World Product between 67 and 147 percent(4). In practical terms, this would amount to the entirety of the world being twice as rich. In other words, it would be one of the greatest reductions in global poverty to which humanity has ever borne witness.
In accord with the reasoning of border control proponents on the economic effects of immigration, it is spectacularly easy to find faults with the arguments presented about immigrants and the supposed crime risk they present. In a 2007 report from the Immigration Policy Center researchers found that “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants,” also noted was that, “This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.(5)” Another group called the Public Policy Institute noted in 2008 that in the state of California, “the incarceration rate for foreign-born adults is 297 per 100,000 in the population, compared with 813 per 100,000 for U.S.-born adults”(6). To take this information and arrive at the conclusion that immigrants are getting away with more crimes is irrational. The only logical answer is that foreign-born people residing in the United States simply commit less crime.
Though, as strong those arguments may be, they pale in comparison to the strength of the moral one. Man should not be confined to the region of his birth. Rather, he should be free to travel the world, to escape the chains of oppression which he is forced to bear in far too many places. He should be allowed entry to wherever he feels he would lead the most productive life, for the bounty of nature has not been divided equally over the land he presides and to imprison him in a place where he is not allowed to flourish is not only to the detriment of himself, but it is a great loss to us all.
The course of human history has been marked by occasions of great moral renaissance. From the Magna Carta, the abolition of slavery, to the recognition of the equality of women, society has marched forward, and been better for it. Let us not stop now. On the bottom of the Statue of Liberty reads an inscription in part, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled Masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me”. It is time we honor the true meaning of that statement. Let us consign our arbitrary lines to the ashtray of history, may we welcome immigrants with open arms, and pray that our collective progeny does us justice. It’s time; open the borders.
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Card, David(1990). “The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market”. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 43: 245-257.
Peri, Giovanni; Ottaviano, Gianmarco(2008). “Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics”. Social Science Research Network.
Tabarrok, Alex(2015). “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely” The Atlantic.
Clemens, Michael(2011). “Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 25: 83-106.
Rumbaut, Ruben(2008) “The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation” Police Foundation.
Butcher(2008) “Crime, Corrections, and California: What Does Immigration Have to Do with it” Public Policy Institute of California.