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Stop Restricting Americans’ Freedom to Associate at Home with Non-Americans

Here’s a letter on immigration to the Wall Street Journal:

I enjoyed John Steele Gordon’s “Short History of American Immigration” (Nov. 21). But two nits warrant picking.

First, Mr. Gordon mischaracterizes America’s ending the slave trade in 1808 as “[t]he first restriction of any kind” on immigration. To prohibit the importation of kidnapped human beings to be held in bondage is not remotely to restrict immigration. People – including Africans – remained completely free until 1882, and largely free until 1921, to choose to settle in America.

Second, Mr. Gordon concludes by noting that immigration “will remain one of the country’s greatest strengths. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. shouldn’t decide who gets to come in.” If – as seems to be the case – he here refers to immigration quotas such as those currently in use, I disagree. There’s no more reason for government to restrict immigration with quotas than there is for government to restrict other economic and social phenomena with quotas.

Restricting with quotas our freedom to choose to welcome non-Americans into our midst – into our families, homes, neighborhoods, work places, stores, places of worship, and clubs – is as economically and ethically indefensible as would restricting with quotas our freedom to choose how many children to have, how much bread to bake, and how often to eat out. The amounts of these, and countless other, activities ought to emerge as the results of our individual choices rather than be imposed by government quotas. The same is true of the number of immigrants.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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