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Who Owes Compensation?

Here’s a letter to Cafe Hayek reader Charles Beauregard:

Thanks for your e-mail in which, responding to my call for more open immigration, you challenge me with this: “Now, if only you would agree to be responsible for the costs of government benefits and crime that [immigrants] pass on to the general public.”

You assume that immigrants increase our fiscal burdens and our exposure to crime. But the data support neither of these assumptions. In fact, as Alex Nowrasteh points out about the charge that immigrants are a net drain on the welfare state, “[f]ar from draining the welfare state, immigrants have given the entitlement portions a few more years of operation before bankruptcy.”

This fact (as well as, by the way, immigrants’ lower propensity, compared to native-born Americans, to commit property and violent crimes) is all the more notable given that Uncle Sam spends enormous amounts of resources and effort to prevent immigrants from working. I tell you what I tell all others who complain that immigrants allegedly come to America to free-ride on America’s welfare state: until and unless the U.S. government eliminates its restrictions on Americans’ abilities to employ immigrants, express concerns about immigrants being unproductive residents who drain the U.S. fisc ring hollow. Anti-immigrationists’ support for immigrant work-restrictions belie anti-immigrationists’ warnings about the threat that immigrants are said to pose to American taxpayers.

Indeed, because both the data and economic logic tell me that immigration restrictions make us native-born Americans poorer over time than we would otherwise be, it’s fair for me to ask you if you would agree to be responsible for the costs passed on to the general public by the U.S. government’s restrictions on immigration?

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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