Questions for Immigration Skeptics

by Don Boudreaux on October 28, 2019

in Immigration

In my latest column for AIER, I put some questions to those who object to the elimination in the United States of immigration quotas. A slice:

Because restricting the entry of peaceful immigrants into the U.S. artificially obstructs Americans’ ability to associate with non-Americans – artificially obstructs Americans’ ability to employ and to otherwise deal with non-Americans commercially, to learn from non-Americans, to befriend non-Americans, to marry non-Americans – restricting peaceful immigration reduces the freedom of Americans. Why is this reduced freedom of Americans so seldom mentioned? Isn’t this negative consequence one of significance for those of us who take pride in being citizens of the land of the free?

Speaking of a line from our national anthem, what about immigrants is so frightening to us who boast of living in the home of the brave?

If it’s true, as I’ve often heard proclaimed, that among the most fundamental duties of government is to control the nation’s borders, was the U.S. government deficient in its fundamental duties under all presidential administrations from that of George Washington through that of James Garfield? After all, not until 1882 – with Chester Alan Arthur in office – did the U.S. government begin to restrict immigration, when it infamously prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers.

If quotas on immigration are an essential tool for protecting us Americans from being terrorized on our own soil, why do we still have no quotas on foreigners who come to America as visitors? Must someone be a resident of the U.S. in order to unleash terror in America?

Immigration skeptics often argue as if the elimination of immigration quotas will result in immigrants streaming in endless hordes into the U.S. from poor countries. But doesn’t the fact that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. fell during the Great Recession – and began again to rise only as the U.S. economy revived – strongly suggest that immigrants are drawn here not simply because the U.S. is a wealthy country but chiefly by the prospect of employment, even if it be employment that’s off the books and hidden from government officials?

Also, if the greater wealth of the U.S. relative to that of other countries were sufficient, absent quotas, to draw excessive numbers of people from poorer places to the U.S., why do most Puerto Ricans not flock to the U.S.? Puerto Rico remains much poorer than places such as Boston, New York, Miami, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles, yet most Puerto Ricans – despite being perfectly free to immigrate to any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia – remain in Puerto Rico.

Indeed, if it were true that people from economically poorer places are invariably drawn to wealthier places, why do not all Kentuckians, Mississippians, and New Mexicans flock to much-richer states such as Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wyoming?

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