45 Years, 45 Days: The Real-World Consequences of Closed Borders


For the next 45 days, we'll be celebrating Reason's 45th anniversary by releasing a story a day from the archives—one for each year of the magazine's history. See the full list here.

Writing in Reason's April 1995 issue, Glenn Garvin detailed the real-world consequences of closed borders:

Although Proposition 187 and [President Bill] Clinton's creation of prison camps for Haitian and Cuban refugees have put the battle against illegal immigrants in the spotlight, legal immigrants are scarcely more popular. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the newly triumphant Republican Party's most influential voice on immigration, has promised to introduce a bill slashing the number of legal immigrants 25 percent. And that makes him an immigration dove. Last year a House bill that would cut the number of legal immigrants by 65 percent immediately and 85 percent in the long run attracted 73 co-sponsors from both parties, the single most popular immigration measure introduced during the past Congress. Said Pat Buchanan, the bill's principal champion: "If Republican leaders are frightened by political correctness from doing this, then it is a sign of what is endemic in the Republican Party; it won't touch an issue that somebody may say is evil and hard-hearted."

The most peculiar thing about Buchanan's comment is the implication that it's "politically correct" to support immigration. Quite the contrary: The fashion across the political spectrum, from the tree-huggers at the Sierra Club to Rush Limbaugh's pugnacious "ditto-heads," is to hammer away at immigrants. They steal our jobs. They use up our national resources. They dilute our culture. The timid few who demur are almost universally scorned as ivory-tower knuckleheads who mistake poetry for policy. They aren't out there in the real world. They don't "focus on the immigration influx in practice, as opposed to libertarian theory," as National Review acidly puts it.

But if there's anyone who's neglecting the real world, it's the people who want to cut immigration. Because they don't answer Jose Guadalupe's question. Once we've gotten rid of the immigrants, who is going to pick the lettuce and tomatoes?