Immigration Helps American Workers: The Definitive Argument (And Why It Won't Matter)


A recent Washington Post article reports on new studies about the employment effects of immigration. The basic conclusion? Immigrants don't displace native-born workers. In fact, the former help the latter become more productive.

New white papers from the German research group IZA document the following, all of which are obvious upon a minute's reflection:

  • immigrants fill labor gaps; 
  • immigrants don't have access to the same jobs as natives;
  • immigrants complement (rather than replace) existing capital, tech, and workers; 
  • labor markets adapt; 
  • complementarity increases productivity, which in turn increases wages.

The IZA papers are here and here.

Regarding whether immigrants cause unemployment, here's an IZA chart which shows no relationship between immigration rates and unemployment rates in developed (OECD) countries:

And here's a chart from a meta-analysis of economic studies of the effect of immigration on wages. The vast majority report that the direct effect is near zero, meaning that immigrants do not depress native incomes by creating a vast army of the unemployed.

I don't expect this latest foray into empirical reality to change most people's minds on immigration.

As Wash Post's Lydia DePillis writes, "Despite manifold evidence to the contrary, the trope that immigrants steal Americans' jobs and depress their wages comes up again and again when Congress toys with passing immigration reform."

Yet the simple reality is something like this: Immigrants, who are barred from receiving most forms of welfare in America, come here for economic opportunity, not to lounge around. They go to areas with lots of jobs and they stop coming when work dries up in America (that explains fluctuations in illegals crossing the border with Mexico). They either do jobs that Americans won't do (such as migrant farm work), jobs that free up native workers to do higher-value jobs (immigrants take care of your kids or cut your grass so you have more time to do jobs that required English, local knowledge, and pay better), or high-skilled jobs for which there's a shortage of native workers (H1-B visas). Doubtless there are some local disruptions from time to time, but all of this helps the larger economy become bigger.

I might also add that except in very rare instances, governments do about as good a job at securing borders at home as they do in keeping drugs out of jails and schools or nation-building abroad. Sure, North Korea can do a decent job of keeping its half-starved "citizens" from escaping but the only reason the Hermit Kingdom isn't overrun with illegal immigrants is because nobody wants to move there. As Lant Pritchett, formerly of the World Bank and now at Harvard, will tell you, people move to where the action is whether border bluenoses technically allow it or not. And if you think immigration is a problem, just wait until the world's wretched refuse stops beating a path to your country. Those of you living in parts of the country without a lot of immigration (whether by "Americans" or foreigners) know exactly what I'm talking about.

But the immigration debate is ultimately more about optics and emotions than reality.

That's why so many restrictionists focus on things such as cultural assimilation (never mind that today's mostly Spanish-speaking newcomers learn English at the same rate as yesteryear's Italians, Poles, and Jews); the unbearable burden of having to specify what language you want at an ATM; and the outrage that Irish Americans held the world's first-St. Patrick's Day parade in colonial New York as a way to piss off "real" Americans (by which I mean English-descended overlords) Mexicans celebrate Cinco De Mayo and drink beer like a bunch of American college students on Spring Break.

Or restrictionists fixate on the willingness of cantalope-calved "criminals" to cross a fucking desert in order to send money back home to a Fourth World village somewhere while also committing violent and property crime at lower rates than native-born Americans. Or they enlist SCIENCE in the cause of closing borders: Don't you know that evolution means we are designed by nature to hate Mexicans who don't look anything like us second-generation Italians, third-generation Jews, and seventh-generation Tennesseans?

I understand that point of view and I can appreciate the anxiety of people who displace their worries about their lives on people who don't look, talk, or smell like them.

But that sort of atavism and emotionalism is simply no basis for public policy or living an examined life. If it is allowed to guide immigration policy, it will lead to an America that is not just poorer in material terms but absolutely beggared in spirit.

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  1. Taking our jobs, and welfare, are only two of the reasons I hear from anti-immigration conservatives. They are also concerned that immigrants are bringing their socialist views and voting for our home-grown socialist candidates. The historical record seems rather mixed on where such ideas originated from after 1787.

    1. What is inflicting the Weed With Roots In Hell on us, chopped liver?

    2. Funny, I’ve actually watched this happen where I live. Jobs that used to be staffed by Americans are now almost exclusively performed by Mexicans (many of them illegal I’m sure), and at the same time, they take advantage of free community services, because on paper, they make no money.

      1. RTFA

  2. Yeah, yeah, yeah….facts, data, blah, blah, blah…



    1. Maybe, once we fix our spending problems and our civil liberties problems, I’ll care someday.

      1. But, but….


        1. “BRRRRGRZZZ”

          Hmmm. I had heard all the other arguments, but this is a new one!

          *pauses thoughtfully*

          1. Burgers or Bergers? I can’t tell, and they have different connotations in context.

              1. Oh dear, that is a grave development indeed.

                1. HAMBRRRRGGGGLRRRRRRRz!1one!!

  3. By leaving out ‘illegal’ and ‘undocumented’ you are speaking to and about something wholly different than that which better border control advocates are speaking about.

    Additionally, it makes one curious when it becomes clear that Reason understands basic economic theory on most topics, yet abandons it when it comes to this one. Why, in this case, does flooding the unskilled labor market with unskilled laborers not depress the price they can ask for their labor?

    1. 1) He does discuss “illegals” – e.g. (that explains fluctuations in illegals crossing the border with Mexico)
      2)Define “flood”
      3) It ‘does’ depress the price of their labor – I don’t see where they argue it doesn’t – The Jacket doesn’t say anything about “not depressing wages” that I see.

      But that is a beautiful strawman you erected there!

      1. So you missed this–

        immigrants fill labor gaps;
        immigrants don’t have access to the same jobs as natives;
        immigrants complement (rather than replace) existing capital, tech, and workers;
        labor markets adapt;
        complementarity increases productivity, which in turn increases wages.

        Which you have so thoughtfully shown that Nick applies to illegal immigrants.(while the study says ‘immigrants’)

        Perhaps I should be clear.

        The study refers to immigrants–not illegal immigrants.

        Nick expands that study -on his own- to include illegal immigrants

        And, as I point out, border security people aren’t complaining about immigrants–they’re only concerned with illegal immigrants.

        Which the study doesn’t refer to.

        No straw. Straight text. Right from the article.

        1. …9…10 KO!

        2. What’s the point? Are immigrants (those with or without daddy government’s permission slip) good for the a country’s economy?

          1. They are generally better for a country’s economy when they are using the legal immigration systen than they are when they are not.

            1. Yeah… that’s going to require a citation.

            2. That’s an absurd contention.

              First of all, legal immigrants are more likely to avail themselves of cost-creating government services, not being prime targets for deportation should the wrong bureaucrat become aware of their status.

              Secondly, since when have government permission slips ever improved anything?

              Government approval or approbation is of precisely zero (if not significantly negative) value.

    2. Additionally, it makes one curious when it becomes clear that Reason understands basic economic theory on most topics

      They do and they made that crystal clear here. You didn’t RTFA.

      1. Yes. That’s right. After quoting it in my post–including the damning statement wherein Nick states that flooding the market with THIS particular thing, unlike everything else in the world RAISES it’s price rather than lowering it–I didn’t RTFA.

        Maybe RTFA means something else to you? Really tastes fucking awful?
        Red-headed trannies fart artistically?

    3. So true – and let’s not confuse illegal/undocumented with NON-CITIZEN – all of which flood the marketplace and depress labor costs. We have unfortunately been “trained” in this country to use terms like “illegal” when we should be talking about rights/privileges of CITIZENS versus NON-CITIZENS (especially now that NON-CITIZENS qualify for a myriad of government programs including Obamacare)

      1. CITIZENS vote for the fucking socialism that’s poisoning this country. We could do with a lot fewer of their thieving ilk.

  4. Mexicans celebrate Cinco De Mayo

    PS My experience (YMMV) is that it is not Messicans who celebrate CdM in the USofA, it’s white Eurotrashmurcans particularly, but by no means exclusively, college students with a sprinkling of suburban semi-hipster wannabes. Grew up in an area with a HIGH concentration of immgrant workers – mostly from Mexico, some Puerto Ricans. Never, ever heard one of them mention CdM all through high school and even into college. That was an 80’s. post-college phenom, and happened in CA and TX in my experience.

    Nope – all they cared about was “this is our home now”, although many spoke Spanish at home (and their kids got B’s in Spanish classs /Cheech Marin) and their moms made GREAT Mexican food they’d send to school for their kids to share with their classmates. Mrs. Castillons tortillas remain the best I’ve ever sampled…thanks for bringing them to class, Danny!

    Again – YMMV…

    1. …white Eurotrashmurcans…

      There is a reason why CdM is referred to as ‘Cinco de Drinko’.

      1. Andale’, andale’!!!

        *waves sombreero around and spills beer*

    2. Down the French, up the rebels! Although the commercialization of CdM is no different than the commercialization of Christmas/Santa Claus by Macy’s.

  5. I’ve always been generally pro-immigration but Bryan Caplan has convinced me to be pro-open borders.

  6. I just want to make sure everyone has their shots (cue the anit-vaxers) is not a wanted criminal, Hep C carrier or insane. Then I want them to be on their best behavior for 7 years and then trot down to City Hall or the Federal Building or whatever and finish the paperwork and become ‘muricans.

    Ellis Island, et al worked, right? Why instant amnesty? Why restrictive quotas and bulljive hoops to jump through?

    1. Why restrictive quotas and bulljive hoops to jump through?

      Because it gives bureaucrats power over their fellows, duh.

    2. I concur. Not an “open borders” guy, want people at least given a cursory going over, then “come on in, and if you’re productive and stay outta trouble, welcome, fellow citizen!”

      My boss two jobs ago was a Brit who got his citizenship when I was working for him. I always enjoy talking to new fellow citizens and asking about what they like, don’t like, why they decided to become citizens, etc.

      It warms my otherwise-cold heart, because I’ve found these folks uniformmly (realizing small n of “my aquaintences”) to be really enthusiastic about the exercise. It’s charming…

      1. Care to share some of those reasons, I still can’t get past “why would anyone want to come here?” I’m still at a loss.

        1. Have you been to the UK? Enough said.

          1. I have. My assessment was that it looks a lot like New York with fewer hills. You got one big city that dominates politically and a lot of disgruntled smaller cities separated by neglected countryside.

            1. Interesting observation. Fortunately most Americans do not live anywhere near New York.

        2. I know we like to bitch a lot as libertarians, but the US is still a HELLUVA lot better than 80-90% of the rest of the world.

          1. pfff, not anymore.
            And we’re slowly crashing and burning cause our congress can’t get one policy in place. Even if Europe is just as bankrupt, they at least have the taxes to back it up and they could raise more, at least they can all get along on their stupid socialist policy and pay for it. We on the other hand, are totally fucked between our federal govenrment having more power than it’s actually do given its shitty super0majority requirements and majority requirements for voting and our party system

            at least other countries have a future. Only state in America that maybe does is Texas

            1. Pfff… wrong.


              US = 12


              US = 17

              You’ll also notice a lot of places that are ranked high also have a large number of immigrants.

      2. I’m fine with that, as long as we restrict it all to people from countries with working bureaucracies we can trust when the entrants “show” that they aren’t criminals, and “amnesty” only means freely residing and working; voting is a whole different matter. Knowing what I know about immigrants having grown up with them, I only want the vote to go to people born here. Ideally I might even go full Heinlein, but that’s a sort of different issue.

        1. There are countries with working bureaucracies?

          What is the name of this fantasy planet you inhabit? I’m eager to visit! It will be an interesting anthropological phenomenon.

          1. Edwin just trying to fully close down the border, and sugarcoating it.

    3. During the greatest immigration period prior to WWII, the Ellis Island period, the US wasn’t a welfare state.

      The basic question remains: How do we reconcile and/or balance a modern welfare state with unlimited immigration?

      1. We don’t, we take a flamethrower to the welfare state.

        1. And how exactly do we do that when most immigrants will vote for the expansion of the welfare state?

          1. Who said they could vote?

            1. So, you want a class of Helots then? Non-citizen workers? Seems …..un-American.

              1. So, you want a class of Helots then? Non-citizen workers? Seems …..un-American.

                Not based upon what history and the left tell us this country was built on.

                1. Sorry, you lost me.

                  You want a loose immigration policy and would also like to destroy the welfare state. Got that.

                  How do you do that? Got a plan?

                  1. If I had the choice, I’d burn down the welfare state first because it is directly hurting me.

                    I’m not in favor of a loose immigration policy.

                    1. ok. thanks for clarifying.

                  2. I guess the only plan that might help would be to stop voting for people who will use the power of government (constitutionally or not) to steal your stuff.

                    1. right, and that doesn’t work, since you’re not everybody, and you just invited in a bunch of people who will vote socialist.

                    2. you just invited in a bunch of people who will vote socialist.

                      There is no evidence of this.

                    3. //There is no evidence of this.

                      are you fucking kidding? Have you been following demographic voting patterns?

                      Frankly I believe that the german, italian, and irish immigrants probably contributed to the socialist trend in our country, though I think it happened interpersonally/socially, so it’d be hard to show in historical records.

                    4. Socialism in this country took off *after* we started closing down the borders.

                      Part of the causation there is that no one would support a welfare state if they felt no kinship to the population at large.

                      Socialism is unthinkable in a nation of strangers. So the socialists made sure to homogenize us culturally to the point we’d be ok with subsidizing others.

      2. You don’t. Immigrants don’t increase welfarism. Tired if explaining this.

        1. Seriously. There is precisely zero evidence that they do.

          If I were to “follow demographic voting patterns” (something I’m quite certain the poster has never done), I would see that “white” Americans are the biggest proponents of socialism here at home.

          As a bit of an aside, the GOP party line on immigration has a lot more to do with TEAM-favoritism than it has to do with any rational & empirical motivations. Ironically, it is partisanship which is the greatest force permitting the unbridled growth of the TEAM RED/BLUE state.

          So, really, folks who favor empowering government to (inevitably ineffectively) restrict immigration are ? in more ways than one ? as responsible for the growth of “welfarism” as any other group.

    4. Hep C? Why would you care about that? It’s not dangerously transmissible. TB is one to worry about.

  7. An aside: Not every region in the US gets much Mexican immigration. Most of the Hispanics in NJ come from South or Latin America – very few actual Mexicans. They fly here on planes. Are border fences going to solve that? Cinco de Mayo? WTF is that?

    My biggest concern regarding immigration is voting patterns. Most immigrants become Democrats. How do we get to a smaller government, more libertarian future when our population over time becomes more Democrat-centric? Riddle me that Batman, and by Batman I mean Nick. I’m sincerely open minded; please explain.

    1. See California for an example.

      1. CA was wrecked by white Liberals. The GOP there is extremely lame and their embrace of an anti-immigrant proposition is why the immigrants there don’t trust them. There is no ‘bluing’ of Texas happening due to immigration. None. At all.

        1. Cytotoxic is 100% correct.

          White American Californians wrecked California all on their own.

          I lived there for over half a decade; I watched them do it. Meanwhile, the many immigrants I encountered were too busy to worry about politics, or even vote.

          Incidentally, Lady Betrum, I’m not convinced we ill possibly obtain a “more libertarian future” through voting at all. The primary purpose of, and intention behind, voting is to force the “will of the majority” on others, is it not? So is that your plan? To be part of the biggest majority? If so, you should probably abandon your principles, because that doesn’t appear forthcoming.

          1. Bertrum*

    2. yeah, it’s a funny thing about Jersey, isn’t it? It makes for some damned tasty restaurants; colombian and ecuadorian food. Apparently here in Hackensack I can even get cuy in the summer (roasted guinea pig). You know I gotta Andrew Zimmern that shit!

  8. so you have more time to do jobs that required English, local knowledge, and pay better

    Writing for H&R required English once, but not any more.

    1. Que?

  9. I’m a high fence, wide gates guy. Bring back the guest worker program. Keep out people with criminal records, communicable diseases, etc. but otherwise, let ’em in, put ’em to work, tax ’em.

    Pursue the remaining illegals relentlessly, and deport them instantly if they don’t qualify as guest workers. Work a deal with the Mexicans to deport them to the Yucatan peninsula, so we stop the farce of dropping them off just south of the border so they can beat the INS agents back into the US.

    1. Pursue the remaining illegals relentlessly

      Why? To prop up nativist enforcement-boners and beat down the economy?

    2. Has there been a government less totalitarian than those implemented by the Nazis or Communists which has been capable of even approximating this incredible feat you propose (as though it were no more difficult than making a sandwich)?

      Answer: no. And there never will be (thank god).

    3. Doing the first part of the proposal is going to make the second part way easier.

      All you need to do is make it easy for mexicans to work here legally, and look the other way when they’re leaving the country to re-enter legally.

      There will be almost no one left to worry about within a year.

  10. Yet the simple reality is something like this: Immigrants, who are barred from receiving most forms of welfare in America…

    Except they aren’t, even granting the premise, barred from all forms. All the more so if they live where the government won’t ask and then all of that goes out the window the first time they have a child here. And it’s not exactly rocket science to defraud entities that can use higher expenditures as justification for bigger budgets and more employees on someone else’s dime.

    The better answer is to stop the welfare not stop the immigration (except for the contagious or criminal) and that would be my preference. Hell, even Ecuador requires I have proof I can support myself before I can become a resident.

    1. I’ve heard or seen data that suggests immigrants receive welfare at lower rates than American citizens, but I wonder how they collect this information. In Jersey and in other states I’m sure, state welfare agents don’t require citizenship information to process welfare benefits. In some cases they’re forbidden from inquiring about status, and once a child is born, regardless of parents status, they’re eligible period.

      1. Immigrants or illegal immigrants?

        It would make sense that someone who’s motivated to follow the process — sucky and restrictive though it is, and I’m not defending it — and who has better qualifications would be more self-sufficient than an average person. I don’t think the same would necessarily be true of those who jump a fence and aren’t especially qualified for many types of work.

        Because of the selection bias, it seems likely that immigrants of any kind would be more likely to be self-sufficient than the general population. That’s fine, but as is said on here so many times, individuals should be treated as such and the leeches shouldn’t get to ride on the efforts of the motivated and reeling in welfare would be helpful all around in that regard. Even if immigrants, as a group, are a benefit, reducing the ability to ride for free would still be preferable.

  11. Whenever someone says “this is the definitive answer” to anything, question it thoroughly. Hey let’s bring in millions more dirt poor people into a country that already has 20 million out of work. Yep that’s smart thinking.

    A German study proves yadayada? Please, having lived there for 8 years, Germany is completely different from the US in nearly every way, including how they treat employment matters and small business. You cant port those findings to the US even if they gel out.

    Teenagers cannot find jobs – illegals have them, period. Non highschool graduates can’t find jobs – illegals have them, period. Because businesses find harder workers for much less pay in the immigrant population.

    We have 20 something million out of work and some people think nothing of bringing in more dirt poor workers by the millions each year. How is that not insane? We are living in an Idiocracy, where complete idiots are the people listened to by the idiots in office.

    Idiots follow Bill gates around like puppies on the Hill while he states how dumb American tech workers are and how he wants unlimited H1B visas because Indian workers are better. What pure garbage. What a coincidence that Indian workers work for half what Americans work for in the same job.

    1. Question. Why would the dirt poor people be moving here if there are already so many dirt poor people to compete with for jobs?

      The reason illegals have jobs and teenagers don’t, is because illegals operate in grey or black markets whereas most teenagers, who have the support of their parents, won’t take that risk.

      We are not “bringing in” people. We are allowing them to move here and exercise their property rights. You don’t have to be an American to have those, you know.

      1. they don’t think about that question, they come because they can get jobs from businesses looking for cheaper labor. I’m talking about the idiot politicians making the laws.

        No, teenagers don’t have jobs because employers hire illegals for cheaper labor which brings all wages down all the way up the line.

        Illegals are working construction which is a noble skilled profession, NOT anywhere near like picking veggies.

        You now have to speak spanish to be a FORMAN because most the workers are illegal and ALL speak spanish only.

        There property rights? they have no property rights in this country whatsoever.

        1. Nonsense. Every human ipso facto possesses the right to any and all such property he manages to acquire and maintain not through force, fraud, or aggression.

          This is an irrefutable argument, I might add. BTDT

    2. Blah blah blah anecdotal bullshit blah blah economic illiteracy blah DEY TRK R JERBS

  12. Thanks for the family pic.

    I guess it’s your apenecked side of the family that gives you such facility with the English language.

  13. IZA, founded by Klaus Zimmerman, who is pro-immigrant. FYI if anyone cares.…..1651198550

  14. -Actually, they do take welfare and tons of shit. Our filipino maid told us all her friends just go to the hospital instead of the doctor and then don’t pay.

    -They DONT pay taxs. Ever hired a laborer? You pay them straight cash. How the hell is the IRS gonna tax that shit? This supposedly doesn’t matter for unskilled labor for Americans, but you’re ignoring the margins; plenty of Americans would be willing to do odd jobs now and then, but the tax separates them from the employers with the tax gap (what is it, you know, in econ 101, the vertical line cutting off the triangle making lost economic activity)

    -the not paying taxes thing, also helps them replace American jobs. No honey, Americans don’t do physical labor ANYMORE, and this is why.

    -immigrants are also replacing SKILLED labor. You don’t need official american credentials for someone to realize your skill, and you could have your native country’s credentials. A skilled electrician who comes here (legally or ilegally) replaces an American one

    -one of the biggest things, is they drive up prices (of everything) by driving up demand. It’s a full adult’s level of demand extra in the course of a day, instead of the traditional 18 years it takes to raise a person. It creates an artificial population boom

    1. -a lot of old world immigrants are deeply ffucked in the head; their whole culture is family-oriented sociopathy. I’ve grown up with these fucks and I know. You think it’s any coincidence they’re killing each other in their countries? How do you think that’s gonna work out, one week ago the motherfucker was chopping heads off of the infidel religion in his home country, the next week he’s here and he’s going to get along with everyone. How does that work out?

      And let’s be clear, the pro-unlimited -immigration side is well aware of the tax and welfare situation, they just lie about it. They’re also well aware that no one is anti-any-immigration, only against endless unrestricted immigration, but they lie about the other side, too. How can you even expect to have an honest debate if you lie all the time? We say “Hey, maybe it isn’t a good idea for 1 MILLION undocumented workers to come over here on top of the .5 MILLION legal entrants, maybe we should cool this shit the fuck down.” Then you idiots scream “YOU’RE A RACIST WHO WANTS TO BAN IMMIGRATION!!!” How the fuck do you expect to be taken seriously?

    2. Actually, they do take welfare and tons of shit.

      Stop lying.

      immigrants are also replacing SKILLED labor.

      STOP. LYING.

      1. are you fucking kidding me? You’re the one lying if you think these things aren’t true. Read the rest of the damned comments. Just because you have an extremely limited life experience doesn’t mean these things don’t happen.

        You’re lying to yourself, bub

        1. I was going to rebut your arguments, but then I realized that even you don’t respect them enough to present them in concise, useful English.

          Instead we get a raft of expletives, which lose all their flavor and impact in the written word (trust me, I talk like a sailor in person. Oral communication is an entirely different art.)

          Someone so juvenile in his approach, caustic in his delivery, and apparently oblivious to these traits, self-evidently possess a lack of experience, both in life and in discussion, to be making appeals to “life experience”.

          In other words: I get the impression you’re about 17, which means you’ve got some gall to impugn others “life experience.” Furthermore, I promise you that I have done and seen more than you ever will.

          All that said, I would have preferred to engage in discussion, but neither of you are interested in that (although I don’t blame Cyto in the least).

  15. Philosophically, what’s the problem with open borders? What’s the problem with in influx of workers willing to work harder for less money? All of these things, in theory, contribute to overall production and are regulated efficiently by a global free market.

    So, philosophically, I like open borders.

    But, in reality, we don’t have a free market, we have a welfare state. And while the article makes good points, it neglects the costs of illegals on the healthcare system, and anchor babies.

    Too bad, because I do appreciate the contribution of hard-working immigrants in our country. If we solved our welfare problems, and plugged the holes, I’d be glad to take on board more hard-working Mexican immigrants, and relax the process to citizenship. I think most illegals come for a better way of life (not hard to beat abject poverty), not to suck up free benefits. I think most are willing to work very hard. But the life of an illegal immigrant is pretty tough, and it’s pretty easy to pop out an anchor baby and collect benefits. It’s like electricity – it always finds the shortest path to complete its circuit. If we shorten the circuit to citizenship and tighten up benefits, we can allow them the opportunity to succeed the right way. Heck, you might find some of these guys might not even really be liberals if they don’t get sucked into the welfare trap.

    1. I dunno, I don’t have any formal moral philosophical arguments against it, or at least against the high restrictions* I would like even in libertopia, but I know it’s now a good idea. The simplest way of putting it is like they said on South Park “I know their country is shitty, but if we let them all in then we’ll become just as shitty as their country is.” I figure no matter how libertarian a country gets with its policy, all the basic framework has a carrying limit. You could compare it to a house of people co-habitating. More people makes it more productive as everyone can split all the work up and assign it to who does it best or whatever, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. But enough people and eventually it becomes a clusterfuck, no matter what you do.

      *I would like to see illegal immigration completely stopped and legal immigration highly curtailed in terms of numbers, NOW, in the current context of modern America, given how much immigration we’ve already had. Of course, how much immigration a society should let in is highly contextual, sometimes you need more workers, sometimes you want more ethnic food, or whatever, and sometimes you’re completely sated on all those fronts.

      1. though, let’s get something straihgt, there is a pretty simple and very good philosophical argument for basic borders excluding the immigration debate for anyone who isn’t an anarchist: the basic borders-taxatio- jurisdiction set up of the modern nation-state (and ancient ones, which were very similar) is very stable and unavoidabe, and non-coercive. Your “taxes” are voluntary so long as you have the absolute right to leave, which the vast majority of countries do, and they simply pay for the government services that have to be there and are unavoidably country-wide, like the military and the judicial system (yup, that too, Tony might be a retard but the thing where a judicial system needs to be the same cost for everyone is a pretty significant feature of a judicial system)

        1. Your “taxes” are voluntary so long as you have the absolute right to leave…

          Citation needed.

          1. citation? how about basic logic?

            You are completely free to leave. But while you’re in the country’s jurisdiction you’re taking up the basic nation-maintenance services. Your taxes are contingent on you being in the country. If you leave, they no longer tax you.

            1. Well, at least for the US, you must renounce your citizenship before they no longer tax you.

              Nonetheless, your implication that any insult the population endures without leaving is “voluntary” is what needs citation. That is a grim extension of “might makes right” to “might makes it voluntary”.

              1. what? Insult?

                I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about

                Staying in the country is completely voluntary, and they DO NOT tax you when you leave. I think there are reporting requirements, but no real tax. Maybe on rich people. And you can renounce your citizenship, too, BTW.

                No matter what you say, there are millions of young people from numerous countries who travel and work and live abroad with little bureaucratic work needed while not paying taxes to their home country

                Staying in a acountry and having to pay taxes is as voluntary as any private sector transaction is, all of which are also contingent on where you’re living (rent, hotels) or what you’re buying or any other thing. That you don’t get to do a thing and then have it for free isn’t the same thing as non-voluntary. That life has fucking choices you have to make isn’t non-voluntaryism

                1. “Staying in the country is completely voluntary, and they DO NOT tax you when you leave. I think there are reporting requirements, but no real tax. Maybe on rich people. And you can renounce your citizenship, too, BTW.”

                  The US government is one of the few countires that DOES tax citizens abroad. I live overseas and have been throught the scandelous process twice now.

                  “Staying in a acountry and having to pay taxes is as voluntary as any private sector transaction is…”

                  This is laughable. Transacting with the government is TOTALLY like transacting with the private sector.

                  You’ve lived overseas as a private citizen, right? Because it sounds like you haven’t.

                2. With regard to “insult”, I’m using what apparently is a medical definition: “an injury or trauma”.

                  Please change “insult” to “act”.

                  If the government held a lottery and killed 1 in 1 million people every year to appease the climate gods, would that also be voluntary for those who didn’t leave?

                  1. yes, actually, to the extent that we use “voluntary” in the same way as with other stuff. It would just be a terrible policy. Which is also why it would never happen (since, you know, we can vote).

                    A large part of the injustice of our policies, at least for me, is that they circumvent democracy (since this is a republic, and we have a shitty party system), and they butcher the language of laws in courts to justify more federal power, and mainly they’re just shitty with awful consequences.

                    But make no mistake, you guys, especially the more ideological of you, maintain that contracts should be upheld in even worse situations and deals, based on even thinner versions of “consent”

                    1. “yes, actually, to the extent that we use “voluntary” in the same way as with other stuff. It would just be a terrible policy. Which is also why it would never happen (since, you know, we can vote).”

                      Millions of dead laugh at your ignorance of history.

                    2. Sorry, but if the dead were able to react at this they’d weep, not laugh. Because it seems like they’ll have more people joining them in the not so distant future, thanks to Edwin and its compatriots.

      2. If you don’t have “philosophical arguments” for (and against) a position you hold dear, you haven’t thought about it, or you’re a dyed-in-the-wool utilitarian.

        Either way, your opinion is of little value or consequence.

  16. Let’s get something straight here, we absolutely can restrict immigration almost perfectly and extremely cheaply; land mines. Not only are they traditionally cheap to install, the modern us military has specialized vehicles that do it on a continuous proces, AND freaking bombs that air-drop them and they still go deep enough underground that you can’t see them.
    If you really want to be careful, the technology to radio-control them already exists. So you could them alert the authorities when there are people walking, then the people could be warned before the mines are armed.

    Even without the radio control thing, no large numbers of people would die. You’d have to be a fucking moron to cross a minefield. Only idiots would die, which is Darwin Awards, if you ask me.

    But no, like with everything else in our society, we’re too pansy to do anything effective, ever. This is why we can have countries bomb and do their best to slaughter us and we don’t do squat, and people literallt sympathize with the enemy more than our own country. Dicks, pussies, and assholes kid. Excpet it’s bullshit, back in the day societies were all dicks, and we should still be all dicks, it’s just called being rational. You can be a dick and still be just a more reason-oriented dick.

    1. You’re free to move to North Korea. Leave me out of your insane policies.

      1. except north korea keeps people INSIDE the country, not out

        1. The minefield block travel both ways. With people like you able to vote, I like being able to run south to Mexico without going requesting permission.

          The iron curtain was officially to keep people OUT too.

  17. What does “citizenship” mean if you have open borders?

    1. What does “citizenship” mean at all?

      That government recognizes your existence? Whoopty-do.

      That government has a document somewhere enumerated a paltry few of your rights, which it remains free to violate with impunity?

      Yeah. I created (and exercise) my own rights, thankyouverymuch.

    2. Citizenship is a construct whereby a nation selects members of the population to maintain the political power within the population — e.g., only citizens can vote or serve in elected office. But it is a pragmatic construct, designed to serve the political needs of the nation.

      In contrast, open borders — or, more generally, free migration — is simply the recognition that the condition of one’s being born on the other side of a border does not endow him with fewer unalienable individual rights.

      Free migration is a right endowed equally on all people and ideally secured by government. Citizenship, like the “right” to vote, is an entitlement granted by government for the service and continuation of government.

      What open borders could look like in practice is a new class of visa that grants immigrants unlimited entry, residence, and employment within the US, but that explicitly lacks a path to citizenship for them or any targeted welfare for them or their citizen children, at least for a couple of decades. Holders of this visa may apply for a citizenship-track visa if they wish. “Amnesty” is essentially granting this visa to anyone illegally in the US.

      1. Free migration is a right endowed equally on all people and ideally secured by government. Citizenship, like the “right” to vote, is an entitlement granted by government for the service and continuation of government.

        Here’s the thing: supposing the US declared “open borders.” Will the rest of the world follow suit? Can you then migrate to Mexico, Canada, or wherever and gain the same rights you would gain in the USA?

        I see recently that the US government is importing “refugees” from Somalia and Congo. Will we see a correspomding number of Americans also emigrating to those countries? Or is this going to be a one way population movement, with the advanced nations being swamped by third world populations?

        What open borders could look like in practice is a new class of visa that grants immigrants unlimited entry, residence, and employment within the US, but that explicitly lacks a path to citizenship for them or any targeted welfare for them or their citizen children, at least for a couple of decades.

        In theory this is a good idea. But in practice? What happens when people with the open borders visa take protests to the streets and start demanding full citizenship, welfare rights, and all the rest? In Europe, we see immigrants in many cities burning cars and rioting over these issues.

        What are the costs to the taxpayer in putting down these riots? How does that fit into the libertarian picture?

        1. Immigrants in Europe are rioting because of a variety of reasons, but mostly because Europe is a poisonous socialist shithole with 2-digit unemployment.

  18. ignoring the fact that the correlation on that chart is visibly extremely weak, I think it says more about the various countries’ cultural attitudes that lead towards their policies. Often a positive outlook on free-market -ism is accompanied by not being against immigration. That is, a laissez faire attitude is a laissez faire attitude. Duh. “Let them do”

    1. ignoring the fact that the correlation on that chart is visibly extremely weak,


  19. I think all Reason editors could probably be replaced with cheap immigrant labor. So, to the unemployment line! Schnell!

  20. Nick, you lose me when you imply that anyone opposed to unfettered immigration simply doesn’t like people who “people who don’t look, talk, or smell like them.” Americans NEED to work, and should be expected to do-so. Importing labor does not improve the US in the long-term, and certainly contributes to an increased rate of work-force drop-outs as wages decrease, and work environments move towards lower-skilled individuals. In areas of the country where there IS NOT a flood of immigrant labor, the jobs “no one wants” are filled by citizens. If you are interested in data, look at a variety of US cities where there was virtually NO immigration until the 1980’s and review unemployment, environment, schools, etc. (start with the midwest states).

    I’m not clear where the libertarian handbook states that it’s a requirement to allow free movement of people across borders and “provide” them with opportunities – certainly not the Ayn Rand I read.

    1. Texas is booming, California is collapsing. They’ve got the same amounts and types of immigration.

      The difference is not immigration. It never was.

  21. I read your argument and I think they might be a little disingenuous.
    1.immigrants fill labor gaps;
    They do, they work for less than minimum wage, which is illegal!
    2. immigrants don’t have access to the same jobs as natives;
    refer to the answer for 1. it’s illegal, if they were legal they would have access to the same jobs.
    3. immigrants complement (rather than replace) existing capital, tech, and workers;
    Again, True, but only if the government doesn’t force you to pay a “living wage”. Then jobs become competitive, especially when their is a deluge of labor and not enough experienced workers.
    4. labor markets adapt;
    Again, True, they always do, which is why America like capitalism.
    5. complementarity increases productivity, which in turn increases wages.
    Also true, as long as your not competing for the same jobs, the market they fill is for work that is for less than minimum wage, which as I said for point 1 is illegal!

    1. Also I am a immigrant, became a citizen last year, so the argument of not liking immigrants won’t work for me.

    2. The minimum wage is the government putting people in jail for offering someone a job.

      The fact that such a law exists is an indictement of the citizenry, not of those immigrants who break it.

  22. I don’t believe anybody is against legal immigration. It’s the Boston marathon equivalent of illegal aliens that come across the border that is disturbing. Legal immigration is a controlled way of adding citizens to our country in a way that doesn’t inundate our resources in the process.

    1. I’m not against the principle of legal immigration, but much of the policy and application thereof is about cheap labor. Put some actual rules with teeth around the policies and I’m in!

  23. I’ve been writing to the reason staff that the TEAM REDism is getting a bit out of hand lately, and the comments here is a perfect example of the kind of crap the Reason has devolved to of late.

    This is a libertarian venue. Folks ideally should come here with a foundational understanding of the philosophy of right, basic economic principles, and a deep understanding of the perverse incentive structure represented by the concept of governance.

    Either that, or they’re Shriek, and are apparently here mostly for our own amusement (possibly theirs as well, but if so one suspects that they aren’t really getting the joke).

    Instead we now have to argue with a bunch of economically illiterate, philosophically ignorant, tepid-on-liberty, statist-when-it-suits-me TEAM RED refugees.

    And, my god, do the arguments ever suck.

    1. Unfortunately as libertarians, we’re philosophically disinclined to restrict registration.

      If the stupid gets too much to bear, remember there are ignore tools available.

      1. For the record, I haven’t been writing to suggest they restrict registration.

        I’ve been writing to suggest they stop publishing articles by e.g. Reagan’s ex-speechwriter etc.

        We’re reaping what they’ve sowed.

  24. I just have a hard time swallowing studies that don’t match up with common sense and anecdotes. So when I get a chance, I try to read them. Peri’s study essentially counts the number of studies that found certain way and totals them as “definitive” proof. There’s no idea as to how valid the underlying studies were or if they found what they were paid to find up front or really unbiased. Of the 44 citings in the bibliography, 9 were citing his own studies while other authors were represented many times as well. The outcomes may be valid–or they may be the study equivalent of money laundering.

  25. Come out of your bubble Nick. This piece ignores many facts. Just three very important labor facts: 1] 92,000,000 Americans, forced or opting, out of the labor force, 2] 25,000,000 more would now be of working age American citizens if not for legal abortion on demand, and 3] Our Government pays many people to choose not do those jobs they don’t want to do.

  26. This is such bullshit. These pro business types just want cheap labor.I live in Ca. construction, lawn care, hotel staff etc has now all gone to Mexicans who will do it cheaper. I guess that freed you up to be unemployed.This is nothing new. In the great dust bowl migration to Ca,people already worked dirt cheap and mexicans came along and did it even cheaper. Check out the old movie Harvest Of Shame. As far as English goes some don’t even bother whether it’s mexicans in Ca. or cubans in Miami. I’ve spent over 20yrs in both.

    1. Yet Texas is booming, with just as many immigrants. Maybe the problem is the aging hippies.

  27. “Immigrants complement (rather than replace) existing capital, tech, and workers; ”
    In some cases that might be true,but its also true that they do in fact replace existing workers, at least in the STEM fields. Ask anyone who has had to train their foreign replacements in exchange for a severance package.

    Labor markets adapt;
    Eventually maybe, but to claim that no one suffers in the meantime is ignoring reality.

  28. Assuming you are talking about illegal immigrants? Most of them would be classified as “people of color” by government, universities, corporations, etc. Hence, they or their children will gain affirmative action, minorities only contracts, set-aside contracts and scholarships, special legal protection from “hate” crimes denied to white citizens, and a raft of other legal privileges. Plus they can join any number of race-based organizations: La Raza, Mecha, NAACP, assorted Black/Chicano/a/Muslim Student Unions–many of which are supported by citizen-taxpayers. These groups agitate on a racial basis for collective racial interests.

    Effectively, by accepting open borders you are accepting the displacement of the majority of American citizens and their replacement with a new privileged class.

    Can you explain why you want to see American citizens displaced and replaced?

    1. The American citizenry put most of those idiotic programs in place by themselves.

  29. Or restrictionists fixate on the willingness of cantalope-calved “criminals” to cross a fucking desert in order to send money back home to a Fourth World village somewhere

    This clown must not live in southern California if he thinks the Mexicans are less criminally inclined. But when it even gets to Minnesota:…..=hottopics

    1. Drug cartels can only be eliminated by legalizing drugs.

      Or do you think Al Capone was mainly caused by Italian immigration?

  30. Any good con man knows that an argument can be made for any set of “facts”. Economists and other practitioners of pseudo-sciences know that and take advantage. This seems to be an example.

  31. Libertarians can’t admit that immigration has been horrible for this country because thinking that way violates the imperative to think alike.

    Yes, immigrants work at jobs that US citizens won’t do, but you neglect to add “at current pay rates.” Had there been a severe shortage of lettuce pickers then either salaries would rise or growers would have to invest in automation. If salaries were allowed to rise as they do in free markets then yes, Bucky, U.S. citizens would take those jobs.

    1. Libertarians can’t admit that immigration has been horrible for this country because thinking that way violates the imperative to think alike.

      There is a strong element of ideological thinking when it comes to libertarians and immigration. Because abstract libertarian principles would appear to call for open borders, ergo we must have open borders…no matter what the impact in the real world.

      Still, there appears to be considerable libertarians dissent on this issue, as evidenced by the replies on this topic.

  32. “Immigrants, who are barred from receiving most forms of welfare in America…”

    Perhaps the relatively small literal “welfare” programs, but not the extremely costly education, health care, and criminal justice programs.

    You can’t have open borders with a generous social welfare program.

  33. Let me give you a tale of two cities:
    In Sacramento, CA, restaurant back rooms are likely to be staffed by 100% adult Mexicans. It it is “discouraged” by the state to use E verify.

    In Alabaster, Alabama, at most restaurant, young blacks and whites work together, earning a decent enough wage to have a life as a young 20 something.

    In California there are 1.5 million people working, and 4.5 million on food stamps. The millions of illegals are working somewhere.

    1. 1 word: Texas.

      It’s not the immigrants that make California disfunctional, it’s the socialism.

  34. As long as you continue to conflate immigration and illegal immigration, you will not convince anyone. Why is this simple concept so hard to grasp?

    Further, by touting lawless immigration as a solution to labor costs, you advocate no less than a serf system, because the only reason for businesses to hire below-board is to avoid and circumvent laws such as wage and safety standards. It creates an artificial market distortion that businesses which follow the law can’t hope to compete with.

    1. Your “simple concept” is hard to grasp because the adults in the room long ago realized that “legal” vs “illegal” is a meaningless distinction, what with government being seemingly incapable of basic acts of discernment.

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