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Should the U.S. Open Its Borders to Everyone? (Reason Podcast)

Ben Powell and Mark Krikorian debate immigration policy at the Soho Forum.

When the government puts "quantitative restrictions on immigration" it's attempting to centrally plan "a complicated market with people who have heterogeneous skills," argued economist Ben Powell at an immigration debate held Monday night in New York City. Powell, who's head of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University, went up against Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies, who argued that if the U.S. were to eliminate numerical caps on immigration "100 million people per decade" might come here—"a revolutionary policy" that would destroy our social fabric.

The event was hosted by the Soho Forum, a monthly libertarian-themed debate series. The following proposition was on the table: "U.S. immigration policy should be to issue migration visas, without any numerical limitations, to all applicants who are not on a terrorist watch list, and who do not otherwise have criminal records or contagious diseases."

It was an Oxford-style debate, in which audience members vote before and after the speakers have their say, and the side that gets the most people to change their minds wins. Krikorian, arguing against the resolution, won the contest by a narrow margin. As we've done in the past, Reason is running audio from the Soho Forum's debate series on its podcast.

Listen below—and subscribe to our podcast at iTunes so you'll never miss an episode!

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  • JeremyR||

    Worked out well for the American Indians

  • AlmightyJB||

    So not to the white man then?

  • Bra Ket||

    Really? Racial profiling?

  • Not a True MJG||

    That comparison works 1:1.

  • IceTrey||

    They had contagious diseases.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Just the hot chicks

  • KevinP||

    Report: More than half of immigrants on welfare


    Quote:
    About 51% of immigrant-led households receive at least one kind of welfare benefit, including Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches and housing assistance, compared to 30% for native-led households… Those numbers increase for households with children, with 76% of immigrant-led households receiving welfare, compared to 52% for the native-born.
  • DJF||

    But it brings diversity to welfare, so its good.

  • Libertymike||

    Even if one accords credibility to the Census Bureau stats, which one should not, a higher percentage of immigrants work than native gringos.

    What is not covered by the report is the fact that a far higher percentage of native gringos receive other forms of welfare, such as social security, Medicare, military pensions and health care benefits, subsidized health care, public sector "employment" including public employee union benefits, public employee union pensions, and the like.

  • Episteme||

    But what degree of those immigrants are effectively taking jobs from native-born Americans and thus pushing THEM towards welfare services?

    We can argue about things like bringing in high-tech workers, but doesn't every immigrant barback denote a no-skilled unemployed "gringo" locked out of that position?

  • Libertymike||

    Let the free market decide, not centrally planned progressive big government nativist tinged regimes.

    Liberty before nation state.

    Liberty before country.

    Liberty before blood.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Liberty before employment.

  • westernsloper||

    Let the free market decide, not centrally planned progressive big government nativist tinged regimes.

    So government subsidized labor is a free market? There has not been a free market as far as labor is concerned in the US since the welfare state was embraced.

    And half the the things listed in your other comment are contractual agreements, so I am not getting how those are welfare.

  • Libertymike||

    Did I say that government subsidized labor is the free market?

    The "contractual agreements" are not the products of consensual and voluntary agreements entered into without force. Why should I be on the tab for a school teacher's or cop's health care and pension bennies?

  • westernsloper||

    Did I say that government subsidized labor is the free market?

    Not specifically, no you didn't.

    Why should I be on the tab for a school teacher's or cop's health care and pension bennies?

    If you are arguing we shouldn't have public schools or cops with pension plans outside of their own planning, I agree. I paid my property taxes a few days ago. Why am I paying to educate other peoples kids? Little fuckers need to keep off my lawn too.

  • JayU||

    "Why should I be on the tab for a school teacher's or cop's health care and pension bennies?"

    A fascinating question coming from someone advocating opening the doors and by extension the welfare rolls to anyone and everyone who feels like coming here.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Let the free market decide

    Corporate limited liability
    Government monopolies in "intellectual property"
    Differential tax treatment for wages and capital gains
    Tax on income instead of property
    Violation of Lockean Proviso

    A lot of rage against violations of the free market. Except when it helps those who Own over those who Labor.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Benjamin Tucker's critique of Herbert Spencer in 1884 could apply to many of the commenters on Reason:

    It will be noticed that in these later articles, amid his multitudinous illustrations (of which he is as prodigal as ever) of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed, ostensibly at least, to protect labor, alleviate suffering, or promote the people's welfare. He demonstrates beyond dispute the lamentable failure in this direction. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly. You must not protect the weak against the strong, he seems to say, but freely supply all the weapons needed by the strong to oppress the weak. He is greatly shocked that the rich should be directly taxed to support the poor, but that the poor should be indirectly taxed and bled to make the rich richer does not outrage his delicate sensibilities in the least. Poverty is increased by the poor laws, says Mr. Spencer. Granted; but what about the rich laws that caused and still cause the poverty to which the poor laws add? That is by far the more important question; yet Mr. Spencer tries to blink it out of sight.
  • MaxBlancke||

    There is always someone who would be willing to do your job for half what you make. And your employer probably does not care that they might not do as good a job. Even that person will never be able to relax, because there is someone from an even poorer country willing to do the job for half what they make.
    I have watched people fight over the chance to do hard labor at $2.00 a day. That is the free market, but everyone is too worried about their children starving to enjoy it.

  • creech||

    Some of thee are not like the others. Some are deferred compensation, some are wages (maybe higher than market) for labor that would be performed if privatized. And certainly some are unearned handouts.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Actually, no. Unfortunately, some of the writers around here do play a little fast and loose with the facts on that. Immigrants have a lower percentage of people receiving government handouts than natives in the same socio-economic category. That last part is not trivial. The fact of the matter is that immigrants' socio-economic status doesn't map to that of the native population. Immigrants, unsurprisingly, have a lot more poor people. And poor people, again unsurprisingly, receive more government handouts.

  • wareagle||

    I'm sorry; the natives "receive" SS, pensions, and the rest of your list? Is that what we now call it when someone entity by force takes a portion of your earnings with the promising of returning it at some later date? That's a weak-ass argument.

  • wareagle||

    wow, an edit feature would be nice: when some entity takes a portion of your earnings by force with the promise of returning it as a later time....that's now "receiving" welfare or the functional equivalent?

  • Libertymike||

    wareagle, the supreme court, long ago, deemed those things taxes.

  • westernsloper||

    It's not only weak-ass it is the progressive argument. "If you receive SS or Medicare you are a beneficiary of socialism and welfare" the prog says. Horse shit. If I live that long, which is maybe at a 50/50 chance at this point, it is collecting on all the money that has been stolen from me for 50 years.

  • Libertymike||

    The existence of social security is, itself, a product of progressivism.

    Why not just end it all, now?

  • westernsloper||

    End my life, or social security?

    You must be young. I have been paying into that bs for almost 4 decades. I would love to see it ended. Give me my money back and we will call it even. As far as those things being "taxes". why is there an income cap on the amount that one has to pay SS/Medicare taxes on?

  • The Hyperbole||

    Yeahbut, you are not getting your money back from the people who stole it from you, you are getting other peoples money that was stolen from them.

  • westernsloper||

    Well, I would go get the money stolen from me and given to someone else, but they are either dead, or really old, and that is kind of mean.

  • Bra Ket||

    The same would happen if you were literally ripped off by the govt due to a clerical error or something by the IRS, and sued them in court and won and got your money back some time later. Surely you wouldn't consider that scenario to be welfare.

  • The Hyperbole||

    'Literally ripped off' is exactly what happened. Outside of government we usually don't allow thieves and con man to fund reparations by continuing their nefarious enterprise.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    About 51% of immigrants led households...


    That's how the anti-immigrant groups Center For Immigration Studies and The Heritage Foundation fudge the numbers - by lumping immigrants into 'households' where whenever someone else gets any benefit (let's say an immigrant shacks together with a welfare queen) it's the immigrant that gets counted and not the American. The statistic is thus fraudulent - not merely wrong. The CATO Institute has been calling these knuckle-dragging nativists out since the first 'study' came out in the 90s.

  • JayU||

    It's a household to household comparison, with a massively statistically significant result.

    It's not fraudulent in the slightest, you just don't like what it shows.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Re: JayU,

    It's a household to household comparison, with a massively statistically significant result.


    Are you insane, JayU?

    The result is not "statistically significant" at all because what is being measured is BIASED. Let me show you how: Imagine you're doing a study on imbecility, and you decide to count "households" where an imbecile lives, and then you present your results saying that "Imbecility resides in 36% of all households". Would you find such a result "statistically significant"? The FIRST thing someone will ask you is: what do you mean by 'household'? And second why aren't you simply counting imbeciles instead of 'households'?

    It's not fraudulent in the slightest


    It IS fraudulent.

    you just don't like what it shows.


    I don't like it because it's fraudulent.

  • GILMORE™||

    It's a household to household comparison, with a massively statistically significant result.

    not really.

    OMWC is right that the 'households' stats are being used to bury details more than reveal them.

    JayU is (sort of) right that - in theory - as long as the comparisons are equal (apples to apples) all it is is a 'proxy figure'; the absolute number shouldn't matter as much as how it compares to other things.

    the problem is that its now a fair or useful comparison at all, and ultimately its bullshit data, and the way its being done is stupid.

    it would only be compelling if you broke out the data in cross-tabs and showed the like-for-like comparisons based on income, family size, etc. and compared the average "kinds" and $ amounts of welfare subsides.

    i mean this here is total bullshit =

    at least one kind of welfare benefit, including Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches and housing assistance,

    that means they could be comparing 1 person getting 1 benefit, to an entire household receiving all of them, and they'd still consider that a 1:1 like for like.

    Its utter horseshit, and the reason its done that way is to obscure details, and produce headline numbers that innumerate journalists will publicize.

  • GILMORE™||

    the problem is that its NOT a fair or useful comparison

    fixed that.

    also, a quick glance at the cross tabs in the report itself basically shows that all the difference boils down to differences in "medicaid" and "SNAP/school lunches"

    most of which could probably be normalized by simply stripping out all the data from native households which wasn't reflective of the same income/education levels.

    and i've done that sort of thing before. what you find is that the actual usage levels (in terms of $) are comparable to any native household in the same relative conditions, and often "less" than your average poor-urban native household.

    shorter = that the differences aren't really that significant, and they don't even use as much welfare as most urban native-blacks. Which may make you say, "well that still sucks!" but its not some slam dunk OMG Mexicans are taykin all the welfares!!!1!!

    the exercise is sort of stupid in the first place, since the cited study is being generated by an issue-advocacy group; its always going to try to show you what they want to show you, rather than the truth.

  • JayU||

    They do break down the different programs. They also break down the immigrant households using welfare without a native-born American present in the household.

    http://cis.org/Welfare-Use-Imm.....Households

    It's not utter horseshit. It's clearly defined data that you personally choose to disagree with based not on facts but your own horseshit opinions.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    "[...] naturalizing makes immigrants eligible for all programs; and, most important, immigrants (including illegal immigrants) can receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth."[...]


    Which means that the knuckle-draggers at the CIS are counting citizens (naturalized) who are now eligible for Medicaid as "immigrants" and biasing the statistic by adding America-born citizens who are eligible for some benefits including school lunches under the same 'household' as the immigrant parent or parentsso that it is easier to insinuate that immigrants themselves are higher users of government programs.

    That is total horseshit, J. And I already explained to you why that criteria biases the statistic yet it is YOU who seems not to want to hear that.

  • JayU||

    They're counting immigrants as immigrants?

    THOSE MOTHER FUCKING SCOUNDRELS!

  • GILMORE™||

    Jay =

    if i were to ask you,

    "use that data presented in the report to back out an "average welfare usage in $ per-capita terms" for immigrant vs. native households"

    1) Could it be done, based on what's there? and
    2) how would you do it?

  • GILMORE™||

    I don't think you understood what i said.

    i already addressed the 'which programs' account for the differences bit.

    yes, its still mostly horseshit for the point i made above, which is they're aggregating stats of incomparable units

    e.g.

    at least one kind of welfare benefit, including Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches and housing assistance,


    that means they could be comparing 1 person getting 1 benefit, to an entire household receiving all of them, and they'd still consider that a 1:1 like for like.

    you = ""you personally choose to disagree with based not on facts but your own horseshit opinions.""

    what exactly do you think my horseshit opinion is? I don't remember saying whether or not i agreed with anything at all about immigration policy, or whether immigrants were wonderful or awful.

    i just pointed out that "study" is designed to produce headline #s, but which isn't really designed to do any analysis that reflects granular reality. that's just an opinion about how "research" is compiled and presented. something i do for a living, fwiw.

  • JayU||

    You addressed the "which programs" bit by saying it "boils down to medicaid and food."

    That is incorrect. There is a statistically significant discrepancy in usage in every category BUT housing. And you ignore the fact that Medicaid is one of the largest single expenditures of the entire federal budget. So even if it were "only" Medicaid (which it is not), that would still be a massive amount of money spent.

    The data clearly is not even attempting to work in dollar amounts, so why you would ask for specific dollar amounts when it doesn't exist in the data I wouldn't really know. Clearly, just because you claim to "work in" something doesn't mean you're actually good at what you do. As this SIPP study shows, it backs up the similar finding of the CPS study which reached the same conclusion.

    Maybe when trying to disprove something you should actually point to evidence instead of hearsay and nonsense. You want the per-capita numbers? Do the math yourself. I already know the answer. I'm not wasting my time.

    But go ahead. Prove me wrong with facts and evidence. Show me the data that backs up what you're saying.

    (Hint: you can't, because this study already accounted for all the bullshit you've come up with and supplied no evidence to back up.)

  • GILMORE™||

    That is incorrect. There is a statistically significant discrepancy in usage in every category BUT housing.

    right. but you still don't realize you have no idea what your unit represents.

    I already know the answer.

    why not present the data in per-cap terms then?

  • Harvard||

    Let in as many as Chevy Chase, the Hamptons , Bar Harbor and Martha's Vineyard will agree to house and educate in private schools.

  • ||

    I think there's something to be said of not handing out welfare to new immigrants. The idea you give them money in order to settle in and assimilate seems to have the opposite effect; that is they become dependent on the state. Back in the day, the 'old world' immigrants had to rely on a combination of street gangs, mafias, hard work, self-reliance, and self-belief since there wasn't a social safety net and they survived by making a net contribution to the American (and Canadian) experience.

    Don't enable. Who knew?

  • ||

    And family and community.

    /slaps forehead. I shoulda had a V-8.

  • Episteme||

    As with Italians and Puerto Ricans in the days of WEST SIDE STORY, immigrants shouldn't be granted benefits until they can prove that they can sing and dance in groups.

  • ||

    Sing, dance AND fight.

    /spins Night Fever.

  • ||

    My wife's great grandfather came from Sinagra, Sicily to Cleveland with almost nothing. But yet he went from a poor immigrant to a business owner in Little Sicily and managed send all of his sons to college.

    He understood that he had to assimilate and work his ass off to provide a comfortable life for his family.

  • The Fusionist||

    [Sicilian joke deleted for reasons of taste]

  • ||

    There was a 'Little Sicily'? Were Calabrese welcomed?

  • BigT||

    I think he means little Italy, a section in CLE near Case Western

  • ant1sthenes||

    Thanks to birthright citizenship, allowing a person to enter is giving their children authority over you. If the thought of Nazi Youth influencing future politics doesn't bother you, then let as many Germans in from the Reich as you please. Otherwise, best to actual recognize that people are more than just interchangeable economic units.

    Currently our territorial, rather than personal, system of jurisdictions means that one person's free association is another person's forced association. Much like the right to speech doesn't entitle the speaker to an unwilling audience, the right of exit doesn't necessarily imply any particular right of entry.

  • Juice||

    Wouldn't they be fleeing the Reich?

  • Libertymike||

    Particularly Robert Reich.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Nah, in this alternate reality the Reich won in Europe, but the US maintained its independence and strength and there was a cold war between them.

  • IceTrey||

    The way to stop immigration here is to make life better there. Just ending the War on Drugs would fix most of it.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    When the government puts "quantitative restrictions on immigration" it's attempting to centrally plan "a complicated market with people who have heterogeneous skills,"

    Autistic open borders libertarians continue to be their own worst enemies.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    "Autistic" libertarians... You mean non-socialist. Because libertarians are not dirty, scummy Socialists like the Trumpistas.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    You seem smart.

  • Harvard||

    Don't let that black sombrero fool you.

  • IceTrey||

    It's the theoretical versus the practical. In Libertopia you can get on a hypersonic plane and move to the other side of the planet in an hour with no passport or anyone's approval. There are no borders.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Autistic open borders libertarians continue to be their own worst enemies.

    Unfortunately they want to take the rest of us with them.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Until we as a society get over the absurd notion that we should not expect immigrants to assimilate, no. Immigrant populations have always created friction. Look at the problems (on both sides, mind) attendant on the wave of Irish immigration. But while immigrants were working their way into the broader culture, these tended to work themselves out.

    Unhappily, the establishment Left seems to see some advantage in Balkanizing the country into mutually hostile camps. Possibly so that they have a steady supply of stupid peasants to lord it over.

    In any case, the question is inane at the moment. A sizable portion of the voters want some greater degree of control exercised, for whatever reason. Saying some other decision 'should' happen is like saying FDR 'should' have let the depression end on its own; willfully ignorant of the political realities of the question.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Unhappily, the establishment Left seems to see some advantage in Balkanizing the country into mutually hostile camps.

    1) Import big government voters
    2) Divide and conquer the peasants with identity politics
    3) Rule

  • buybuydandavis||

    The Open Borders guy is a retard.

    In his rebuttal
    Complained that the other guy talked numbers. "All that matters is if an immigrant is a net benefit or net loss. Numbers don't matter."
    Basically assuming net benefits are linear in immigrants. Not really true. Lookup up "nonlinear".
    Let's let everyone in, and then kick them out when we find them incompatible with our society.
    Yeah, that's much more efficient than not letting them in in the first place.
    Think how wonderful it will be for poor people to have a greater threat of poverty to spur them on to achieve more!
    Uh.
    All consumers benefit, and middle class benefits most.
    No. People in the market for cheap labor benefit most. How many middle class people have a staff of Nannies, Gardeners, Maids, Cooks, ... The people who purchase low skill servants benefit most. That aint the middle class.
    We can do extra taxes on our servant class to pay for social welfare costs!
    I don't think those guys hanging out at Home Depot are paying a lot of taxes. Not too long ago, all the Swells getting confirmed for government positions were all caught with servants they were paying off the books. No taxes anywhere. Most people aren't worrying about confirmation hearings.

    I'm halfyway through, and bored by the stupidity at this point.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Halfway through, and they didn't touch the biggest problem, and most relevant for libertarians.

    The US, and Anglosphere countries generally, are the *most* libertarian societies. It's a culture. An historical anomaly. And we don't have magic dirt to turn newcomers into liberty lovers.

    Countries are the way they are because of the people who live in them. Import people less interested in liberty, and you get a less free society. Not rocket science.

    PEW Research on Hispanic Americans
    http://www.pewresearch.org/fac.....democrats/
    Hispanics Lean Democratic over 3 to 1
    http://www.pewhispanic.org/201.....-religion/
    Hispanics Want Bigger Government Providing More Services over 3 to 1

    The Dems were on the verge of instituting a permanent Big Gov electoral majority. It's still pretty damn close.

    The main libertarian argument is between the clerico libertarians who think they are sinners if they try to preserve the US as a free society, and the materialist libertarians who want to preserve a free country in actual fact.

    It's the Camp of the Saints question.

    Does the West have the right and the will to say No to immigration to preserve the freedom and prosperity of Western Civilization?

    It's not surprising that Reason never has an immigration debate over that question. Open borders doesn't stand a chance on the real issue.

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