Does COVID-19 Make Immigration Restrictions Necessary? A Soho Forum Debate

The Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian vs. George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan


"The current pandemic makes it all the more necessary for the federal government to tighten restrictions on immigration."

That was the resolution of a public debate hosted via Zoom by the Soho Forum on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. It featured Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, and Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University. Soho Forum director Gene Epstein moderated.

The Soho Forum typically hosts Oxford-style debates, in which a live audience votes before and after the event, and the debater who swayed the most people wins the contest. Because this debate took place over Zoom, we did things a little differently. The online audience was asked to vote before the debate. If you voted before the debate, please go to after you watch the video and cast your final vote. But if you didn't register your initial vote before the debate started on Tuesday evening, your final vote won't be counted.

Arguing for the affirmative was Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and author of The New Case Against Immigration.

Bryan Caplan argued for the negative. Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and the author of Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.

The Soho Forum, sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village.

Update: Voting on this debate ended on Tuesday, May12, 2020, at noon EST. Bryan Caplan won by convincing 21.88 percent of the audience to change their minds. Mark Krikorian convinced 15.63 percent.

Produced by John Osterhoudt.

Illustration: 82001983 © Topgeek—
Photo: 177972613 © Wisconsinart—

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  1. No. Next question.

    That’s not to say immigration restrictions aren’t prudent or in order, just that a silly virus isn’t the reason why they might be necessary.

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  2. Literally nothing — N. O. T. H. I. N. G. — justifies any deviation from benefactor Charles Koch’s vision of unlimited, unrestricted immigration.

    Unemployment has gone in the past couple months from too low (because everyone was working 2 jobs to survive) to higher than during the Great Depression? Well that means opening the borders is even more important than ever!

    1. I don’t know. I would think all the convicted rapists and armed robbers on COVID Release would be filling those jobs that ordinary Americans refuse to do.

    2. Open the borders. We need more Chinese immigrant doctors to develop COVID vaccines and more Mexicans to test them on. It’s libertarian kosher because we’ll give those we hurt free healthcare. – Reason Magazine

  3. Immigration restrictions or illegal border crossing restrictions ?

    If you listen , ask yourself if that concept is covered.

  4. There should be no problem with immigrants coming to this country, as long as they’re willing to shelter in place once they get here.

    Period. Full stop.

    Next question.

  5. Does COVID-19 Make Immigration Restrictions Necessary?

    It’s a months-old global pandemic based on a highly-infectuous virus, so we’re probably already saturated.

    Am I doing this right?

  6. If we have to be locked down, we have to also lock down the border.

    1. If anyone, anywhere on the planet, is a sex slave, we should ALL have to be sex slaves! My kindergarten teacher told me that about chewing gum, so this is just a logical extension of kindergarten-teacher logic and Government Almighty logic!

  7. Mark let Bryan off the hook with his argument that immigrants (especially from Mexico and South America) do not fundamentally change the political landscape. California used to be a Republican place that brought us Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Do you think there’s any chance of that now? Or ever? And Texas is swinging blue due to immigrants. Once Texas falls we will be a one party country unless the Republicans start supporting (more than they already do) left wing socialist policies.

    1. The other thing I’m not sure Mark mentioned that would strongly counter Caplan’s argument is that when unemployment is at 20% it makes no sense to bring in more workers! We already have surplus workers in the country and would only be making it more difficult for existing Americans to get a job. Wait until unemployment is down to 5% or something, then reopen immigration.

  8. Immigration should complement the local labor market, not supplant it!!!!!!
    Only the out of touch who don’t have work in the middle and lower class support Open Borders.
    Anyone who is OK with Open Borders at this time falls into 1 or more of the below categories.
    0) Has a job that is not impacted by immigration.
    1) independently wealthy
    2) Relies on cheap labor from abroad or:
    3) Blinded by political dogma or purism not based in reality.
    4) Uses the policy to create tension between groups to control them.
    Bryan Caplan falls into 0, 1 & 3. Hopefully not 4.
    For the REST of us, who have to find a job and compete in this market where wages are decreasing and jobs are drying up, we KNOW that not competing against 3rd world workers helps Americans FIND and KEEP better JOBS. Decreasing immigration tightens the labor market and THAT attract YOUNGER AMERICANS into those fields!
    Young Americans do not have the same training, intern and entry level career opportunities that we USED to have in the 1980s and 1990s!!!!!!!! Technology especially is overrun with H1 Visas taking every single entry level job that SHOULD be going to American Young Adult!!!!!!!! It fuking infuriates me, the level of ignorance or disdain the elitist class in politics and academia have for the working class American CITIZEN. Illegal Immigration = LOW Wages and Less jobs for Americans
    Increased Legal Immigration = LOWER salaries and unstable employment, I.e: FIRED – REPLACED by foreign worker and FORCED to train them.
    Libertarians CLAIM to support individual liberty, well it is fuking impossible to ascertain and achieve liberty when you have to go to the fucking unemployment line.


  9. I think that it is just proper regarding the restrictions. click

  10. No … The Corona virus or COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the economy. Even the world economy almost fell into the brink of recession

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