What Scarface Can Teach Us About Mass Immigration

The Case for Open Borders


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"It makes sense politically, rationally, electorally, to gain political power by saying all sorts of terrible things about immigrant groups, but at a certain point, the math doesn't work out," says Joel Fetzer, a professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University*, and author of the new book Open Borders and International Migration Policy: The Effects of Unrestricted Immigration in the United States, France, and Ireland.

The book examines three cases of massive and at times nearly unrestricted immigration made famous in the movies: the influx of Central European immigrants to Ireland in the early 2000s as portrayed in the film Once, the flood of Algerians into Marseilles in the wake of the Algerian war as seen in the French film Samia, and the Cubans who ended up in South Florida after Castro's purging of the so-called "scum" of Cuban society, some results of which are memorably portrayed in Scarface.

Fetzer sat down with us to discuss what these three natural experiments in mass migration tell us about the arguments for, and against, opening our borders. These are some of his key findings:

  • Unrestricted migration does not lead to job loss for natives, and in some cases even may lead to reduced unemployment.
  • Mass immigration is not a net drain on public resources.
  • Only in the Cuban case did violent crime spike, a phenomenon Fetzer attributes to the fact that Castro purposely sent criminals to America. Burglaries did increase slightly in all cases for a short time, but in at least one case it appeared that migrants may have more often been victims than perpetrators of the crimes.

For more, watch the full interview above, or scroll down for downloadable versions of this video. Run time approximately 8:43. Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Music by Cellar Dwellar and Kevin MacLeod. 

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*The views expressed in this interview belong to Fetzer and are not necessarily endorsed by Pepperdine University.