Open Borders vs. COVID-19: A Soho Forum Debate

Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian debates George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan on immigration and coronavirus.


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"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.

Feature Image by Brett Raney

Photo credit: ID 145211816 © Erik Lattwein |; ID 144144905 © Oksanaphoto |; Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0); Rod Lamkey/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Martha Asencio Rhine/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Robert Gallagher/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Ivan Pierre Aguirre/ZUMA Press/Newscom

NEXT: Were the COVID-19 Lockdowns a Mistake?

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49 responses to “Open Borders vs. COVID-19: A Soho Forum Debate

  1. Open borders vs. the #TrumpVirus? Open borders wins.
    Open borders vs. flesh-eating bacteria? Open borders wins.
    Open borders vs. a hypothetical new form of AIDS that’s as contagious as the common cold? Open borders wins.

    As Koch / Reason libertarians, our primary goal must always be to promote the financial interests of our benefactor Charles Koch. And as his current struggles demonstrate — he’s now worth less than $50 billion! — Mr. Koch cannot prosper without unlimited, unrestricted immigration.


    1. God, some Trumpian dick is allowed to vomit all over the comment board of the flagship libertarian magazine about rich people and is welcomed with open arms. You guys have gone baroque, I’ve give you that.

      1. By that standard, you’d have to go too.

        1. Should we educate you now or later on the concept of libertarian socialism? Those guys that were marching against WW1 and the Vietnam War weren’t marching because they loved the government. It was something else.

          1. Shouldn’t you be whining about Reason letting you vomit all over their board?

          2. “the concept of libertarian socialism”

            No thanks I’m not into fiction.

            1. Here’s the start of your education

              Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

              1. -Emma Goldman

              2. Just like a socialist, I say no thanks and you ignore my choice and do what you want.

                1. Including immigrating to another country to work, right?

                  1. No means no guy.

                  2. Lol what a fail you got shut the fuck up and then stupidly forgot that you don’t have to immigrate to a country to work there.

                    1. Yeah, it’s not like Mary Stack / Tulpa / Mary’s Period / “.” / Satan has a brain, or anything.

                      “Dear Abby” is a personal friend of mine. She gets some VERY strange letters! For my amusement, she forwards some of them to me from time to time. Here is a highly relevant one:

                      Dear Abby, Dear Abby,
                      My life is a mess,
                      Even Bill Clinton won’t stain my dress,
                      I whinny seductively for the horses,
                      They tell me my picnic is short a few courses,
                      My real name is Mary Stack,
                      NO ONE wants my hairy crack!
                      On disability, I live all alone,
                      Spend desperate nights by the phone,
                      I found a man named Richard Decker,
                      But he won’t give me his hairy pecker!
                      Decker’s pecker is reserved for farm beasts,
                      I am beastly, yes! But my crack’s full of yeasts!

                      So Dear Abby, that’s just a poetic summary… You can read about the Love of my Life, Richard Decker, here:
                      Farmers kept refusing to let him have sex with their animals. So he sought revenge, authorities say.
                      Decker the hairy pecker told me a summary of his story as below:
                      Decker: “Can I have sex with your horse?”
                      Farmer: “Lemme go ask the horse.”
                      Farmer: “My horse says ‘neigh’!”
                      And THAT was straight from the horse’s mouth! I’m not horsin’ around, here, no mare!

                      So Decker the hairy pecker told me that, apparently never even realizing just HOW DEEPLY it hurt me, that he was all interested in farm beasts, while totally ignoring MEEE!!

                      So I thought maybe I could at least liven up my lonely-heart social life, by refining my common interests that I share with Richard Decker… I, too, like to have sex with horses!

                      But Dear Abby, the horses ALL keep on saying “neigh” to my whinnying sexual advances!
                      Some tell me that my whinnying is too whiny… Abby, I don’t know how to fix it!

                      Dear Abby, please don’t tell me “get therapy”… I can’t afford it on my disability check!

                      Now, along with my crack full of yeasts… I am developing anorexia! Some are calling me a “quarter pounder with cheese”, but they are NOT interested at ALL, in eating me!!! They will NOT snack on my crack!

                      What will I DO, Dear Abby?!?!?

                      -Desperately Seeking Horses, Men, or ANYTHING, in Fort Worth,
                      Yours Truly,
                      Mary Stack / Tulpa / Mary’s Period / “.” / Satan

                    2. Squirrelly, when you post that shit, it just proves that deep down, you really want to kill yourself.

                      So just kill yourself.

                  3. Let’s put up a wall against the viruses, and make the viruses pay for it! (Don’t thank me; thank The Donald, from whom I got the idea!)

                    1. Yeah it’s not like humans carry viruses or anything.

              3. Who gets enslaved to clean out the sewers, go into mines, etc?

      2. OBL is a parody account.

        The sad thing is that you’re not. You really do follow a totalitarian, life-destroying ideology.

      3. Sarah Loran Six months ago I lost my job and after that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a great website which literally saved me• I started working for them online and in a short time after I’ve started averaging 15k a month••• The best thing was that cause I am not that computer savvy all I needed was some basic typing skills and internet access to start••• This is where to start….. Read More Details

      4. WTF does Trump have to do with any of this? Nothing.
        Assholes who support open borders are ALWAYS employed in fields that are NOT effected by its unfettered increase, in academia or wealthy. I wonder what douche category you are in….
        Your sniveling makes me believe you may be a winner in all 3.

    2. Invasion USA is @Reason’s “core value”.

      In the 21st century, libertarians are going to have make common cause with the globalists of all parties, with the people whose core value is the right of individuals to move freely around the planet.

      Watching The Brink made me think that for all the other differences Reason has with the socialist magazine Jacobin, it may matter far more that we share a belief in open borders.

      1. Without Invasion USA, who will work in our service economy whose demand will be cut in half with only 20million unemployed Americans looking for work?

  2. Stupid title.

  3. America Held Hostage day 45.
    We must admit millions of people and order them off the street then shelter in place.

  4. This debate was about letting Americans immigrate to Mexico, right? You know, because America is a failed state that currently has hundreds of thousands of COVID cases that the government can’t get its shit together enough to combat. Is Mexico even allowing Americans to visit? If I were them, I wouldn’t.

    1. “the government can’t get its shit together enough to combat’

      People have immune systems for that. I’m sorry you need the government to help you because you are afraid of a cold.

      The good news is, your ideology would just kill them anyway, so you’re getting what you want if anyone dies.

    2. This debate was about letting Americans immigrate to Mexico, right?

      I wish it were. But unfortunately, Mexico, China, and India are tightly controlling who can enter the country and what they can do there.

      Is Mexico even allowing Americans to visit? If I were them, I wouldn’t.

      So you are for closed borders and ethno-nationalist states in principle. Good to know.

      1. It’s almost as if it’s *other countries* that are full of anti-immigration, xenophobic racists.

  5. Ok, so when this pandemic is over we can let MExicans into the country without their papers and without letting a bunch of fascists in ICE run amok, right? That’d be the obvious libertarian as well as humane solution.

    1. And then you could line them up against a wall and shoot them, as you socialists are wont to do.

      1. Why would I want to hurt desperately poor people looking for decency and work? We should reserve our guns for militarists and fascists and racists. When they come around to our door is there a problem with using 2nd amendment remedies?

        1. You want socialism that is gonna hurt like the ass rape you experience every night in jail you faggot.

        2. “Why would I want to hurt desperately poor people looking for decency and work?”

          You’re asking me why your ideology ends up with people getting lined up and shot?

          Shouldn’t YOU know why you do it?

          1. Don’t get too cocky about capitalism’s record of peace and humanity.


            You have to enter your email and password to get a look at how capitalism has helped poor people out.

            1. So you line people up and shoot them because you don’t like or understand capitalism. Um….ok.

              1. Weren’t the bombing campaigns over Indochina and Iraq done in the name of democracy and capitalism. Capitalism sure has a problem with its contradictions.

                1. Still even less that one of your big socialist dictators.

            2. Capitalism and cheap energy has brought more people put of poverty in the world than socialism has killed.

        3. We should reserve our guns for militarists and fascists and racists.

          You mean people like you?

    2. Tell them to get their hands out of my pockets and then we’ll talk.

    3. Socialist wants USA invaded.

      Imagine my shock.

  6. How about we deport all the Nazi bitches turning in their neighbors right now. Also, all the small businessmen in the hipster zip codes trying to put their competitors out of business by demanding that governors keep everything closed because “we’re not ready yet”.

    1. You leave Karens alone!

  7. Rather than arguing for open borders or protection against communicable diseases like COVID-19, my argument would be that protection against communicable diseases is both a prerequisite for open borders and a way to help protect the American public from communicable diseases.

    For one thing, let’s be clear about what we’re talking about when we talk about open borders. Open borders means you get to cross the border without a visa–without specific permission from the U.S. government on a case by case basis. Open borders does not mean people sneaking across the border in the middle of the night and we can’t do anything about it. Rather, it means people legally crossing the border at a checkpoint merely by showing an ID (rather than a visa). After all, why would people trudge for miles on a dangerous journey through the desert in the middle of the night when they can simply cross the border at a checkpoint by showing an ID?

    One of the standard arguments for open borders (from more than ten years ago when Tim Cavanaugh was writing here about this) was that you can require people to be immunized against certain diseases and make their IDs subject to being immunized against disease x, y, and z. That would make open borders far better than it is now from a communicable disease standpoint. The way things are now, who knows whether the people sneaking through the desert at night are immunized against anything?

    As new viruses like COVID-19 emerge, it will be a lot easier to screen people coming into the country for obvious symptoms when they’re forming a line to cross the border than it is now, too. I’m not saying that we can stop asymptomatic people from crossing the border that way, but we can’t stop asymptomatic American citizens from bringing these viruses back to the United States with them either. Regardless, it would be easier to screen people coming into the country if they presented themselves at a checkpoint rather than dispersing throughout the desert and throughout the country at night in the hopes of eluding detection.

    1. Open borders is meant by many to be open immigration; a one-way ticket to the paradise we call the US of A. I’m for open immigration, to all of those who have a job waiting, and aren’t criminals.

  8. Nation States are the best protection for liberty. How many times do I have to point out how the immigrants from corrupt statist regimes who immigrated to the US in the 1890-1910 led the new deal and bolshevism which led to fundamental attacks on our culture, society, norms, idea of limited govt and non intervention (to say nothing of the identity politics, deficit spending, and crony capitalism) of the last 80 years. Open borders makes no sense if you want to retain American liberty.

    1. #culturalenrichment

      Countries are people.
      Import Not Americans, become Not America.

      It’s really not that complicated.

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  10. 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.