MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

Mostly law professors, blogging on whatever we please since 2002 · Hosted by The Washington Post, 2014-2017 · Hosted by Reason 2017 · Sometimes contrarian · Often libertarian · Always independent

Why it's Wrong to Demand Immigrants Stay Home and "Fix Their Own Country"

This common argument has multiple flaws - including implying that the ancestors of most Americans were wrong to immigrate here.

In debates over immigration policy, we often hear the argument that migrants should just stay home and "fix their own countries." If their government is unjust, corrupt, or oppressive, perhaps the migrants have a duty to try to improve it rather than seek greener pastures elsewhere. In a related vein, Donald Trump suggested in a speech at the United Nations that would-be migrants should "build more hopeful futures in their home countries" and "make their countries great again" (though he, at least, did not claim that they have a moral duty to stay).

Unfortunately, the "fix their own countries" trope has serious flaws. Consider the following paraphrase of an exchange I had with a questioner who came up to me after I participated in a public debate on immigration last year:

Questioner: Why do Middle Eastern refugees have to come here? They should fix their own governments instead.

Me: Do you happen to know where your ancestors came from?

Questioner: They were Jews who emigrated from czarist Russia.

Me: Do you think they should have stayed in Russia and worked to fix the czar?

I don't blame the questioner for failing to come up with a good answer on the fly. Anyone can fall short when put on the spot (it's certainly happened to me). Still, the fact remains that the "fix your own country" argument implies that the ancestors of most Americans (and also many Canadians, Australians, and others) were wrong to emigrate. The Russians should have tried to fix the czar and (later) the communists; the Irish should have stayed home and worked to fix the British Empire. Donald Trump's grandfather should have stayed in Bavaria and worked to fix imperial Germany. And so on.

The fact that the "fix your own country" argument implies that the ancestors of most Americans were wrong to come here does not by itself disprove it. We should not automatically assume that every longstanding American practice was necessarily right. Past generations of Americans erred in committing such injustices as slavery and segregation. Perhaps they were also wrong to come to the US in first place. I suspect, however, that most people are not willing to bite this particular bullet. And they would be right not to.

The claim that immigrants fleeing poverty or oppression have a duty to stay home and "fix" their countries is wrong for several reasons. In most cases, these people have little or no responsibility for the injustice and poverty they are fleeing. Russian Jews like the questioner's ancestors were not responsible for the Pale of Settlement and pogroms. Likewise, today's refuges from Venezuela, Syria, and other unjust and corrupt governments generally had no meaningful role in creating the awful conditions there. It is therefore wrong to claim they must risk lifelong privation in order to "fix" the unjust regimes in their home countries. That point applies with extra force in cases where efforts to "fix" the regime are likely to result in imprisonment or death at the hands of the state. We rightly honor brave dissidents who risk life and limb to oppose injustice. But such sacrifices are not morally obligatory, and no blame attaches to those who forego them - especially if they have family members to protect, as well as themselves.

In addition, most migrants have little if any chance of succeeding in "fixing" their home governments, even if they did stay to try to do so. In most such societies, the injustice and oppression is deeply embedded in the political system, and most would-be migrants lack the clout to fix it. Had the questioner's ancestors stayed in Russia, it is nearly certain they would not have succeeded in reforming the czarist regime, no matter how hard they tried. The same goes for most migrants and refugees today. At least as a general rule, there is no moral duty to take great risks to attempt the impossible.

This point is especially strong when it comes to authoritarian states, where ordinary people have little or no influence on government policy. But constraint also applies, though with lesser force, to many dysfunctional countries that are democratic. Even in advanced democracies such as the US and Western Europe, many harmful and unjust government policies persist because of widespread voter ignorance and bias. The same is true (often to a much greater extent) in the corrupt and dysfunctional democratic governments migrants flee from. In most cases, potential migrants have little or no chance of reversing this dynamic anytime soon.

Occasionally, an unjust political system comes to a turning point where change is more feasible than is usually the case. But such situations are difficult to foresee, and it is wrong to demand that people (often literally) bet their lives on the hope that such an opportunity is going to come up soon. And even when it does happen, it is still far from clear that the average would-be migrant could make a real difference to the outcome. Not to mention the very real possibility that a revolution could result in a worse government rather than a better one. Had the questioner's ancestors stayed in Russia long enough to see the czarist regime fall, they would have seen exactly that sort of scenario play itself out, when the communists won the resulting civil war and proceeded to engage in oppression mass murder on a vastly greater scale than the czars ever did.

In sum, at least in the vast majority of cases, would-be migrants have no moral obligation to stay and fix their own countries. Are there exceptions to that generalization? Perhaps a few. Consider the case of the Shah of Iran, who fled his country after his regime was overthrown in 1979. The corruption and repression of the Shah's government played an important role in stimulating the rise of the even more oppressive regime that replaced him. Quite possibly, the Shah had an obligation to stay in Iran and work to fix the horrible mess he himself had played a major role in creating. Maybe he even had an obligation to do so despite the fact that staying in Iran could well have led to his execution by the new government. Similar reasoning arguably applies to other powerful government officials in unjust regimes.

More controversially, this theory could be extended to cover people who have no responsibility for creating the injustices in their societies, but nonetheless have the ability to substantially alleviate them if they stay. In my view, such people still do not have an obligation to stay in their home countries. Their nations do not own their labor. But the argument that they are obliged to do so is at least somewhat plausible.

The vast majority of potential migrants, however, are neither morally responsible for the injustices in their homelands nor in a position to do much about them. In many cases, they can actually do more to help their compatriots by leaving, earning higher wages abroad, and sending remittances to relatives who remain at home (a major source of income for some poor nations). It is therefore wrong to claim they have a duty to stay.

Rejecting the "fix your own country" argument doesn't resolve all debates over immigration. Far from it. Immigration restrictionists have plenty of other arrows in their quiver, such as the claim that governments have the right to bar migrants for almost any reason they want, much as the owner of a private house can exclude unwanted guests (I address that common argument here). But we can still make incremental progress in this debate by eliminating bad arguments, so we can focus on better ones instead.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Ben_||

    On the other hand, we don't need a post on why it's bad to bring every other country's problems to the US and inflict them on ourselves and our neighbors — especially people in disadvantaged communities who will be burdened most. Because that's obvious.

    The fact that problems exist in the world doesn't empower you to designate various sets of Americans to solve them all. We'd like to actually live our lives instead of carrying out the mission you have for us.

  • regexp||

    we don't need a post on why it's bad to bring every other country's problems to the US

    You are not bringing "every other country's problems" here. What we are getting is hard working highly motivated individuals who will enhance our country and culture. This has been proven time and time again.

  • Ben_||

    Make "hard working, highly motivated" and "enhance our country and culture" requirements for admission and continued residency then. Otherwise, no sale.

  • jph12||

    The vast majority of people who are willing to leave their country and culture behind are hard working and highly motivated. Lazy people don't emigrate.

  • Ben_||

    And yet I don't hear a commitment to require such work, just vague assurances.

  • jph12||

    "And yet I don't hear a commitment to require such work, just vague assurances."

    You have a commitment from them when they choose to leave everything they know behind to start over. Immigrants, illegals or otherwise, aren't the lazy ones.

  • Ben_||

    That's not a commitment to require anything at all.

    Why won't you commit to require work and no use of government giveaway programs to continue residency?

    Are you accustomed to your storytelling working on people?

  • jph12||

    Immigrants, legal and illegal, work harder than native citizens and start and run a disproportionate amount of small businesses. If you want to eliminate the people draining the economy, you don't start with the immigrants.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    jph12, your citation fell off.

  • Ben_||

    So no work requirements to maintain residency then. Seems like you don't believe your own rhetoric.

  • JesseAz||

    John, do you have an argument that isn't bare?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Bigots have afflicted America with successive waves of intolerance and ignorance -- targeting various religions, races, and nationalities -- for centuries. These selfish, backward losers don't win in America, as evidenced by our familiarity with and consumption of bagels, tacos, Jameson whiskey, egg rolls, pierogis, collard greens, sushi, fettucini, sushi, and the Friday fish fry.

    No evidence indicates this latest batch of bigots is anything special, its reliance on the charms, insights, and credibility and Donald J. Trump notwithstanding. America's electorate becomes less rural, religious, backward, white, and intolerant every day. I am content to watch time sift this because the course of continued American progress is predictable.

  • kramartini||

    I'll have an order of collard greens and a double order of sushi...

  • Eddy||

    I'll have the egg roll, but instead of the regular dipping sauce I'll just have a Jameson whiskey. Enhances the flavor.

  • Eddy||

    Oh, and get me a wanton, no, not the soup...

  • JesseAz||

    What is with these bare assertions. The actual data is not with you, especially in light of the actual achievements of their American children. Some are highly motivated, some join gangs and the drug trade, some do other things.

  • Flight-ER-Doc||

    The first ones are.

    After that, the very extended family members? If they were energetic, they would have been the first.

    I am the first person in my family born in the US....my parents came to the US (separately) after WWII, with their parents. They came legally, I recall my grandmother telling stories of how they would have to leave every 6 months and get a new visitor visa ... before they could get permanent residence. They later became citizens, as did my grandmother.

    And anyone who comes to the US illegally, is by definition a criminal. We don't need to import any criminals, we have more than enough locally grown.

  • JesseAz||

    Your idiotic assertion that every migrant who comes here is hard working and motivated is bare. Les than half of dreamers speak fluent English. Barely half completed high school. And that's the second generation. We have pockets of migrants that refuse to learn English or assimilate into American culture. They often are lower waged workers based on manual labor. Yes, some are motivated, but nowhere close to all.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "hard working highly motivated individuals "

    Qualified to do what?

    They bring no more skills than an average 16 year old. Use of public schools and emergency rooms means we spend more on them than they add to the economy. All the biased studies from pro immigration groups can't change that.

  • NormanStansfield||

    A hidden tax on the communities they burden.

  • Brightly||

    "You are not bringing "every other country's problems" here. What we are getting is hard working highly motivated individuals who will enhance our country and culture. This has been proven time and time again."

    No it hasn't. Not unless you are going to argue that our advanced economy is driven by low skilled workers that demand government services as much as they do.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Our cheap commodities are indeed driven by low skilled workers. And immigrants don't use government services as much as citizens.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    There are a couple problems with this claim:

    1) Deliberately conflating legal and illegal immigrants. This is endemic in these discussions, and, yes, is a deliberate tactic.

    2) Illegal immigrants use fraudulent ID to pretend to be Americans, so as to access services they're legally barred from, and so get recorded as citizens in those statistics. This really skews the statistics, by boosting the apparent costs of citizens.

    3) The Cato study adjusted for income, they're not really saying that immigrants don't use government services as much as citizens, just that they don't use them as much as equally poor citizens. This doesn't imply that importing more poor people won't increase expenses.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Deliberately conflating? Thanks for the vote that I was trying to deceive people.
    I think it's pretty clear from the OP that we're talking about all immigrants, legal and illegal, though that gets muddy in the comments. To be on the safe side, lets look at illegals as well. Cato's got you there as well. As does the GAO.

    2) There is no evidence of that happening in statistical numbers. See above.

    3) You want to compare immigrants to the average American citizen? Their value doesn't come from their competing with the average American citizen, why would you make that comparison?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Brett's right. SacastrO, you never are correct.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Great contribution, dude!

  • Brightly||

    There is a competing study

    https://bit.ly/2eLJTaU

    An estimated 49 percent of households headed by legal immigrants used one or more welfare programs in 2012, compared to 30 percent of households headed by natives
    .
    Households headed by legal immigrants have higher use rates than native households overall and for cash programs (14 percent vs. 10 percent), food programs (36 percent vs. 22 percent), and Medicaid (39 percent vs. 23 percent). Use of housing programs is similar.

    Legal immigrant households account for three-quarters of all immigrant households accessing one or more welfare programs.

    Less-educated legal immigrants make extensive use of every type of welfare program, including cash, food, Medicaid, and housing.

    The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants have modest levels of education; therefore, the high use of welfare associated with less-educated legal immigrants indicates that legalization would likely increase welfare costs, particularly for cash and housing programs.

    Restrictions on new legal immigrants' access to welfare have not prevented them from accessing programs at high rates because restrictions often apply to only a modest share of immigrants at any one time, some programs are not restricted, there are numerous exceptions and exemptions, and some provisions are entirely unenforced.

  • Brightly||

    ....contd.

    Equally important, immigrants, including those illegally in the country, can receive welfare on behalf of their U.S.-born children

  • Sarcastr0||

    Can't see your link, but your comment has quite a few suspect bit

    The study clearly doesn't control for class, creating quite a sample bias.
    'Less-educated legal immigrants?' Way to bake in your sample bias.
    'Extensive use?' Odd considering the numbers you had above.
    And your last paragraph isn't statistics at all, it's unsupported ipse dixit.

    I don't know who did that study, but it ain't not GAO; it reeks of propaganda.

  • Brightly||

    "The study clearly doesn't control for class, creating quite a sample bias."

    How can you tell this from a study you obviously haven't been able to peruse?

    "'Less-educated legal immigrants?' Way to bake in your sample bias."

    Given the question is about who uses government services, and there is a link between usage and the less educated, you're going to have to do better than hand-waving with accusations of sample bias..

    "I don't know who did that study, but it ain't not GAO; it reeks of propaganda."

    It comes from government SIP data within the last ten years. Your GAO stuff is from 1997 and does not include anything other than Federal Assistance: Food Stamps, Cash assistance, HUD, and SI. It does not include Medicaid and other State Programs.

    "I don't know who did that study, but it ain't not GAO; it reeks of propaganda."

    It was the Center of Immigration Studies. Yes, it advocates for constraining immigration, but as far as propaganda, remember, you're the one pulling stuff from CATO.

    I still cannot get a working link without the forum rejecting it.

  • Brightly||

    Also, the above shortened link works fine here. If its not working for you, I can only speculate you have a broken browser.

    https://bit.ly/2eLJTaU

  • FlameCCT||

    Sorry Sarcastro. Yes, they are deliberately conflating legal and illegal foreign nationals as well as not counting US born children receiving benefits that are a direct benefit to the illegal parent(s). A prime example is the Head Start/Early Head Start programs which are to provide child care assistance to poor working/attending school parents. These programs basically provide free child development (care) and are abused by illegal immigrants instead of providing assistance to US citizens.

  • Sarcastr0||

    You jumped to illegals, but neither the OP nor myself was talking about them. I know this is a hobby-horse for some, but that's not the question at hand.

    This topic is about immigrants both legal and illegal, so it's less conflation and more you making a distinction without a difference. Except your hostility about illegals getting benefits, which is misplaced considering all studies indicate they don't come here for the benefits, they come here for the wages.

    And as I linked the differences between the two populations are marginal so conflation isn't a big deal anyhow.

    And generally, don't mix up children and their parents. That's how you get children in cages to punish the parents. Benefits to children in this country help children in this country. In terms of their loyalty and industry, I see no reason why those children aren't as good an investment as any other.

  • Brightly||

    " In terms of their loyalty and industry, I see no reason why those children aren't as good an investment as any other."

    Possibly because of the phenomenon that a lot of illegal immigrant families return home, for one reason or another. How does this make them as good as an investment?

    Possibly because there is a morality to the idea that citizens and those that are here legally should enjoy expensive benefits.

    "That's how you get children in cages"

    No. we get children in cages because illegal immigration is a self-created human crisis in which there can often be no good solution for accosted nation. Whether that means releasing them or holding them, or separating them per the Flores decree, the problem happens because migrants break our laws.

  • Flight-ER-Doc||

    Driven down.....

    Look at the jobs we need low-skilled workers for. Things like picking vegetables. Israel had the same need, the same solution, which became a problem, and solved it with automation.

    Automation will raise the prices we pay. Which is to say illegal immigration is distorting the economy downwards. The family members who accompany (or join) the workers later further distort the economy downwards by using social services, health services and education. When the bad ones come in they distort the economy by increasing crime.

  • Sarcastr0||

    First, we aren't just talking illegals.

    Second, they don't just use social services.

    Third, family members come over only if they're legal immigrants.

    Fourth, 'the bad ones' aren't what we make policy around.

    Fifth, lets wait until automation does what you say it will do before we start making policy based on it.

  • Brightly||

    contd' .... Equally important, immigrants, including those illegally in the country, can receive welfare on behalf of their U.S.-born children

  • Brightly||

    sorry, copy paste error.

  • Mr. JD||

    It has also been disproven time and time again, because as it turns out, not all immigrants are the same.

  • ||

    I'm really tired of the comparisons between the Hispanic and Caribbean immigrants of today and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants of 1910.

    Main differences:

    1) Average IQ of white Europeans - 100 v. an average IQ of Aztecs, Mayans and Africans - 75-85
    2) Industrial society where no education was needed for well paying jobs v. a service based economy where the unskilled will not pull their weight
    3) Basically no welfare state v. an expansive welfare state
    4) a Total population of 90 million v. 320 million today. We don't have the infrastructure to take in more people. Our roads are at capacity with terrible traffic in every major city. We have fresh water problems in large swaths of America. We have limited power capacity in places. We're full. We don't need more people absent people who can fill a very specific need.

  • regexp||

    We're full.

    No rational person can look at the US at say with any seriousness this statement. Our population could double and we would still be just fine.

    Just admit you don't like brown people and save everyone some time.

  • jph12||

    Double? Somebody's never driven through Wyoming or West Texas.

  • Kazinski||

    My Cambodian wife and I had a conversation about that as we were driving across one section of southern Oregon and Northern California where gas stations were 75-80 miles apart.

    She said, "it's so empty here your government can let lots more people come stay here rather than make it so hard to live here."

    I told her not many people live there because everyone wants to live in the big cities, and sure enough when we reached Long Beach the city was teaming with immigrants. 98% of them prefer a 12m metropolis over a 5000 person small town.

    It's a stupid argument that the country is so big we can handle twice the population, if we double the population then we'll be tripling the size of our big cities.

  • jph12||

    Which we have plenty of room to do.

    And it's not just immigrants who like to live in big cities. Plenty of Americans suffer from that same affliction.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    How can you triple the population of San Francisco or NYC without having Rio type slums?

  • NormanStansfield||

    Sewage running on the streets, oh wait, already happening.

  • Gasman||

    Being perhaps sparsely populated is an asset to maintain.
    Filling Wyoming and other plains states with immigrants might be possible, but how does that better the local, regional and national residents already in place.
    Not every place that can house a person need necessarily be filled with people. It's OK to have a natural resource, space, and not immediately use all of it.

  • Onslow||

    Remove "one man one vote" from State level districts/elections, repeal the 17th Amendment, and I'd hop on board with increasing Visas.

  • Harvey Mosley||

    With the drought and water restrictions in California we couldn't double our population here without drastic changes in the way we use and think about water.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    You mean, like thinking that water infrastructure really needs to be expanded along with population, instead of neglected?

    Seriously, I don't think we should import a bunch of poor third worlders to fill our national parks, but that doesn't mean it isn't technically feasible. It's just a bad idea.

  • kramartini||

    You are racist for assuming that all immigrants are brown and that this is their defining characteristic.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I see you haven't met ActualRightWingPatriot. Ask him about the mestizos sometime. Or better yet, don't.

  • NormanStansfield||

    Not environmentally sustainable.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    #4: The US has an overall population density of 33/km^2 the EU has an overall population density of 112/km^2

  • kramartini||

    But a rapid tripling of the US population would create massive disruption.

    Effective absorption rate rather than total capacity is what we should be focused on.

  • Sarcastr0||

    This is, IMO, the strongest argument to limit immigration. It's why I'm not for open borders.

  • Toranth||

    It's worse than just short-term disruption. Much of the US cannot support Europe's 100+ people per square km. If you think there are water shortages now, imagine the Phoenix suburbs spread across the entire South- and Mid-west.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Not buying that. The population wouldn't be evenly distributed - it would go where people are needed.

    By your logic, we should abandon most of Southern California.

  • ||

    By your logic, we should abandon most of Southern California.

    So you agree with his logic?

  • jph12||

    Nobody is talking about a rapid tripling on the US population.

  • Armchair Lawyer||

    Some people are, actually. When you talk about "open borders" policies, that's effectively the case.

    If you're not talking about that (open borders), then you're talking about limiting immigration, in one way or another.

    Once you talk about limiting immigration, it's just a question of how, the numbers, and whether you care about doing it legally or having a quasi-illegal system of immigraiton.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Eh, most of the open borders folks argue it wouldn't be like that. Not sure I buy it, but jph12 is largely correct.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "We're not talking about", in this case, is a matter of "we're in denial", or "yeah, but I don't want to admit it."

  • Gasman||

    True. And if enough of US residents want to live like EU residents, then open borders will be declared. But if we like wide open spaces not maximally filled with people, then perhaps we already have enough people. Or maybe too many.

  • John Rohan||

    But unlike Europe, huge sections of the United States are either desert, or very arid regions. Europe has no problems with fresh water. We do. The water tables in certain states keep dropping. In Arizona, it's set to become a full blown emergency at some point.

  • Ben_||

    Also, the proper answers to "what about your ancestors?" are:

    1. Time travel doesn't exist, so ancestors' choices are not relevant because they can't be changed. We are talking about the here and now. No one in the present has precisely the same situation as anyone in the past. Let's not pretend — or rather, you are welcome to pretend, I won't be joining in on the fantasy.

    2. Focusing on "my ancestors" is a common argumentative technique: changing the subject to me so that I will answer defensively and we'll no longer be discussing the original subject. It's a very useful technique when you're losing the argument. But none of this is about me. Let's stay on topic.

    Don't be tricked into arguing about yourself or irrelevant historical faux-parallels. It's not about you, and it's not about (whatever distorted view of) ancient history.

  • Dadlobby||

    And even though persecuted, they got in line and came legally. And the mob was offered work in Mexico, and declined it. Sorry, not buying the apples and oranges comparison.

  • MarkW201||

    For the umpteenth time, immigration policy cannot be reduced to "waiting in a line." Anyone who does so is showing that they do not know enough about immigration law to comment on the issue.

  • Ben_||

    Waiting in line versus jumping in front of the line is a useful, if imprecise, analogy.

    Queues are the most commonly used and most commonly understood response to an unlimited number of people wanting to access a limited resource.

  • regexp||

    Queues are the most commonly used and most commonly understood response to an unlimited number of people wanting to access a limited resource.

    *rolls eyes*

    An "unlimited" number of people aren't coming to the US. And US has vast resources we aren't even fully taking advantage ourselves.

  • Ben_||

    What limit do you propose?

  • Ben_||

    [crickets]

    No limits means unlimited. Why can't you guys tell the truth?

  • Mesoman||

    I am amazed at this "vast resources" argument. It is so specious as to not merit detailed refutation.

  • Ben_||

    It's easy to give away other people's resources.

  • Dadlobby||

    Because telling people you said something for the umpteenth time makes it true (and shouldn't be viewed as a dismissive remark of no substance). Even during emergencies, and medical triage, we "wait in line". There are millions of economic refugees who want to come to the US and there are limited resources to handle them all. One question, how many of these poor people in South America are you sending monetary relief to? Even better, how many are living at your house while waiting for a decision?

  • jph12||

    "And even though persecuted, they got in line and came legally."

    Much of the settlement of the West was illegal according to the treaties in place at the time. Many illegal immigrants to Mexico took part in the Texas revolution.

  • PeteRR||

    Illegal immigrants to Mexico? The conquistadors stole the entire place lock, stock, and barrel from the Aztecs and the other natives.

  • kramartini||

    Of course, pretty much every country in the world was "stolen" by ancestors of its current inhabitants.

    And if it weren't for the invention machine guns and atom bombs, such land-grabbing would still be happening.

  • Dadlobby||

    I traced my ancestry (with DNA) 10,000 years ago my ancestors migrated over the Italian Alps, settled in Scotland for 800 years and then came to America (among the first settlers in VA and TN). It's that "bad European" blood, we've been conquering for thousands of years. Of course we moved because somebody was persecuting and conquering us. And in "our" (my ancestors actually, I didn't have a say in it) defense, there were no formal immigration laws, so it was by definition legal.

  • jph12||

    And then illegal immigrants helped the Texians steal Texas, lock, stock, and barrel, from the descendants of the conquistadors.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    And the Aztecs stole it from the people who were there before.
    And Alexander stole Egypt from whoever was there before.
    And the Romans stole most of their known world from who ever was there before.
    Learn history before popping off about it.

  • mlwjr||

    Who cares. They used leeches to cure disease. Should we do that too

  • Dadlobby||

    You need to read some history books. Mexico, who was getting whooped by the Comanche and Apache as the Spanish ancestors, "Mexican's", moved into their territory so Mexico encouraged settlement from the US and other countries. As these things go it got political on all sides and everybody thought to gain control of more land. The Texican's (mostly from TN and LA) then whupped up on Mexico and became a country. They joined the US, and then the US picked a boundary dispute and we had a little Mexican War and took some more land. We then took car of the "Indian problem", civilized them. To the winner goes the spoils.

  • jph12||

    "Still, the fact remains that the "fix your own country" argument implies that the ancestors of most Americans (and also many Canadians, Australians, and others) were wrong to emigrate."

    Okay. I read "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" not too long ago. I seem to remember many of the Indian tribes expressed similar sentiments as the US expanded across the continent. Would you argue that the Indians were wrong to try to resist the expansion of the US into their territories?

    It's all a matter of perspective.

  • Freddy Hill||

    Good point.

  • Toranth||

    They weren't wrong - just look at what happened! If given the opportunity, do you think the 18th and 19th century Indians would be wrong to resist US expansion?

    Incidentally, you do know that the "Native" Americans weren't the first humans in the Americas, right? That they came along, and kill/enslaved the previous peoples?
    Who had in turn killed/enslaved the peoples before them.
    And recently I've read that there might have been waves before that, so add another few cycles to it.

  • jph12||

    I'm accepting the implications of Ilya Somin's claim, something he seems to think people will be unwilling to do. From the Indian's point of view, the original settlers should have stayed home and dealt with their own problems in their own countries, rather than foisting an entirely new set of problems on the Indians.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The real problem with his claim, IMO, is he assumes that, if they don't have a moral obligation to stay put, we aren't morally permitted to say, "Go where you want, but not here."

    He's assumed it's morally obligatory to leave the borders open, and from this deduces that we have to let people in. Yeah, but most people don't start from that assumption.

  • Dadlobby||

    Except when they came to the Americas it was legal immigration. The land was bought or acquired by treaty from the Indians. Make no mistake, the Indians were not a kumbaya, we all get along peace loving people and they used European expansion and the conflicts of European nations to their tribal advantage. Much of the Indian land lost was due to picking the wrong side in Europes battles and it was the practice that the losing side (Tribe and European Country) forfeit their land and assets. A good example is the Mohawk Tribe from NY which sided with he British and when the colonials won all Mohawk and British property went to the new government. Much of the land was sued to pay the soldiers who fought as most had back pay coming and thee treasury was bare.

  • Mr. JD||

    Their way of life was destroyed. Ours may be next.

  • Eddy||

    "But we can still make incremental progress in this debate by eliminating bad arguments, so we can focus on better ones instead."

    OK, so, seriously, what would be the ideal immigration policy for the United States?

  • JesseAz||

    Why would ilya answer that? It's much easier being an open borders enthusiast when you can ignore impacts to welfare, costs, communal disease, lowered average education, etc.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    Somin has answered it.

    Open borders except proven terrorists might be ok to exclude. Maybe.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Yeah, but that shouldn't stop you guys from answering his individual arguments. And yet you guys always end up with the ad-hominem and ignoring his particular argument.

    I disagree with his larger position, but I also think a lot of the arguments he knocks down are indeed claptrap. And the comments don't usually do much to disabuse me of that notion, quickly filling up with personal attacks on Prof. Somin, RightWingGuy's racism, and empty appeals to 'rule of law.'

    Sometimes arguments for your side are bad. Admitting that, and moving on to the better ones, is the better move. So why do so many on these threads keep acting like you're arguing from a position of weakness, grasping at every straw you can?

  • Eddy||

    I have no idea which "side" I'm on - it's not very easy when the sides don't define their positions.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Not a bad question, actually. I'm not for open borders, so you're think I'm not on Prof. Somin's side. But I often find myself in opposition to Bob and Jesse's hostility towards illegals and sometimes towards immigration generally.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Luckily, this is the Internet; you don't need well-defined sides to take issue with someone's dumb opinion!

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Very few of your opponents demonstrate "hostility "; they merely disagree with you.
    Most people would be fine if more Chinese engineering grad students stayed rather than go back.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Research protections regarding foreign grad students are a whole 'nother problem, actually. Nothing simple in this world. But I take your point - it's a thoughtful one. But these threads don't generally go down thoughtful roads.

    If you don't detect hostility towards illegals as people on these threads, you're being willfully blind.

    More tellingly, these threads have a growing number commenting that America should stop all immigration entirely - close the border. I think you and I both know where that ideology ends; the GOP is playing in some dangerous places these days.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    " I think you and I both know where that ideology ends; "

    With an immigration hiatus?

  • NormanStansfield||

    Somin is worried about the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security collapsing. Problem is we won't need more workers because automation makes immigration obsolete. So we end up with a bunch of unassimilable wards of the state who will bankrupt what they we're supposed to save.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Prof. Somin has explained his thinking; that's not it.

  • NormanStansfield||

    Zero.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Unthinking nativism is never far from the surface on these threads.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Wrong, it's thinking nativism.

    You reason your way into a position, and assume that, because somebody disagrees with you, they didn't reason. But you need to consider that they may have reasoned themselves into a different position, due to starting out from different premises.

    We need to explore the premises we're starting from, that's where we REALLY disagree.

    Nativists reject the idea of, well, basically universal utilitarianism. They might see the rights of people outside the country as a side constraint, but don't accept that they have any obligation to affirmatively work for their welfare.

    "Immigrants are better off for coming here." says Ilya, and thinks that ends the discussion. But the nativist says, "so what?" because he doesn't think he has any obligation to make them better off. His obligation is to his group, not the out-group.

  • Sarcastr0||

    OK, so, seriously, what would be the ideal immigration policy for the United States?
    "Zero."

    This guy posted he wants zero immigration. No supporting material. That's unthinking nativism, almost by definition.

    You, with your premises and theses seem to be making an argument which is infinitely better.

    But I think we're arguing based on different definitions of the same word.

    Thinking Americans should get priority in American policy is one thing (I agree with that - utilitarianism is not our moral paradigm at all, actually).

    But more and more people around here are making a moral case - a case for the inherent worth of the American born versus immigrants. That's as dumb an unthinking prejudgement as racism. That's where it looks like NormanStansfield is coming from, and I'll call out people coming from that position.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I'm not in favor of zero immigration, because a lot of people want to come here, and this gives us the opportunity to skim the world's cream, and why should we throw an opportunity like that away?

    But I can understand the opposing point: That we've been flooded with so many immigrants over the last few decades, (Deliberately! It didn't happen on its own, it was in the teeth of public opinion, a deliberate effort to "elect a new people".) that we need a time out to assimilate them, and that we won't be able to do so while more are coming in.

    I think we can assimilate them while letting more people in, if we're VERY selective about who we let in, and don't go crazy about how many. But I don't find the opposing view crazy, it's a judgement call.

    "But more and more people around here are making a moral case - a case for the inherent worth of the American born versus immigrants."

    OK, part of what is going on here is a response to the open borders fanatics' refusal to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. This invites people to say, "Fine, I won't distinguish, they're all scum." Not a good reaction, but eventually people get tired of responding to fanatics with reasoned arguments that just get blown off, so fanaticism breeds fanaticism in response.

  • Sarcastr0||

    0) You are making a utilitarian argument from the position that we should look at economic benefit and social stability. I take some issue with your goals, but there are many on this blog who don't argue from that position. That's not a judgement call, that's bigotry.

    1) Your idea that immigration was left open for electoral reasons is unsupported. There are clear economic reasons, and those explain both party's policies, if not their rhetoric.

    2) Assimilation is going fine. There's a big middle ground between VERY selective and going crazy, and you're ignoring it.

    3) I don't care what it's in reaction to, it's bad and the right keeps excusing it as they slide deeper. Once that bigotry is condoned, other kinds follow. Hey look, it's already happening!

    I'm not into open borders, and I note why. But I'm also not threatened by that fringe since their power is shrinking not growing. When our executive starts playing with opening the border, I'll be worried. In the meantime, I'll be worried about the side whose base keeps chanting about a wall.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "0) You are making a utilitarian argument from the position that we should look at economic benefit and social stability."

    If I ever make a utilitarian argument, I'll warn you that I'm making it just as an exercise in logic. Utilitarianism is a metaphor gone cancerous. Maybe you meant a "consequentialist" argument?

    "1) Your idea that immigration was left open for electoral reasons is unsupported. "

    Right. Democrats fought tooth and nail against any effective control over illegal immigration, proposed amnesties every chance they got, and all the while were bragging about how demographic changes would eventually hand them inevitable victory. But the former had absolutely nothing to do with the latter, pure coincidence.... I will give you this: Support for illegal immigration on the right was economic: Business wanted a source of cheap, easily intimidated labor.

    "2) Assimilation is going fine."

    Bullshit. Utter bullshit. If assimilation were going fine, you wouldn't need ballots printed in multiple languages, because legal immigration generally requires English literacy, and part of assimilation in an English speaking country is being literate in English.

    The truth is, assimilation has almost stopped, because illegal immigration allowed Spanish speaking immigrants from points South to become a large enough percentage of the population they could get by without adopting the national language. They largely stopped assimilating, because they no longer had to.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Brett, can you point to any studies that demonstrate that there has been a lack of assimilation for recent immigrants compared to other waves of immigration?

    Frankly I am suspicious of the "they're not assimilating!" claims, because most of the time, I think it is code for "they're not voting for Republicans!"

  • Sarcastr0||

    Fair, Brett - I didn't mean utilitarian so much as utility-based. As in cost-benefit. Consequentialist doesn't quite capture it, but it is closer. I do share your dislike of utilitarianism.

    I don't consider ballots in multiple languages to be the downfall of our civilization. And I also am not freaked out by it taking a generation for immigrants to find their place.

    The truth is, assimilation has almost stopped

    That's not the truth, that's your feelings.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Brett, your last paragraph is nuts. Not because some immigrants who have been here for years haven't assimilated. Many haven't. It's nuts because you suppose assimilation worked any faster in years gone by.

    Personal example: My grandfather's father immigrated from Bohemia in the 1860s. My grandfather, born here, grew up in New Prague, MN, in a community which mostly spoke Czech, especially at home. Until he died in the 1960s, my grandfather spoke English with a central European accent so thick he was almost incomprehensible to most Americans. Had you met him, you would have denied to everyone that he could possibly have assimilated, or even been born in America. In fact, that's what I thought, until I saw his birth certificate.

    Much of that background was all but unknown to me, because my mother was estranged from her family, except from my grandfather, and the family remained in MN while my mother moved to DC during WW II—where she was assimilated enough to work for Bill Donovan at the OSS. She, of course, spoke nothing but English, with a Minnesota accent.

    So I was pretty surprised when she told me, when I was 20, that she hadn't spoken anything but Czech until she went to elementary school.

    Jak se máš

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    OK, part of what is going on here is a response to the open borders fanatics' refusal to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. This invites people to say, "Fine, I won't distinguish, they're all scum." Not a good reaction, but eventually people get tired of responding to fanatics with reasoned arguments that just get blown off, so fanaticism breeds fanaticism in response.

    First, individuals are responsible for their own actions and beliefs, regardless of who says what on internet forums.

    Second, why should I distinguish between legal and illegal immigration when nativist arguments frequently don't make the distinction themselves?

    For example, the common nativist argument of "don't let them in because then they will vote for socialism". This argument has precisely nothing to do with the legal status of the immigrants themselves. In fact this argument is even stronger when used against legal immigrants, because they are the ones who are on the legal glide path towards citizenship and voting rights, unlike illegal immigrants.

    Based on my empirical observations, most of the nativist arguments are inspired by demographic and cultural concerns, and very little is inspired specifically by the legal status of the immigrants themselves.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Based on my empirical observations, most of the nativist arguments are inspired by demographic and cultural concerns, and very little is inspired specifically by the legal status of the immigrants themselves."

    I don't think you can really make that distinction, because the legal status of the immigrants themselves is not unrelated to their demographics and culture; The fact that some demographics and cultures are located so that they can just walk here, and others can't get here without an expensive 25 hour flight, seriously skews the demographic and cultural composition of illegal aliens.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    No, Brett, the idea is, for the overwhelming majority of arguments on the nativist side, the arguments that are made are just as applicable against legal immigration as they are against illegal immigration, and in some cases, even stronger when made against legal immigration (as my voting example above shows). So when your typical nativist makes a sweeping argument like "I don't want those people in my country because they just are going to mooch on welfare", and then turn around and say "oh but but I was only talking about illegal immigrants, not the legal ones", I frankly don't believe them. I think instead that they are casting judgment on the quality of the immigrants themselves, both legal and illegal.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    19th century immigrants were ruled by kings. Other than the English-ruled Irish [who were in a semi-colony], very few came from a country that practiced even rudimentary democracy.

    So, of course other than armed rebellion, they could not "fix" things.

    Migrants from Mexico and live in democratic states. While difficult, political change is possible.

    Venezuela may be a mess now but Chavez was elected as a reformer. Democratic change is possible.

  • Sarcastr0||

    There's lots of political science about why Latin American democracy isn't.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    And yet the American left has lionized Latin socialism, including Chavez, for 60 years.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I've seen a lot on the left complement Latin America's reaction to past American imperialism in the area - an underdog story more than a socialist one. I would think you're be against capitalism if it were forced externally; don't get a lot of freedom there.

    Not quite the same as saying Chavez is the best.

    Michael Moore (as left as you can get, and not in a good way) goes on about Cuba's healthcare not because Cuba has great healthcare, but because for all that it sucked, Cuba still managed to beat America in this area.

    I'm sure you can find liberals endorsing Latin America as socialist paradises, but if you think that's a mainstream of American liberal thought, you're just soaking in a 'the other side is dumb and crazy' narrative.
    Same as if I talked about how the right lionizes Pinochet. I can find some, but generalizing it is on me, not them.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Socialists and their propagandists.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Oh c'mon Sarcastr0. You know the drill. Everyone to the left of Ted Cruz is a socialist indistinguishable from Stalin, Mao and Chavez.

  • Brightly||

    " Cuba still managed to beat America in this area."

    In what areas?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Health care coverage.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    ...and I hear that the Soviets found a way to drive the unemployment rate to zero--socialism is the cat's meow!!

  • Sarcastr0||

    Come on, Smooth, that's not anything like my thesis and you know it.

  • Brightly||

    "Health care coverage."

    I figured. Maybe I should just let you think for awhile about how absolutely stupid a metric that is.

  • NormanStansfield||

    Plenty of countries have order, security and rule of law without democracy.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Funny you left out liberty.

    Having come of age in the Bush Admin, I'm no democratic crusader, but I can't resist pointing out that you're pretty directly trading freedom for security.

  • NormanStansfield||

    Isn't that the bargain you make when you form a government? Are not governments are instituted to secure secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    OK, so, seriously, what would be the ideal immigration policy for the United States?

    Regulate immigration according to economic need, measured by labor shortages and labor surpluses—with those in turn measured in terms of qualified workers already here, not in terms of keeping wages low. Also, get rid of special visas for upper-skilled workers to come and displace for lower pay American workers in jobs like software development.

    In short, admit immigrants during labor shortages—the condition prevailing almost entirely during past intervals cited in Somin's inapt comparison—and sharply reduce or bar immigrants during labor surpluses—the condition which prevails now, and which will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

    Pay particular attention to the plight of America's black workers, who are the people most likely to be harmed by admission of large numbers of immigrants to compete for lower-skilled jobs.

    And, please, get prognostications regarding immigrants' future voting propensities out of the policy picture.

  • PeteRR||

    Well, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

  • NormanStansfield||

    All this talk about our ancestors migrating...
    I don't want to end up living in a reservation running a casino.

  • Eddy||

    I'll say this much: In deciding whom to admit, we shouldn't care whether they might be able to "fix their own country." We want to know if they can help out *our* country, and if they can, admit them to America even if their native country suffers from their absence. Boo hoo, you should have been a nicer country then maybe this person wouldn't want to leave.

  • floridalegal||

    People are not against ALL immigration and it totally disingenuous to assert that the furor over "the caravan" and activities along the border are directly related to immigrant phobia. What people want is legal and orderly immigration. If you want to seek asylum, go to the appropriate ports of entry, follow international law and seek asylum in the closest country etc. No country can survive if there is no means to control your borders.

    There is no universal right for anyone in any country to demand, by the mere presence at the border, entry and citizenship (with all rights and benefits) in the US. I am a US citizen, I can not demand to vote and have the citizenship benefits of France this year and Switzerland next year.

    Markets and economics dictate the conduct. If California determines that anyone in the world who can find some way to get inside the borders of the state of California, a living wage for life, free education and free medical for life, there will be people coming from around the world. There is not an unlimited bucket of pixy dust to fund free everything for anyone who wants to come from around the world.

    Legal immigration is great. Work visas are great. People demanding to have free bus rides to the US border to have automatic entry is not great.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    and it totally disingenuous to assert that the furor over "the caravan" and activities along the border are directly related to immigrant phobia.

    Donald Trump and his twitter advertisements would seem to disagree

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Seem, to whom?

  • Brightly||

    Trolls

  • Armchair Lawyer||

    "You should fix your own country" is not the best argument.

    The real argument is that the United States is a country with limited resources and capabilities to assimilate immigrants. The last Gallup poll indicated that over 150 million foreigners would like to immigrate to the US, tomorrow. That would quickly overwhelm current resources. In the face of that asking to limit immigration is not unreasonable, and is practiced by every country on earth.

    That being said, there is a point to the "fix your own country" argument. The point is that immigration (and really emigration) acts as an outlet for people who are unhappy with a country in its current status and rule. Now, often when minorities in a country emigrated (IE, the Jews in...almost anywhere. Or the Irish, under the British empire. Or other discriminated against minorities), they didn't have the power to change the native government. Or they had attempted to and been.....relieved of their ambitions.

    These days many of the emigrants in countries aren't necessarily of a minority, but are of the majority culture, and are seeking a better life, and are quite motivated. "Sucking away" these motivated individuals...basically makes it so that the home country stagnates. The best and brightest who could change the home country, look, and decide it's better to leave, rather than risk trying to change things. And the kleptocrats in charge accept and celebrate this relief valve.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Bright flight has been wrecking America's rural and southern communities for generations. Do you contend that an ambitious and smart young person in West Virginia, rural Mississippi, or west Texas should -- or should be required to -- refrain from departing at high school graduation for a strong university, a modern, successful community, or both?

    I believe in attempting to help shambling communities recover, even after the recent turn toward bigotry and backwardness in those communities, but not by requiring or encouraging any person to miss opportunities to improve their lives and society with strong education, opportunity, reason, science, and modernity.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    For his next trick Arthur the Magnificent will demonstrate the equivalence between the average American's level of concern for Mississippi and that same person's concern for Guatemala.

  • Lasciata||

    I am beyond weary of having these vacuous justifications shoved down my throat. You say in your last sentence that you don't like "bad arguments?" This is the second worst post on this blog I've seen this year.

  • Bart DePalma||

    Nonsense.

    Americans going to war to fix things against the most powerful empire on Earth is how they created the United States.

    Americans going to war to fix things is how they eliminated slavery.

    The American struggle to fix things is what made the United States the nation to which others wish to emigrate.

    Because we cannot even begin to take in the billions around the world who would like to live the American dream, they must by necessity fight to create their own dreams.

  • DASGUY||

    How about staying at home because you love your country?

  • Mesoman||

    I tire of Ilya's extremist posts. He posts at least once a day about how any restriction on immigration is wrong, although he is careful not to use those words.

    It is tiresome.

    It is however, refreshing to see how well the commentariat refutes him.

  • AmosArch||

    He should welcome at least a dozen random immigrants into his house without any screening of any kind if he's as big a fan of non restriction immigration as he claims.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The relatively thin academic veneer of the Volokh Conspiracy is increasingly less able to mask the intolerance and ignorance of the current conservative-Republican electoral coalition.

    The rampant authoritarianism is a nice retort to a bunch of movement conservatives' claim to be 'often libertarian.'

    Carry on, Clingerspirators.

  • Rеv. Arthur I. Kirkland||

    Bull Cow is a globalist freak. He sincerely believes that there should be no borders anywhere, and we should all live in a kumbaya one-world state governed by an oligarchy that he falsely believes will include him.

  • LiborCon||

    "…including implying that the ancestors of most Americans were wrong to immigrate here."

    You're the one implying that not the…oh! Strawman! Almost didn't catch that.

  • Lee Moore||

    The corruption and repression of the Shah's government played an important role in stimulating the rise of the even more oppressive regime that replaced him.

    Hardly. The Shah's regime was very liberal by Middle Eastern standards and he was overthrown by reactionary religious forces who resented his Westernisation of the country. The overreactions of his Army to civil unrest in the months leading up to the revolution, which undoubtedly fueled the fire, was a testament to the fact that they had virtually no experience of repressing crowds of protesters.

    No doubt the Shah, unlke the average refugee, had direct personal responsiility for the state of his country prior to his overthrow, but his mistake - ie the mistake leading to his becoming a refugee - was not an excess of repression, but the excessive pace of liberalisation and Westernisation in the face of opposition by Iranian religious "deplorables."

    He was hardly the world's most wise and liberal leader, but he was sailing his country in a direction of which Prof Somin would have approved, and was deposed for doing so.

  • M.L.||

    Good grief.

    Nobody is entitled to come and live in the United States, just because their country isn't as good. #HYON

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Immigrants would bring needed attributes -- ambition, education, entrepreneurship, optimism -- to our disaffected, can't-keep-up rural and southern communities.

    The shambling residents of those left-behind communities are the loudest voices for insularity and ignorance, however.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Now all you have to do is:
    1. Require any putative immigrant to demonstrate those qualities--say by having a sponsor put up a bond; and,
    2. Pass a law that INS gets to tell these new immigrants where to live.

    Good luck.

  • Brightly||

    This article is an exercise in beating straw men.

    "Still, the fact remains that the "fix your own country" argument implies that the ancestors of most Americans (and also many Canadians, Australians, and others) were wrong to emigrate"

    Emigration is, I would say, a basic human right with some conditions (ie, so long as you are not fleeing valid justice or debt). The Trouble is, Somin has never for me satisfactorily addressed how that means Immigration is also a right. Notice how he doesn't mention the immigration of these groups and the displacement of the native population in lieu of a new civilization and political structure? If he did that, he would have to deal with the morality of what happened to the Tribes of North America. Instead he focuses on the right to leave one's homeland and implies that another nation just *must* accept the migrant....because of some unnamed obligation....

  • Brightly||

    " In most cases, these people have little or no responsibility for the injustice and poverty they are fleeing. Russian Jews like the questioner's ancestors were not responsible for the Pale of Settlement and pogroms. Likewise, today's refuges from Venezuela, Syria, and other unjust and corrupt governments generally had no meaningful role in creating the awful conditions there. "

    I think this is just making a stew out of a bunch of different cases and serving it up as if it were a holistic argument. It also introduces a few howlers. Are you seriously saying a bunch of socialists and democratic socialists in Venezuela who voted for socialism are not responsible for their nation turning socialist? The claim boggles the mind. Granted, there are those who did not and do not support socialism, but the nation by and large voted for this.

    To make an honest argument, you must separate the cases of people escaping direct ethnic/racial/religious persecution where there is no quarter given to those where people are fleeing the results of bad governance and economic decline.

    "The vast majority of potential migrants, however, are neither morally responsible for the injustices in their homelands nor in a position to do much about them."

    What does being "morally responsible" have anything to do with it? The Hitler sand Maduros of the World don't fix the problems they create. It is always up to the victims to fight back to make a better nation.

  • Brightly||

    Europeans who became Americans fled, but ultimately had to fight the most powerful nation on Earth to get out from under its rule. France had to go through some very ugly, death-filled times to become a liberal democracy. Nations only become better when people "Fix their own country"

    The problem for the United States involves the question of integration. Are the Latinos escaping Central and South American socialist tyranny accepting our Constitutional order and abandoning the ideals of socialism? Are migrants from the middle east abandoning the political ideas that dominate that sub-continent, making it the rotten abscess of human rights that it is? If not, there is the issue of preserving our Constitutional Order. Without sufficient consensus to uphold it, the US Constitution is just a piece of paper.

    Likewise in Syria, how is it not the case that the political culture dominated by Ba'athism not create or contribute to the environment conducive towards the rise of a monster like Assad? Taking a glance at the makeup of Syria, almost everyone is some sort of communist Arab nationalist authoritarian.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Have you read a little bit about the modern history of Syria? It's had maybe 2 total years of not being ruled by a dictator or a foreign imperial power. So this culture seems more like "yay Baathism", but instead, "if you criticize the government you're gonna get shot".

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    er, less like

  • Brightly||

    Irrelevant. At one Time, Europe had zero years of not being ruled by dictators and theocrats.

    Tell me, these refugees from Syria. Do they support the principles of the Enlightenment and human rights? Or do they believe they have the right force the beliefs of their homeland like Sharia and Ba'athism on their new neighbors?

    Do they believe gays and Jews ought to not be killed?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Do you really think that if a country is ruled by a dictator, then it must be the case that "oh, the people must really like being ruled by a dictator"?

  • Brightly||

    No, i think its the case that they would prefer either freedom for themselves (but not necessarily others) or wish a dictator more favorable to their way of living was in power.

    Do you honestly think they are here because of limited Government and the Bill of Rights?

  • Brightly||

    Also, way to dodge the question!....

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Do you stay up at night worrying if your neighbor is in favor of limited government and the Bill of Rights?

    Who cares why they are here, as long as they don't harm anyone?

  • Brightly||

    Do you always dodge questions so you don't have to deal with the flimsiness of your ideas?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I'm questioning your premise. Why are you so concerned about their innermost beliefs? Who cares what they believe, as long as they aren't trying to harm anyone else?

  • Brightly||

    Trolling for my motives is not "questioning my premise". It is evasion and you are dishonest.

    "Who cares what they believe"

    why shouldn't I care?

    "as long as they aren't trying to harm anyone else"

    Ideas lead to actions.

  • Onslow||

    When you take in people from other nations, their understanding of governance--based on prior experience--is brought with them. When you (unknowingly) take in 20+ million, it will radically alter the political composition of the nation.

    I don't blame Ilya for whiffing on this one. He either hasn't really considered the counter questions, or intentionally ignored them. Either way, he's clearly a radical partisan on the issue--and that's okay.

  • Sarcastr0||

    People argue this, but I don't think there's any evidence that immigrants don't believe in American-style democracy once they get here.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    People argue this

    Not good people. Not good Americans.

    These tired lines were aimed by backward citizens at Italians, Asians, eastern Europeans, Jews, blacks, Muslims, the Irish, Hispanics, other Asians, Catholics, different Hispanics, and others. The same type of bigots went after women, gays, agnostics, and atheists, too.

    Our current batch of ignorant, intolerant, selfish, insular yahoos deserves no more respect than did its predecessors.

  • ||

    The fact that 80% of non white immigrants oppose gun rights, support affirmative action and "hate speech" laws, and vote for Democrats is pretty good evidence of that.

  • Brightly||

    "People argue this, but I don't think there's any evidence that immigrants don't believe in American-style democracy once they get here."

    Of course they believe in democracy. Democracy is what got them the failed states they are fleeing from. There is, however, no reason to believe they accept the American-style republican government with limits, checks and balances that we (nominally) have.

  • Sarcastr0||

    'No reason to believe....' your burden of proof seems to be begging the question quite a bit.

  • Brightly||

    maybe, but how is your original not also 'begging the question'

    "People argue this, but I don't think there's any evidence that immigrants don't believe in American-style democracy once they get here.?

  • No Longer Amused||

    The difference being that 400 years ago there was this big empty continent you could go to and not be bothered if you went far enough. Nor were they expecting handouts.

  • Olderthandirt-stillkickin||

    Why?....Well, it sounds a bit hypocritical, for starters...

  • John Rohan||

    ' the "fix your own country" argument implies that the ancestors of most Americans (and also many Canadians, Australians, and others) were wrong to emigrate. '

    Mr. Somin, here's where your argument not only falls flat, but dies a horrible painful death. Millions of dead Native Americans, by way of war, famine, and above all, disease, would attest that the Europeans WERE wrong to emigrate. Or at least they were wrong to do it in the reckless, land grabbing manner that the Europeans did it. The tragedy is that the Americans had plenty of room for both groups, and it could have been done in a more cooperative manner based on trade, and shared knowledge. That would be the equivalent of legal immigration today, not illegal immigration.

    And there's another problem in comparing the situation today to 1492. There was no clearly defined nation here, and no welfare state. The migrant caravan isn't coming here to carve out their own independent country and ask nothing from the United States, they are coming here to enter our job market and take advantage of numerous taxpayer funded benefits.

    'Had the questioner's ancestors stayed in Russia, it is nearly certain they would not have succeeded in reforming the czarist regime, no matter how hard they tried.'

    Mr. Somin, are you aware of how the Czar was eventually deposed? His government was taken down by ordinary people who staged massive protests that led to the 1917 revolution!

  • ||

    Of course they are. Latin Americans are the least proud people on the planet. They have zero shame or embarrassment in taking government benefits. My Russian and Polish ancestors never did take (and would never have taken) a dime. That was also true of Italian immigrants during the Great Wave. People of American Indian and African descent are not so constrained.

  • ||

    Of course they are. Latin Americans are the least proud people on the planet. They have zero shame or embarrassment in taking government benefits. My Russian and Polish ancestors never did take (and would never have taken) a dime. That was also true of Italian immigrants during the Great Wave. People of American Indian and African descent are not so constrained.

  • John Rohan||

    Additionally, let's try to look ahead further than the immediate time frame. If Latin American countries don't clean up their act, nothing will change, and these caravans will keep coming. In fact, dictators love this, because they have no need to clean up corruption, as long as they can keep sending their disaffected populations to the United States. I see no evidence that these migrations have done anything to help their countries of origin in the long term.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +1

  • dwshelf||

    The notion that would be immigrants are being told that it is "wrong to immigrate" is a strawman of Somin's own creation.

    It's not wrong for modern s-hole country citizens to want to immigrate.

    But it's not our responsibility to either fix their country, or accept them.

    And it's not wrong for us to suggest that the better result will follow them fixing their own country.

  • ||

    The fact remains that Latin American mestizo are genetically less capable at both creating stable societies and becoming successful in stable Western societies. Introducing large numbers of them inevitably degrades America. This is not a point upon which reasonable people can disagree.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Did the Native Americans have an affirmative legal and moral duty to accept all immigrants from Europe in the 17th century?

  • ||

    No. But those colonists were conquerors. The Indians didn't "accept" them, but had the land taken from them. They certainly didn't demand that Indians feed, house and clothe them.

  • Rеv. Arthur I. Kirkland||

    Bull Cow, you ignorant slut, there is a distinct difference between those who established Western Civilization on this continent, and those who want to come here today illegally.

    There was no nation here when Western Civilization was brought to the waring nomads who happened to reside here. There were no immigration laws. So those who were coming here to start a civilized nation, paid for it with their blood, sweat and tears.

    The nomadic tribes who resided here (who were also not native to this soil by the way) didn't own the land in the vast majority of cases, as they had no concept of ownership. Those few that did, were compensated for their land either with pecuniary benefit or with the blood of those that they attacked.

    There also wasn't a welfare State where people could come here and leech off the system. They either showed up and paid for their land with their blood, sweat and tears, or they died.

    You are a globalist hack, a communist partisan deranged lunatic who makes false equivalency between illegal immigration and legal immigration, because you want a one-world government ruled by your communist brethren.

  • Jerry B.||

    When some of my ancestors came to North America, they were British subjects. Around 1776 the government got oppressive, and they fixed it.

  • thisbrucesmith||

    Has anyone mentioned that more than a few of these folks didn't emigrate, but were deported?

  • Michael Cook||

    My earliest ancestor on the paternal side was deported from Belfast, Ireland, for "chronic public drunkenness." How the hell do you get deported from Ireland for being a drunk?

    On the other hand, how do you arrive in America sobered up enough to produce a family line that, by the time it reached my generation, was all college graduates?

    I do think it is impractical to designate the USA as the refuge of last resort for the entire world. It is a far better idea to export the American way of life to hell hole places. That would involve Americans actually understanding what critical features, factors, and principles contributed to making our land such a desirable place to live.

    Frankly, the USA must unapologetically tout and export the American way. Yes, we must even undertake some nation-building here and there and some firm opposition to nations that stubbornly take the wrong path such as in our own hemisphere Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    This way of thinking peaked around 1895, and has been popular with no politically astute person for about 60 years.

  • Michael Cook||

    Today, election day, we see how "politically astute" elites do against us deplorable gun toting overly churchy nationalists. Especially regards the social wisdom of open borders.

  • Burkhard||

    Aren't you missing a trick here? Conspirators have argued consistently about the importance of "voting with one's feet" when discussing intra-US migration. By leaving your district/state etc for another causes a tax/brain etc drain that increases pressure, through competition, to improve.

    Scaled up to international migration, leaving your country IS making a contribution to fixing it, by creating pressures to reform.

  • Michael Cook||

    Worked for all the people who had to flee Cuba or Vietnam, but those who were left behind are still smothered under decaying military dictatorships.

  • M.L.||

    This guy made a great video responding to Gillespie's video on immigration.

    Questioning "Reason" On Immigration

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online