The Volokh Conspiracy

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My New "The Hill" Article Making the Case for Ending Pandemic-Related Migration Restrictions

It also explains why they probably should never have been adopted in the first place.


The Hill recently posted my new article making the case for abolishing pandemic-related migration restrictions. I also explain how those restrictions failed dismally in achieving their supposed purpose of protecting public health. Here's an excerpt:

The coronavirus pandemic has led the United States and other nations to enact unprecedentedly severe migration restrictions. As a result of measures adopted under the Trump administration last year, the U.S. became more closed to immigration than at any other time in its history. While the Biden administration has lifted some of the restrictions, others remain in place.

The ostensible rationale for these policies was the need to stop the spread of the virus. In reality, however, migration bans did little to protect public health — and caused enormous suffering. They also undermine the scientific innovation that makes us better able to deal with pandemics and other health risks in the long run. The Biden administration should immediately lift remaining pandemic-related migration restrictions, and Congress would do well to bar such policies for the future….

These restrictions failed dismally in the goal of containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus to the United States, where more than 750,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. The continuation of many restrictions did not prevent the more contagious Alpha and Delta variants from swiftly establishing themselves here, either. At best, restrictions only briefly delayed the entry of the virus….

Pandemic-related migration restrictions have inflicted immense suffering on people fleeing poverty and oppression, including refugees escaping violence, poverty and repressive regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti. Many of those expelled under Title 42 and other policies may be condemned to a lifetime of privation or even death….

Immigrants to the U.S. and Europe make disproportionate contributions to medical, scientific and technological innovations, and immigration restrictions could block many such advances. The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines were both developed by firms led by immigrants or children of immigrants from poor nations, who could not have made their vital contributions to these breakthroughs had they or their parents been barred from leaving their countries of origin…. Some of the migrants the U.S. government barred during the past 18 months might have gone on to make great technological and medical breakthroughs of their own.