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The Case for an "Immigration Freedom Amendment"

Conservative Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby makes the case for a constitutional amendment severely limiting the government's power to exclude immigrants.


The Statue of Liberty.


In a recent Boston Globe symposium on "Editing the Constitution," prominent conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby makes the case for a constitutional amendment imposing severe limits on government power to exclude immigrants:

The Framers of the Constitution gave the federal government no authority to restrict peaceful immigration. For the first century or so of US history, most foreigners wishing to move to the United States were legally free to do so. The Constitution delegates many specific powers to the federal government, but a general right to bar or expel immigrants is conspicuously not among them.

During the national debate over the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 — which (among other provisions) allowed President John Adams to unilaterally deport immigrants he deemed dangerous — James Madison and the Virginia General Assembly denounced the laws for investing the president with "a power nowhere delegated to the federal government."

Not until 1882 was there a significant federal law curbing immigration: the unabashedly racist Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively slammed the door on immigration from China. Instead of striking down the law as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court upheld it on the grounds that the right to exclude foreigners for any reason was an "incident of sovereignty belonging to the government of the United States." That decision — by the same court that a few years later endorsed racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson — erased a core human right that the authors of the Constitution had never intended to curtail: freedom of immigration.

Plessy was eventually repudiated. But the assumption that the government has plenary power over immigration hardened into conventional wisdom. Today, the courts defer to virtually any restriction on immigration, including those based on national origin, political viewpoint, or religion; those based on family connections; and those based on numerical quotas.

To restore the freedom to immigrate intended by the Founders, a brief amendment should be added to the Constitution:

Neither the United States, nor any State, shall restrict immigration from nations with which the United States is not in a state of war, unless such restrictions are narrowly tailored to the advancement of a compelling government interest.

Under such an amendment, explains Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University and the author of "Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom," federal immigration restrictions would be presumed unconstitutional, much like laws that discriminate by race or silence political speech. That presumption could be overcome when necessary to keep out foreigners posing a genuine threat to public safety, public health, or national security, each of which is a "compelling government interest." By and large, however, peaceful individuals from any country would be free to move to the United States without impediment — just as individuals from one state may move freely to any other state.

As Jacoby recognizes, his proposed amendment is a modified version of one that I first developed for a New York Times symposium on constitutional amendments in August. The Times editors decided to reduce the number of contributions in their symposium, and mine was one of those that got cut.

Among other things, it was my idea to subject immigration restrictions to the "strict scrutiny" test used to review restrictions on racial and ethnic discrimination. This would enable courts to uphold restrictions in the very rare cases where they are the only way to prevent some great harm, but invalidate the vast bulk of restrictions that cannot pass such a test.

There are two differences between Jacoby's proposal and my original version. First, Jacoby's restricts not only federal power to bar migrants but also that of the states. Under the original meaning, federal power over immigration was severely limited, but states could and sometimes did bar migrants of various kinds, often based on racial, ethnic, and class prejudices, particularly against immigrants from Ireland.

Despite its departure from the original Constitution, Jacoby's version of the amendment is better than mine on this point, and I am happy to endorse it. States, like the federal government, should not have a general power to exclude people based on their parentage and place of birth. In addition, states - like the federal government - have plenty of ways to address possible negative side-effects of migration through "keyhole solutions" that are less harmful to both immigrants and natives than exclusion is.

The second difference between the two proposals is that mine also included the following section, following immediately after the one in Jacoby's article:

Section 2: Constitutional Rights Apply to Immigration Laws

Laws and regulations restricting migration are fully subject to all constitutional rights, privileges and immunities limiting the authority of the United States and the several States.

This would eliminate the enormously harmful - and, on originalist grounds, unjustified - double standard under which the Supreme Court has largely exempted immigration restrictions from the Bill of Rights and other constitutional constraints that limit virtually every other exercise of government power.

Jacoby notes this issue in his column, but doesn't include a provision specifically focused on addressing it. On the other hand, if all immigration restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny anyway, my Section 2 becomes far less significant. It would still have bite mainly in cases where constitutional rights impose even tighter limits on the government than strict scrutiny does.

Obviously, neither I nor (I would guess) Jacoby believe this amendment has any real chance of getting enacted in the near future, if ever. The purpose of the idea is not so much to stimulate immediate political action, as to help advance public debate over immigration.

As Jacoby explains in his column, there is good reason to return to the much more open approach to immigration of the Founding era:

A return to the open door policy of America's first 100 years would not mean that the nation's borders no longer had meaning, nor would it be tantamount to a surrender of US sovereignty. Washington would continue to have full authority to repel foreign armies from those borders and to enforce its laws and collect taxes within them….

Who would gain from such an amendment? The entire nation. Immigration is the great growth hormone of American history. More immigrants means more economic development, more innovation, more cultural richness. Contrary to nativist shibboleths, immigrants are more law-abiding than US-born residents, they rapidly assimilate and acquire English proficiency, and they are highly patriotic.

"America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger," wrote George Washington in 1783, "but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights & privileges." That was the right policy when the United States was small and weak. It remains the right policy for a nation that has grown into history's most influential superpower. An immigration freedom amendment would restore the vision of the Founders by once again opening the door to virtually all would-be Americans, whoever and wherever they are.

I go into many of the moral and policy issues involved in greater detail in my book Free to Move, and in various other writings, such as here.

UPDATE: It's worth noting that the Boston Globe symposium includes many other proposals for constitutional amendments, including this one by Volokh Conspiracy co-blogger Stephen Sachs, arguing for an amendment giving individual state legislatures more power to initiate constitutional amendments (as opposed to ratify ones proposed by Congress or by a convention of the states).

NEXT: Who's Voting with their Feet for Texas and Why

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  1. Boston? Dismissed. America Hater Democrat who wants a permanent one party state as immigrant rich Cali is. First, immigrants should get driving licenses. Upon getting a driving license, one is automatically registered to vote. Now, you have a permanent Democrat hellscape in that shithole state. Even if you are a billionaire with a $50 million townhouse, you have to step over human poop as they did in the 1800's. More treasonous crap from the traitor Somin, an Ivy indoctrinated lawyer dumbass.

  2. If Mr. Jacoby's so welcoming to guests, he should post his home address so any recently arrived immigrants can crash there (you checked hotel rates in Boston, much less rent). And if we're gonna go the Full Scalia, I want my M4 machine gun (what the current "Militia"AKA National Guard carries) and Slaves, ooops, I mean "such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit" to help pick my cotton.

    1. For a self-described "often libertarian" blog, the Volokh Conspiracy attracts a remarkable volume of authoritarian bigots.

      Carry on, clingers. So far as your betters permit, anyway.

      1. Iran Air is ready when you are (Reverend)

        1. Open wider, Frank.

          1. Ok, Boomer. When are you going to resign so you can be replaced by a diverse illegales? Let's make immigration personal to the scumbag lawyer.

          2. Ooh, what a comeback, don't quit your day job (you do know there's a guy who's job is to hold up patients Balls during Prostate/Anal Surgery?) not there's any thing wrong with that, done it myself, just seems to fit your "Persona"

            1. No Homo, my above comment was directed to the (Very Wrong) Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland (sounds fake, is his stupid name supposed to be a literary reference? the "Reverend Moe Howard" sounds more appropriate, (with apologies to Moe Howard)

              1. Arthur Kirkland is Al Pacino's character (a lawyer) in "..And Justice for All".

                1. then I'm Inspector Harry Effing-mo-Effing Callahan! Actually not, Clint had beautiful hair until umm, now actually, while I'm friggin Lex Luthor, while wait, maybe I am Harry/Clint.... Sunny was Harry Callahan's neighbor in Magnum Force. She was a young asian woman who had a crush on Harry. She asked what she would have to do to sleep with him. Later on they have sex and begin dating each other.. Towards the end of the movie he stops her from accidently setting off the mailbox bomb planted by the vigilante cops. Harry sends Sunny to her apartment for safety while he disarms the bomb.

                  Hey Now!

  3. Overpopulation was never an issue prior to perhaps 1950 or so. That is not the case today. The United States, like every other habitat, has a finite carrying capacity.

    When picking up one more swimmer will mean the whole lifeboat sinks, it's not unethical to stop picking up more swimmers. Reasonable people can disagree about how close to sinking the lifeboat is, but it is not remotely reasonable to say you have to keep picking up swimmers until the whole boat sinks.

    1. Overpopulation was never an issue prior to perhaps 1950 or so. That is not the case today.

      It is the case today. The U.S. could double in population (I mean, not overnight, obviously. More houses would have to be built.) without any trouble. We are a huge country.

      1. No it can't.

        I don't know if you read any environmental literature, but barring some amazing technology in the future, this country doesn't even have enough fresh water to support the population here now. Of course, the left is blaming that on climate change, but the much bigger culprit is the massive amount of agriculture we need to support 320 million people, as well as feeding people around the world.

      2. My wife who is an immigrant, was quite impressed with how much open space is in the US, and asked why is it so hard to come here, when there is so much open unused land?

        I told her it was simple, no one would move to eastern Oregon, they'd all move to LA, or NY, and she had to admit I was right.

        1. Except property values. And how now a lot of jobs are unmoored from a location.

          We can absorb a lot more people no problem.

          Doesn't mean we should open our borders, but it does mean the argument that we're full isn't a good one.

          1. Agree. We can absolutely take in millions of legal immigrants annually. Where we might differ is that I would probably be much more 'choosy' on who to let in.

            1. Actually I completely agree with you. Though not for the same reasons - the cheap, unregulated labor of illegals has been a huge shot in the arm for America's economic engine for the entire moder era.
              And it's exploitative as hell.

              So if I were king of immigration, we would make it easier to stay hear legally, and legalize anyone currently here.

              And go after businesses that hire illegals. And enforce laws about paying workers under the table. Protect worker whistleblowers, no questions asked about their status. End the incentive to hire illegals.

              It would be economically painful for a while, but we'd be a more honest, robust, and kind country for it.

              1. Concur on prosecuting businesses that hire illegals. They know perfectly well what they are doing. They are perpetuating modern day slavery. I would put owners into jail, mandatory, for not using eVerify and verifying status. Then behavior will change.

                1. Yeah - the main issue I have with the conservative position is who they demonize. The Wall and militarizing the border is not only impractical, it targets the wrong part of the issue.

                  These are victims, not invaders. We should prevent more victimization, not punish them under the rationale of 'rule of law.'

                  1. Well, we disagree about the utility of a wall, Sarcastr0. But I think we agree on more here than we disagree, which is nice.

                  2. We somewhat agree. The availability of cheap, safely abused labor is a bad thing for a country, it discourages automation and efficiency, while lowering wages and raising unemployment for the worst off.

                    I believe that Somin is sincere in wanting open borders for the benefit of the people who'd come here, and has convinced himself it would be beneficial to the existing population as well. But it is not out of benign motives that our immigration laws are systematically underenforced.

                2. They are perpetuating modern day slavery.

                  Um, no. I practice employment law, and I assure you that illegal immigrants in no fashion resemble slaves in any way. They get paid, they come and go from both jobs and the country. Other than from the government, they suffer no coercion.

                  I'm not saying that there's not some sweatshop out there where the illegal immigrant workers are locked in for 16 hours a day forced to labor or be killed, but that's an infinitesimal fraction of illegal immigrants.

                  1. Slaves is too much, but they also can't realistically quit their jobs, or advocate for improvements, and they aren't really going to be saving up a lot either.

                    Not peasants, they run with the land. Not serfs, as there is no promise of protection. Most like the Roman/Greek status of slave, although without the formal tie to a family.

                    They do get a better life for their children than the country they come from, though. But I don't love a system that allows people to chose lives of penury to give hope to their children. Maybe their lives can be improved somewhat as well!

                    1. No, they realistically quit their jobs all the time. The interesting thing about fungible employees is that their employers tend to be fungible too. It's H-1B holders who can't quit their jobs.

                      And they do in fact save up a lot, except that rather than stuffing it in their mattresses they send it back to their families in their home countries.

                    2. I'd argue they may switch employers, but they don't quit their jobs.

                      As for savings, I do know some illegals that have like funded houses for their families in Guatemala. But the agricultural ones, from what I understand second hand, don't have that kind of margin.

                      And even ceding that, it's below what we as a society have decided you can pay people. And lets not talk about benefits and worker's comp etc.

                  2. David, I am not so sure I agree. Only because it does not jibe with what I have directly observed in my life. Ever use day laborers at Home Depot? People do. They sometimes get stiffed. Sometimes abused. What is their recourse? Nothing. One of the saddest things I ever saw was a young man who got stiffed after a lengthy day of hard physical labor, and then had to walk home and tell his family he had nothing to show for it. What do you say to your wife? Your child? David, this happens. More than we would like to admit.

                    Ever see the inside of a chicken farm, or an assembly factory? I have worked in both. Hopefully, you never have. Illegals are routinely taken advantage of. Perhaps somewhat less today than two decades ago, but it happens....a lot.

                    There are a hell of a lot of business owners (nowhere close to a majority, but enough to matter David) that absolutely take advantage of illegal aliens. They know perfectly well what they are doing. This is abhorrent, and to me, it is the essence of modern day slavery. The business owners have ruthlessly treated illegals badly, and crushed their spirit. Is there anything worse?

              2. And go after businesses that hire illegals.

                No, a thousand times no. I know this sort of became the "moderate" position in the Trump era: we want to demonize conservatives for being anti-immigrant, but we need to sound tough so we can't be accused so easily of being pro-illegal-immigration/pro-open-borders. What's the compromise? We'll promise to be tough against a different group!

                But no. There are two problems with that: the practical and the moral.

                Practically, it's a problem because employers don't know who's illegal. I mean, of course they "know" wink wink, but they don't know, formally. When IRCA was passed in 1986, it made it illegal for employers to hire illegals. That's why you have to fill out an I-9 when you get hired. But liberals were rightly worried that this provision would lead to employment discrimination against Hispanics, so they included in there a caveat that employers had to accept employee-provided documentation. So the employer can say, "No, I didn't hire an illegal; see, he provided me with his proof of work eligibility first."

                Of course, there are theoretical ways around that, but those require an intrusive federal bureaucracy which is far more competent than the one that exists (e-verify).

                And, yes, very small businesses — e.g., a mom & pop restaurant — may not bother with the paperwork at all, and may knowingly hire an illegal. But "let's solve illegal immigration by arresting taco truck owners" doesn't really seem right.

                But let's say that you solve the practical problems; you've still got the moral one: punishing business owners is not the compassionate alternative to punishing illegals; making illegals unemployable is punishing illegals. Hell, Mitt Romney was demonized in 2012 for espousing exactly that notion: that rather than rounding up and deporting illegals we should cause them to "self-deport" by making life too hard for them here.

                1. It's not because they're employing illegals - it's because they're employing people under minimum wage, with no benefits. Because those people are afraid to say anything.

                  If the lack of an I-9 is a feature, not a bug, I would like to...realign that incentive.
                  So the law I'd like to enforce is not 'hired an illegal' but rather 'employed someone and didn't give them the minimal pay and benefits you need to.'
                  Not 'make life miserable for them' but 'make it so employers can't exploit them.' Heck, I'd be all for a documentation jubilee alongside this everyone gets minimum benefits in my ideal world.

                  Maybe you're right and we should limit it to businesses over 50 or something to avoid burden, but I don't think those edge cases kill the general issue.

                  The one fly in the ointment is the gig economy. It's instantiated working with really low benefits, and people *love* to participate in it.

                  1. So the law I'd like to enforce is not 'hired an illegal' but rather 'employed someone and didn't give them the minimal pay and benefits you need to.'

                    Illegal immigrants are already entitled to the protections of wage and hour laws just as legal workers are, and they routinely assert those rights, and the federal and state DOLs do punish employers who violate them as well. The W&H laws are exceedingly favorable to employees, with one-way fee shifting, strict liability, statutory punitive damages (liquidated damages), and a categorical rule that immigration status is not relevant.

                    I'm not saying that it's days of wine and roses for illegal immigrants, but I think your concerns are misdirected.

                    1. they routinely assert those rights.

                      Huh. I would think they'd be afraid to protest, but I will admit my sources tend to be illegal activists and not, like, studies or anything quantitative.

                      So if I'm wrong (and I cede to your expertise here) where are your concerns directed when it comes to the status quo in immigration policy and enforcement, DMN?

                      Ignoring the baying of the Trumpist hounds for a more cruel and ssystem and a moratorium lest America stop being white and civilized.

                    2. So if I'm wrong (and I cede to your expertise here) where are your concerns directed when it comes to the status quo in immigration policy and enforcement, DMN?

                      Obviously as a libertarian I'm not a big fan of the regulatory state, but to the extent you want to worry about workplace protections for illegals, it's workplace safety you should be most concerned about. So OSHA, Workers' Comp, things of that nature. Those are the areas where illegals can't really effectively assert their rights.

                2. From a moral perspective, why should the business owner get off scot free for a) knowingly hiring an illegal alien, and b) mistreating them and taking advantage of them? They should absolutely be punished, and very severely.

                  Which is worse: Causing an illegal to voluntarily choose to 'self deport', or allowing a situation where business owners can take advantage of them? That is not an easy call, I readily concede.

      3. "The U.S. could double in population "

        For one of many examples, when the Ogalalla Aquifer runs out, what virgin prairie should we plow to raise our food?

        You can cover eastern Montana with 1/4 acre lots and McMansions easily enough, but unless the people in those houses want to live on a water ration of two gallons a day...

        One can have faith that technology will provide - perhaps cold fusion will let us grow everything in hydroponic skyscrapers. Or perhaps it won't. I'd be pretty careful about writing population checks the environment can't cash.

        1. Malthus returns, only this time he's granular.

          Water is an issue, but one of infrastructure. It requires will and planning, but not quite cold fusion.

          1. "Water is an issue, but one of infrastructure."

            You'll have to provide a lot more than that blithe assertion to be persuasive.

            Here's a rainfall ap. Non-irrigated farming stops at maybe the west end of Iowa[1]. There isn't much of Iowa that isn't already plowed. Let's assume that with enough water you can cover Wyoming with barley fields, or genetically engineer corn that can hack the Wyoming climate or something. Which rivers are you planning to dam to supply that irrigation?

            Don't forget to maintain the current outflow that southern CA uses.

            [1]There are some exceptions ... dryland wheat farming in Montana, for example. But that is pretty localized, and not all that productive.

            1. Do the barley fields have to be in Wyoming?

              I see the blithe assertion to be 'we can't feed many more people than we currently have.' As that's the postulate that's been proven wrong time and time again.

              1. "Do the barley fields have to be in Wyoming?"

                Not at all! Where do you propose to put them? Arizona? If you put them in Iowa, where do you move the Iowa cornfields? Just give em some hint of how you plan to, say, double food production.

                FWIW, I picked barley and Wyoming as one of the more plausible possibilities. Barley is one of the better crops for cold climates, and Wyoming has mountains and snowpack. I think BuRec has already built out most of the plausible reservoirs, but thought maybe you had the scoop on new possibilities. I'd hate to think you are asserting it is possible, without ever looking into the details.

                1. You seem to be equating arable land area with agricultural productivity.

                  That seems not a necessary presumption these days.

                  1. Fair enough. Are we back to hydroponic skyscrapers, or is your plan to double the bushels per acre we get out of the existing Iowa corn fields? Can you flesh out the details of your plan a little? There is a plan, right? Not just blind hope?

                    1. I don't need to predict a specific trajectory technological progress to point out that underestimating it has been a common error in Malthusian doomsaying for quite a while.

                      No one predicted how crop yields would increase back in the Malthus/Ricardo days either.

                    2. I don't need to predict a specific trajectory technological progress to point out that underestimating it has been a common error in Malthusian doomsaying for quite a while.

                      I'm also not seeing the word "desalination" anywhere.

                    3. "I don't need to predict a specific trajectory technological progress to point out that underestimating it has been a common error in Malthusian doomsaying for quite a while."

                      It surely has been.

                      You can say 'feh, let's have the people first, then worry about feeding them. Something usually works out'. Or you can say 'I think it's prudent to have at least some idea of how we can support them before we have them'. I'm in the latter camp.

                    4. Not usually works out - always works out.

                      We're nowhere near carrying capacity. FFS, look at other countries with vastly more population density than we have and with less arable land.

                    5. "I'm also not seeing the word "desalination" anywhere."

                      That's a great idea, once we figure out where the energy to run the plants comes from, how to pump it uphill from the coats to Nebraska, etc, with acceptable environmental costs.

                      "We're nowhere near carrying capacity."

                      You keep asserting that without showing your work.

                      "look at other countries with vastly more population density than we have and with less arable land."

                      Nebraska doesn't have a reliable monsoon to fill rice paddies. You are looking at this as a spherical cow problem - if Bangladesh can support N people per acre, so can eastern Montana. But that's silly. Why do you think Mongolia's population density is less than Bangladesh's? It's not because they have different immigration policies, it is because not every acre of land will support the same number of people.

                    6. Nebraska doesn't have a reliable monsoon to fill rice paddies. You are looking at this as a spherical cow problem - if Bangladesh can support N people per acre, so can eastern Montana. But that's silly. Why do you think Mongolia's population density is less than Bangladesh's? It's not because they have different immigration policies, it is because not every acre of land will support the same number of people.

                      So then grow the food in Bangladesh and ship it to Mongolia. Or whatever.

                    7. You keep asserting that without showing your work.

                      No need to fear, Sarcastr0 is an adherent of "Science!" He knows better than you, because he says so.

                    8. "So then grow the food in Bangladesh and ship it to Mongolia. Or whatever."

                      My sense is that Bangladesh doesn't have a huge food surplus to export.

                      (if I missed a /sarc, my bad)

                    9. "That's a great idea, once we figure out where the energy to run the plants comes from, how to pump it uphill from the coats to Nebraska, etc, with acceptable environmental costs."

                      In theory, not an insoluble problem. Fresh water is less dense than salt, so parallel columns of both have different pressures at the bottom. In theory, place a rigid pipe full of fresh water in the ocean, with a reverse osmosis membrane across the bottom, and if the end is deep enough, the pressure difference will push water through the membrane, and you get a fountain of fresh water coming out of the pipe.

                      Doesn't violate thermodynamics, it's powered by salt falling to the bottom of the ocean. Does require a quite deep pipe, though.

                    10. "In theory, not an insoluble problem."

                      Makes you wonder why the Saudi's haven't built one already, doesn't it 🙂

                    11. "Makes you wonder why the Saudi's haven't built one already, doesn't it"

                      Not really. Presently the obstacle is coming up with a low resistance RO membrane, (To minimize excess pressure required to get decent flow.) with good anti-fouling properties.

                      But you do need depths on the order of 8,000m, and neither the Persian Gulf nor the Red Sea are remotely that deep. You'd have to be a long ways from Saudi Arabia to use this technique.

                    12. "But you do need depths on the order of 8,000m,..."

                      Rather a long pipeline to Nebraska, then.

                  2. Sarcastr0, the American West, where most of the unused and underused land is, has long ago allocated almost every drop of renewable water. And now annual renewals show a diminishing pattern. Huge agricultural areas already depend on irrigation which comes essentially from mining, to exploit underground fossil water left over from the ice age. That, of course, is not sustainable, and only trivially renewable.

                    The room for agricultural increase, where there is any, will come from making water go farther, for instance by recovering and reusing runoff, avoiding evaporation (in fields, from reservoirs, etc.), and switching to water-efficient crops. Possibly GMO developments to make more water-efficient crops available could be considered, but reliance in that direction could prove reckless.

                    One problem with all such planning is the tendency for every technological advance to induce new demand instead of alleviate incipient shortage. Land use policy makers are typically deficient at two needed skills:

                    1. Leaving stuff alone.

                    2. Using technical advances to increase margins against adversity, instead of using them to increase demand.

            2. We could, you know, stop subsidizing water for almond growing in California.

    2. India has about 1.3B people in about 1/3 the area of the US. The US has much more productive farm land than India. Even India is able to grow it's own food without using all of it's land.

      Long term, the US could probably hold the worlds current population. Short term, there are some housing shortage problems that would make that unrealistic.

      1. That's just not realistic. See my statement above about water scarcity. Unlike India, a huge chunk of America is desert.

        On top of that, have you seen how filthy India is? The Ganges river is completely disgusting and polluted. If we had the world's population here, how do you plan to handle all that waste generated by 8 billion people? Even if we magically solved the water problem, there are so many other problems. People don't live in hermetically sealed cases.

        1. Indians have a much lower mortality rate at birth, life expectancy, and quality of life.

          If we want to maintain our standard of living without fiscal demise or reduction in our generous welfare programs, we need to keep a lid on population growth.

          1. Well, this didn't parse. You mean higher birth mortality?

            It also assumes continuous causality between population and life expectancy where none is established.

            There is certainly a threshold where there's a strain, but we are nowhere near it.

            1. Sarcastr0, how do you propose to measure when you go past that threshold?

              I suggest one critical measurement would be ecological damage which hampers sustainable agriculture. On that basis, we probably went past the threshold globally sometime around the turn of the 20th century.

              1. "ecological damage which hampers sustainable agriculture"

                Like losing topsoil?

                "In 150 years or so, we’ve lost over half of that rich topsoil—if not all in some places"

                (current best practices may be mitigating the rate of loss, but slowing the rate of loss still ends up in a bad place)

              2. Absaroka,

                • Topsoil
                • Insects
                • Insect-dependent birds, mammals, reptiles
                • Beneficial soil micro-fauna
                • Natural pest control
                • Non-insect pollinators
                • Capacity to purge agricultural land of accumulating chemical contaminants (especially by limiting irrigation runoff to conserve water)
                • Natural manure

                • Salinization
                • Bio-concentration of existing adverse chemicals (selenium, for instance)
                • Pest irruptions
                • Chemical fertilizer dependency
                • Ecological instability, featuring startling unexpected consequences

    3. The United States, like every other habitat, has a finite carrying capacity.

      Yes, but it's a lot higher than 8 billion people.

      Everyone on Earth could move to Texas and have their own 700 square foot apartment.

      1. I think you don't know what "carrying capacity" means.

  4. If an amendment to the opposite effect were sent to the states, it would have a better chance of ratification.

  5. "Framers of the Constitution gave the federal government no authority to restrict peaceful immigration"

    Error right in the first line. Impressive.

    "Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight"

    Power reserved to the states for 20 years, then Congress has it.

    1. "...any of the States now existing..."
      would it apply to those states existing at the time of ratification as a plain text reading might imply? The text could have been written without the 'now existing' phrase which then would have included any state. But the authors added text reserving application to states now existing.

      1. That just closed the door to moving up the time table by creating new states. Doesn't matter either way, though, and hasn't for 2013 years.

    2. Good catch. The twenty year provision was included as a compromise over slavery, but the language implies a general ability for the Federal Government to regulate immigration.

    3. I think the commerce clause adequately covers it too, especially since the definition of commerce at the founding included population flows.

    4. Yes, thank you for cutting right to the chase. I believe the technical legal term for this is "nuts". "Peaceful" does a lot of work for him there.

      I never understood the foundation for the professor's crackpot beliefs against any immigration restrictions, but now I know they have are the result of a warped constitutional understanding. A federal government of so limited powers, it can't control its own borders unless its at war.

      1. No, I don't think that's it. He's not THAT libertarian.

        He's an immigrant himself. He sees being in the US as a great good, which he wants to share with everybody.

        Wants to share it so much he can't accept that over-sharing it would mean nobody would have it, like pulling too many people into the life raft.

  6. Oh, and Growth Hormone's Ill-Legal (at Bushwood) without an Rx, harmful at Supra-Physiologic doses(see Giant, Andre). Let me know his view when 2 million members of the Russian Imperial Movement, Alternativ fur Deutshland, and Vigrid show up at the DMV...

  7. People who claim to be libertarian generally believe that they have individual agency. If Mr. Somin wants to sponsor immigrants and be responsible for them until they’re contributing members of society, he should be able to do so. That does not put the same responsibility on me.

    1. We're half way there for Mr. Somin. The borders are quite open for emigration. He is a strong advocate of voting with one's feet, so nothing keeping him here.

      1. what he said, Teheran could use some good Immigration Attorneys

        1. If there is anything the right-wing racists, xenophobes, gay-bashers, and misogynists who constitute the majority of this blog's following can't stand, it is some genuinely libertarian (rather than "often libertarian" or "libertarianish," Volokh-style) content.

          After a while, Prof. Somin, it is difficult to understand why you continue to associate with this blog and its authoritarian, bigoted, right-wing target audience.

          1. Et tu, Podex?

      2. Always people wanting to strip Prof. Somin of his citizenship, or have him lave the US, or some other retribution for him saying stuff commenters don't like on immigration.

        1. "You're free to leave" does not equal "wanting to strip Prof. Somin of his citizenship". But, you knew that.

          Mr "Vote With Your Feet" was admonished to vote with his feet. Sarcastr0 cried for him.

          1. Has he said anything about not liking America?

            Huh, guess not. And yet people are telling him to leave.

            Also, 'or' doesn't mean 'stop reading the list, it's done.'

            1. Has anyone in this conversation said anything about stripping him of his citizenship?

              If you object to people wrongly attributing things never said, maybe you shouldn't yourself. Encouraging someone to embrace his agency and leave is not deporting him.

              1. Not in this specific conversation, but I didn't limit it like that.
                And it's absolutely a dumbass hateful response I've seen in the comments to his posts.

                Unless, again, you fail to read the word 'or' correctly.

                1. Not in this specific conversation, but I didn't limit it like that.
                  And it's absolutely a dumbass hateful response I've seen in the comments to his posts.

                  Of course not. You get to make sweeping generalizations and put words in people's mouths in order to dismiss them out of hand, because you're special.

                  "Or" isn't helping you, at all. You posited 3 things, and only 1 of them is a plausible reading of the responses. No one told Somin to leave. No one mentioned stripping him of citizenship. Mr "Vote With Your Feet" is free to vote with his feet, or not. He doesn't have to leave if he doesn't like it. He doesn't even have to shut up if he doesn't like it.

                  Your schtick used to be fun and witty. What happened?

                2. So I'm supposed to trust your representation of the words of others? Please, spare me. I doubt you would tolerate that kind of "hearsay" from others or facts not presented. In fact, I've seen you do that on other posts...see what I did there? You can't dispute my representation according to your standard.

                  If I were ever to see a suggestion that Professor Somin have his citizenship revoked, I would strenuously object, because it's just as nutty a legal proposition as Congress lacking the authority to restrict immigration in times of peace.

  8. What is peaceful immigration in this day of no longer needing settlers, especially given current legal restrictions and unlawful tolerance of those restrictions being flouted?

    Is not peaceful immigration, these days, a matter of political and economic opportunism and subversive ideology on behalf of international corporations and the new globalism?

      1. I'd answer my question above as to any possibility of peaceful immigration these days under current circumstances with a resounding "no."

        1. "any possibility of peaceful immigration ... no"

          Horsefeathers. No small part of America's success has been that we attract immigrants with exceptional talent and drive, and we absolutely should not stop that.

          Look up the birth countries of the leading lights of the Manhattan Project, for one example.

          1. Surely, you are being ironic by highlighting the "leading lights" of the Manhattan Project.

            At any rate, you're arguing the benefits of a far different proposition than one of open borders today.

            1. "Surely, you are being ironic by highlighting the "leading lights" of the Manhattan Project."

              Albert Einstein, Hans Bethe, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, James Franck, Edward Teller, Enrico Fermi, Stanislaw Ulam, etc, etc, etc, were all immigrants.

              1. "Albert Einstein, Hans Bethe, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, James Franck, Edward Teller, Enrico Fermi, Stanislaw Ulam, etc, etc, etc, were all immigrants."

                While, you contend they were all "leading lights" of the unalloyed goodness of the Manhattan Project, you should dig a bit deeper, as to their legacy then and now.

                1. Operation Paperclip, the founding of NASA, the founding of our pharmacological industry, etc.

                  And here we are, in a bit of a pickle of others' making and by our own appetites which we call science, technology, and beneficial immigration.

                  1. You're being cryptic.

                    What do you wish America was that immigration didn't deliver?
                    You want America to be less of a superpower and technology leader, and more a bunch of farmers of European ancestry?

              2. ??????

                I'm pretty sure she has a problem with their religious background.

        2. Btw, the violence toward and sabotage of indigenous peoples in the Americas was and will always be unconscionable, just as it is typical of conquering peoples.

          Meanwhile, the legacy of the European recent arrivals who seemed to prevail in the dominance of the Americas in the near past is being sabotaged by political correctness and faux libertarian sensibilities.

          Pick your team, pick your poison.

  9. If you’re not willing to control your borders, you’re not willing to protect your culture, and you’re not willing to defend your nation.

    1. You must realize that notions of borders, culture, and nation are anathema to no-borders libertarians, also known as globalists.

    2. Not willing to protect our culture? What exactly does that mean? What aspect of "our culture" is threatened by immigration?

    3. Every single generation since the first has had those arguing 'THIS time they won't assimilate. THIS time we'll lose our Americanness!'

      1. Yep. If you go back to the infamous "Know Nothing Party", you find the same types then making the exact same rants, only the threat to everything held dear at that time was the Irish, Italians and Catholics.

        They were little better than animals. They cared nothing about American values. All they brought was crime, poverty and filth. They'd never become true citizens.

        It was the same song from the same huckster politicians, looking for an easy ride off mob outrage.

      2. And every generation was at least partially right about that. With every previous wave of immigration, America changed, because when immigrants assimilate into a country, the country assimilates into them, too.

        And that's fine when they're immigrating from 1st world countries with functional societies, they're bringing with them somewhat different ways, but different ways that at least work.

        It's not so fine when they're immigrating from 3rd world countries with severely dysfunctional societies. The worse the society people are immigrating from, the more selective you have to be about who you allow in. And Somin's immigration-as-a-human-right approach doesn't allow selectivity.

        Look, I run into people all the time who simply don't speak English, in a country where the law says that you can't immigrate unless you speak English, absent extraordinary considerations. Why is this?

        Because they're forming ethnic enclaves where everybody speaks Spanish, and so the pressure to learn Spanish is reduced.

        That's not peculiar to immigrants from Mexico and points South. The same thing happens with every group of foreign language immigrants. It happens in proportion to their numbers; If they're too few to form enclaves, they're forced to assimilate.

        Eventually they ARE going to assimilate, of course. If we do the same thing we did after prior waves of immigration, and call a pause for a while.

        Not if we turn the spigot full open, and then break it off.

        1. So yeah, this time it's different, you argue.

          Your 'first world values' thesis wouldn't apply to Asians either. Or the Irish for a decent amount of their initial immigration waves for that matter.

          I run into people all the time who simply don't speak English, in a country where the law says that you can't immigrate unless you speak English
          I think you're mixing up immigration with naturalization here.

          And no, you don't get to change your thesis at the end to be about open borders. All of your arguments are directed at immigrants already here, and apply with the same force at any amount if immigration at all, if it's not from places you think are sufficiently civilized.

          I'm reading up on Teddy Roosevelt, and your take on how Latin Americans work would be a bit retrograde in 1912.

          1. "I think you're mixing up immigration with naturalization here."

            It appears you're right about that, I suppose the mixup is because we never seriously considered my wife not becoming a citizen eventually.

        2. Look, I run into people all the time who simply don't speak English, in a country where the law says that you can't immigrate unless you speak English, absent extraordinary considerations. Why is this?

          Because you're making it up, as you so often do. No such law exists.

          There is a law that says you can't naturalize unless you know English, absent extraordinary considerations. But there are no language tests for immigration. (And, of course, many natural born Americans are born speaking Spanish. Including millions of Puerto Ricans.)

    4. Again: for roughly the first century of this country's existence, there were no border controls. Do you think this meant that George Washington on through James Garfield were unpatriotic?

      1. James Buchanan seems a bit unpatriotic to me.

        1. One thing is certain: Buchanan was Trump's dearest consolation. He could always be sure Buchanan was there for him, safely holding down the position of worst president in history.

          Trump could bungle; incessantly lie; comport himself like a kindergarten toddler who missed nap-time; act like congealed sleaze molded into human form - it simply wouldn't matter.

          Buchanan was always there for him....

          1. and Jimmuh Cartuh, with Sleepy Joe a close second(Sleepy's great at being second)

          2. Buchanan kept us out of war.

            1. Buchanan moved critical military supplies to locations below the Mason-Dixon Line so they could be confiscated when the Southern states left the union. I'm not sure that qualifies as keeping us out of war.

      2. In the first century, there was no means to migrate without talent, wealth, or high intellect. One had to pay for passage on a sea vessel or be sponsored by someone wealthy. The barriers for entry were higher then than they are now!

        In the first century, there was no welfare state. We were at nearly constant war. There were few avenues for new wealth.

        There was very little in the first century to draw to the US any of the world’s poor, illiterate, useless peasants. And if they did arrive somehow, they’d starve and die.

        1. In the first century, there was no means to migrate without talent, wealth, or high intellect

          What?! This is not true. Colonists were in no way all middle class or had sponsors.

          Plus you forgot slavery and indentured servitude, and

        2. I mean, you've said a bunch of offensive things in the short time you've been commenting here, but this one rivals the dumbest things ever posted by anyone ever.

        3. And yet the USA's population grew from 3.9M in 1790 to 63.0M in 1890 (a 1500% increase). That's a lot of rich people showing up, apparently.

  10. Ask descendants of indigenous peoples living on reservations how the Open Borders Amendment of 1491 is viewed in hindsight.

    1. like Senator Poke-a-Hontas?(D, MA) too bad she's indisposed with the Vid' or at least 1/1024th of it....

  11. I know that Thoreau said, ''Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one."

    But have you considered that the rest of us aren't looking forward to becoming a minority in our own country?

    1. looking forward? where do you live? (Man! HT Sleepy Joe)

    2. A minority in what way, exactly? Is this a skin color thing, or a race thing? I'm curious to know exactly what you mean.

      1. Don't have the Google Machine in your Drinkwater? the US Census defines it as such:

        Black and African Americans. ...
        Hispanic and Latino Americans. ...
        Asian Americans. ...
        American Indians and Alaska Natives. ...
        Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. ...
        Middle Easterners and North Africans. ...
        Two or more races. ...
        Members of other races. ...

        1. You apparently don't have the "Prof. Steinberg on the idiocy of racial classifications" machine.

    3. I'm 1/4 Hungarian, and the oppression is truly difficult.

      1. 1/4 Hungarian? AKA "White" , I'm guessing your other 3/4 looks less like Al Sharpton than NY Mayor Bill Wilhelm(I mean De-Blah-sio)
        Hey, it's cool, if you ever overdose on Fentanyl(not "Fent-a-nol" can peoples at least Google shit?)
        and a White Police Officer, trying to keep you from asphyxiating(what happened to Ted Kennedy's victim)
        Keeps his knee on your throat until your brain stem tells you to breathe..

        Would think he deserves some praise, if not a medal,

        Frank "breathe, Bitch!"

    4. But have you considered that the rest of us aren't looking forward to becoming a minority in our own country?

      I mean, isn't each of us a minority in the country? Roughly 1/330,000,000th of the country, which is a bit less than 50%?

      1. At present, about 14% of the US population is foreign born. (Over 25% of California.)

        If Somin's amendment became law, you could reasonably anticipate that going to over 50% within a decade: Americans would become a minority within their own country.

        1. Yes, this is why I'm not an open borders person - the initial absorption/transition seems unfeasible to me.

          But that's an oddly rare argument around here. Instead, people are coming in with arguments against the idea of immigration at any rate, and fear about 'Real American Culture' being subsumed by...not Americans.

          It's a very old argument. And it never dies despite the many counterexamples over the life of our extremely successful country.

          1. I've got several concerns here.

            First, while it would undoubtedly be possible for the US to survive with a considerably higher population density, that doesn't mean it would be desirable to have a higher population density. We'd lose a lot of things that come from having lots of open land. We'd have to start scaling back park land, for instance. Finding places to hunt would be harder.

            Second, assimilation works in both directions, and while there are cultures that have some positive things to contribute to our own culture, there are also cultures that have NEGATIVE things to contribute. Call this the "You are what you eat" view of immigration. At any level, immigration needs to be selective, and that's not consistent with treating it as a human right.

            Third, assimilation only works so fast, and the larger the rate relative to native population, the slower it goes. I think we're well above the optimal rate of immigration for effective assimilation, which is why we're seeing so many ethnic enclaves showing up.

            Finally, as an attractive destination for immigration, we're getting lots of offers for new inhabitants, we can afford to be picky. For the benefit of America, we should be skimming the world's cream, not just mindlessly accepting all who come.

            1. Ah, so the metric you are using in answer to my question is born outside the US/born inside the US. You don't make a very good argument why that matters. Unless you actually believe that being born within the borders of this country makes an individual superior to one born outside the borders.

        2. The fact that someone is foreign born does not mean that he or she is not American.

          1. Is this meant to be one of those philosophical platitudes?

            "Do not try and bend the spoon. There is no spoon."

  12. And the standard issue which Ilya never addresses raises its head.

    If there were "no" immigration restrictions, estimates are that nearly 100,000,000 people would immigrate to the US in the next year.

    Such an action would cause widespread civil unrest and distress.

    Failing to account for this is foolhardy, and a major issue.

    1. Riot over what?

      If 100M moved to the US in one year, the housing prices would be high enough that we would get the 100M richest people in the world.

      Given the short term price elasticity, I don't think it is possible within a year without forcefully evicting current residents. That would cause riots at a minimum.

      More realistic would be 100M over 10 years. Then anyone that works in construction would have something like 5x as much work as before. Car manufacturing would be close to double because people need more cars in the US. Teachers, nurses, retail workersl, etc. Would have 30% more customers.

      Programmers compete against outsourced labor in India or Eastern Europe where the coat of living is lower. If the competition had the same cost of living (because they are local too), they could get more money for their labor.

      A 30% gain in 10 years isn't that much. Idaho had 17% over the last decade. Many cities have grown 30% or more over a decade with no rioting.

      1. One hundred extra kids in my town’s school district means raising bonds through taxes on the legal residents to build a new school.

        One hundred extra sets of parents means traffic on our roads will increase, there will be more sanitation costs, and emergency room visits at our little public hospital. Again, legal residents would have to pay for the costs of the illegals, who pay nothing.

        If you don’t realize that would cause a riot, check out CRT discussions at school board meetings. The anger is just below the surface. Add tax doubling and you’ll have corpses of illegals nailed to the telephone poles.

        1. 1) Illegals do not "pay nothing." They pay rent, from which property taxes are derived. They pay sales taxes. Many pay income taxes via withholding if not filing.

          2) Not sure why you're even talking about "illegals," since the premise of the hypothetical was "'no' immigration restrictions." They would be legal, not illegal.

          If you don’t realize that would cause a riot, check out CRT discussions at school board meetings. The anger is just below the surface.

          Weird, because I was told how outrageous it was that school boards suggested that some of the people showing up at their meetings made them worried about domestic terrorism.

      2. AVB,

        1) You're assuming they would have housing. Some wouldn't. They would see the benefits in moving to the US from their current location and not worry about housing. They would live in a tent. Or house 10 or 20 or 30 to a unit. Housing restrictions in the US would be ignored.

        2) No, it would be within a year. People wouldn't wait, because such a drastic law or amendment could be repealed. It took just 3 years to repeal prohibition. You think a number of people who are willing to illegally immigrate from Latin America, given the risks and costs, are going to "wait" for 5 years? No.

        3) Car manufacturing, etc... You think most of these new immigrants could afford cars? No.

        4) Year 1 would be 100,000,000 people. Year 2 would be another 100,000,000 people. Year 3...another 100,000,000. More than 750,000,000 people worldwide would immigrate if they could, according to polling.

        1. Well, this is some telling fiction about what you think.

          Check out Camp of Saints. You'd love it!

          1. have nothing in other words.

        2. It took just 3 years to repeal prohibition.

          I am trying to figure out some way to charitably parse this to make it not ahistorical/innumerate, but I can't.

          1. Apologies. Mental Snafu.

            I mentally transposed the amendment (the 18th) with the year (1918, actually ratified January 16th 1919) and the repeal (21st). 21 - 18 = 3. This is of course, in error.

            Any other criticism?

    2. Sounds like an economic opportunity.

  13. don't mean nuthing...(Mr. Chiguhr, I didn't notice your license plate or nothing, no sir!)
    Immigration to Israel is not an easy process. Writing about Israel immigration laws is even more complex, mainly due to the lack of a clear government immigration policy. For immigration in Israel, the main options are citizenship from birthright for Jews and their descendants, until the 3rd generation, who can legally make Aliyah according to the “Law of Return”. Legal status in Israel due to marriage or a relationship with an Israeli is also common. In special cases foreign nationals who have children legally living in the country as citizens or Israeli residents can acquire legal status in Israel according to Israel immigration rules. This is the case for parents of soldiers, and also for lonely elderly parents of a foreign spouse to an Israeli.

  14. Great. We'll call it the Nation Suicide Amendment.

  15. So for perspective, Donald Trump is a raging open borders liberal compared to what is considered the "moderate" position among French politicians right now.

    The moderate politician is calling for a complete stop to immigration for the time being and the prioritization of total assimilation to French culture of those who live on French soil.

    1. It's almost as though Europe's relationship with their immigrants has been fundamentally different with the US's for centuries!

    2. Historically, French-speaking people have been a minority in France for most of its history.

  16. The most logical is to have a competing Constitutional Amendments delegating power to the Federal Government to write immigration standards.

    Its the PEOPLE, not the govt making decisions.

    1. Oh. like the "Equal Rights Amendment" that both Houses of Congress passed years ago, whatever happened with that?
      Sorry if I demonstrated your Ignorance,

      1. Well your ignorance needs a little informing.
        The People get a vote also.
        Constitutional Amendments have a whole process. If the process starts in Congress, then the States, 3/4 of the states, by a vote of the people, need to approve the Amendment.

    2. The constitution already does this. The importation clause authorizes Congress to regulate immigration however it sees fit.

      1. Are you referring to this?

        "The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."

        How does that authorize Congress to regulate immigration however it sees fit?

  17. I simply need a lot more information on how this policy doesn't allow armies to invade under false pretenses.

    1. it doesn't They're(OK, were) here!! see 11, 9, 2001,

    2. Well, if you're going to follow Libertarian principles over the cliff, then it DOES allow that. Anyone is allowed to enter our country, in any numbers. What if they're armed? So what? Free people have a right to carry arms, don't they? They're doing nothing wrong and must be welcomed until they actually open fire!

  18. Look, it’s exactly the same double standard by which fetuses have been largely excluded from the Bill of Rights.

    A constitutional amendment would be a terrible idea and destabilizing to the Republic. Absent a covil war, a constitutional amendment requires social consensus. There is no social consensus on this issue.

    And the courts simply deciding that the constitution bans immigration restrictions would be as as much an act of raw power shorn of any pretence of legality as the courts getting one day and deciding that the constitution bans abortion.

  19. The nuttier article on there is the one wanting to rewrite the First and Second Amendments for the purposes of getting rid of free speech and self-defense with a weapon:

    1. Yes, civil liberties people don't think much of Mary Ann Franks.

  20. immigrants are more law-abiding than US-born residents,

    This canard again - those crime studies are comparing migrants in the US who have only been here a few years to native born US citizens who have been here their whole lives. That's the reason for the discrepancy.

    Anyway, having an open border made sense when we had wide open land and the vast majority of immigrants were coming from Europe, with a common culture and/or language. That isn't the case today. Most of today's migrants come from countries that are notoriously corrupt, but even if they were all good people, we already have 320 million people here, and don't even have enough fresh water to support them. What does Mr Jacoby or Somin plan to do about that?

    1. It's probably more like 360 million.

    2. People at the time didn't think they had a common culture. The Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans were all despised migrants historically. Hell, anti-Italian bigotry was still common in places like NYC in the mid-20th century.

      Just because they're 'white' you think that means there's a common culture? Why don't you read what the people who complained about them as migrants wrote?

      Race is not a proxy for culture. (And it's literally racism to approve of some migrants and not others solely because of their perceived race. Real racism, not bullshit racism that declares everything to be racist).

      Most immigrants I've met (and/or their children) seem to adapt to US culture quite rapidly. That includes east asian, south asian, middle eastern, and 'hispanic' migrants. Ours is a culture of liberty, and that is truly a universal language. Nor is our culture set in stone - it evolves rapidly and in unexpected directions. Just look at US music over the last 150 years. Migrants are an important part of how our culture develops. To say they can't share in our culture is to misunderstand what our culture is. (In fact, to say that europe shares our culture is making the same error, because to a large degree they very much don't).

      1. Typical straw man argument. No one here is against immigration. The sane and sensible people here are against wide-open, unrestricted immigration that will subject our country to a transformative flood of hundreds of millions of newcomers who cannot be assimilated. This has nothing to do with race—a tsunami of immigrants like that which Somin's amendment would loose upon us would destroy us no matter what their ethnicity was. Wide-open borders would have been destructive in the past, but we wisely took action to slow immigration to allow the newcomers and their children time to integrate into our society. The Immigration Act of 1924 saved us from the kind of catastrophe that Somin stupidly advocates.

        1. ...Did you read the comments here? Plenty of people are against immigration.

          1. On review, I see one, Absaroka, who believes we can't afford immigrants because of natural resource depletion. That's it.

            1. And I'm not 'against immigration' at all. America has been skimming the cream off the world's population for a long time, and I'm all for continuing.

              What I am not in favor of is having a population that is unsustainably large, whether that population comes from native births, immigration, or making people in factories by cloning.

              1. But you tune your thinking about our carrying capacity to be right about where we are today, it seems.

                1. I'm actually not sure whether the carrying capacity is above or below our current population. The last I heard, we're still losing topsoil, we don't have additional sources of water, and we're supposed to lower the carbon footprint (see, e.g. where nitrogen fertilizers come from).

                  But I am open to a reasoned, show-the-work accounting that the carrying capacity is much higher than that, using reasonably near term technology. I just haven't seen that.

                  I'm just not in the habit of writing big checks, then hoping I can scramble around and find the money to deposit before the check arrives at my bank. I'm a deposit the money, then write the check type.

                2. But you tune your thinking about our carrying capacity to be right about where we are today, it seems.

                  Not me, Sarcastr0. I think carrying capacity is substantially less than where we are today—probably with the point of sustainable equilibrium passed more than a century ago. Today's industrialized agriculture is an ecological catastrophe which becomes steadily more crisis prone and unsustainable. The proof is evident in ongoing declines among species diversity, and loss of abundance of individuals among species.

                  Humans are not yet wise enough to recover the sustaining virtues eradicated by those declines. Mostly, humans are not yet even wise enough to care about those declines, or even notice them. Until genetic engineers know enough to recover extinct species from scratch, and can for instance deliver a made-to-order match for a tree swallow using nothing more than a few ounces of bugs for raw material, they will be working without erasers on their pencils.

                  While agricultural science plunges forward in the dark, ecological stability takes hit after hit, with each loss moving indispensable agricultural practices farther from sustainable equilibrium. The sorcerer's apprentice musical accompaniment plays ever more frantically.

            2. Brett's arguments about how our immigrants aren't from civilized countries anymore falls in that camp.

              Kazinski and John Rohan cosign Malthus.

              John Rohan is also worried about losing our European culture/language...which is a take.

              m4019597 is hard to understand, but pretty anti immigrant whatever he's saying.

              And we haven't even had do his song and dance that the 14A doesn't require birthright citizenship.

              Miss Greenparker seems against immigrants, because some of them might be scientists, I think?

              1. So, anyone who thinks immigration policy should be based on current realities and reasoning, instead of pretending it's still 1840 and basing policies only on abstract principles, is "against immigration". Gotcha.

              2. "Brett's arguments about how our immigrants aren't from civilized countries anymore falls in that camp."

                How is preferring that immigration be from successful rather than failed cultures being opposed to immigration, full stop?

                I'm in favor of immigration: A lot of people want to come here, we should take advantage of that to skim the world's cream.

                1. Your successful rather than failed cultures metric has no meaning. Which specific failed cultures are you talking about? And why would you presume that just because an individual lives in a "failed culture," they couldn't contribute to this country just as much as another individual born somewhere else? Is this identity politics?

                  1. "Your successful rather than failed cultures metric has no meaning."

                    Ah, so you're going to pretend that all cultures are equally successful? I don't know that we've got much to discuss if you're that delusional.

        2. Yes, they might have thought so at the time. Everything is relative. Once the English thought they were so different than the Irish. But that was only because they didn't have mass immigration from Asia at the time.

          Before the immigration reform of 1965, immigration from Europe was highly favored over other nations because the government reasoned (correctly) that the culture and national origins of the founding fathers should continue to set this nation's direction. Yes, of course immigrants assimilate, but only if it's done slowly! There's nothing magical in the soil of the US that guarantees prosperity. Flooding the country with all nations of the world would turn the United States into those other nations.

      2. Just because they're 'white' you think that means there's a common culture?

        Why not? All blacks have a common culture.

        1. And The Woke are certain that "whiteness" is a thing.

    3. It also compares legal immigrants - those that are carefully selected and filtered for, among other things, a lack of criminal history - to unfiltered native-born.

  21. I like it. Proposing an amendment gives us something clear to argue about. That's far better than prolonged and heated arguments between people when the subject being debated is vague or unspecified.

    In fact, we should challenge many debaters to explicitly tell us what they would prefer the law or The Constitution to say.

  22. As Milton Friedman would argue, address the challenge of the modern welfare state first, then we can sensibly talk about facilitating easier migration. Our national debt is now over $23T, a bit above GDP. How about stabilize and then reverse that trend before throwing open the door?

    We have an aging population, an expensive system of medical care, and creaky retirement plans for the masses. Yes, immigration helps support various Ponzi schemes, but it also taxes infrastructure and social services. We are too far down the road to see much of the welfare system magically disappear and immigrants who can't cut it won't be left in the street to die. Libertarians need to focus on small wins and avoid theoretical traps that just make people shake their heads.

    1. Keep up, the debt is over 29 trillion.

      1. And GDP is officially 23 trillion, but that includes government spending. Real productive sector GDP is 17 trillion.

        And government tax revenues are a shade under 4 trillion. Which means the government is in debt to the tune of over 7 years' income.

      2. Thought I googled it....$23T did seem low...might be my eyesight. The point remains that Libertarians should stop ignoring the 800lb gorilla in the corner in order to tout their bona fides. How about outlining a plausible path to a surplus...that has a snowball's chance of advancing. Granted there is no incentive for Repubs or Dems to cut the current toxic environment.....and with enough economists wistfully now saying that the debt doesn't matter, we've entered the cognitive dissonance zone.

  23. A modest proposal: Two amendments, sent out to the states at the same time. (Perhaps the votes could be co-joined.)

    The National SuicideImmigration Freedom amendment, as Somin proposes.

    And an amendment stating that birthright citizenship is not available to anyone whose parents are not both legally present and at least green card holders, and that illegal entry to the US acts as a lifetime bar to citizenship.

    Then we'll see which can be ratified, if either.

    1. Obviously, neither I nor (I would guess) Jacoby believe this amendment has any real chance of getting enacted in the near future, if ever. The purpose of the idea is not so much to stimulate immediate political action, as to help advance public debate over immigration.

      The OP is making a policy argument, not a populous argument. So this is not a relevant point.

      Tell me, though, do *you* like your counteroffer of restricting birthright citizenship, or is that just to make a point?

      1. Actually, I do like the idea of restricting birthright citizenship in that way. American citizenship should never be the product of a crime, and the way birthright citizenship is currently handled is one of the major reasons we have an illegal immigration problem to begin with.

  24. Neither the United States, nor any State, shall restrict immigration from nations with which the United States is not in a state of war, unless such restrictions are narrowly tailored to the advancement of a compelling government interest.

    Does overpopulation count as a compelling interest? I count roughly 3 billion people on Earth that might like to immigrate to America.

    1. With wide open borders, the number of immigrants would be limited only by the available transportation.

  25. In general, it seems the time has come to reject all proposed constitutional amendments on principle, no matter what the subject matter. The hazard is that any particular amendment might pass, but then with further increases in population imbalances among states become unrepealable.

    The nation is already stressed to the max by a long list of pro-minority structural imbalances inflicted by the Constitution. It is no longer wise to add to that list.

    1. "Stressed" for whom? Not the minorities enjoying Constitutional protection from the "democratic" mob.

  26. The argument fails on its face. Any nation in conflict with the USA wouldn't need to declare war; they could just have everyone move here.

    1. Not everyone—just elites with key skills, as the Chinese are doing now.

  27. Suggesting that immigration pre 1900 is somehow the same as immigration now is disingenuous.

    There was no "right to welfare" in the free immigration era. What welfare was available was only local and the organization, government or otherwise, was free to set its own criteria and reject anyone not meeting said criteria.

    If Somin wants to make things easier on the kind of immigrants we need, he should put some cycles into figuring out legal ways to keep out the kind we don't need, namely those who go on the dole.

  28. If the citizens of a country cannot determine who should or should not be able to enter and take advantage of all the incredible wealth (in comparison to what they have in other countries) they get for free here, then there is no point to a country. And people, the current citizens, are what our government is.

    1. there is no point to a country

      That is exactly what anarchists like Somin believe, and they are willing to sacrifice our way of life and our culture to live by that belief.

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