Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Five billion migrants

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One of the weaker restrictionist arguments I’ve heard in the immigration debate is the one about the huge number of people who are poorer than the US average. I’ve encountered this line of reasoning specifically in response to the position I hold on the issue, namely that immigration is at heart an economic phenomenon, and the best way to handle the “problem” is to legalize that which has hitherto been against the law: non-familial Latino economic migration.

Anyway, I often hear the  countervailing argument phrased in a manner similar to the following comment that appeared recently on a Becker-Posner thread:

“If we were to just grant the “right” to immigrate to every Tom, Dick, Harry and Juanita; the Nation would be overwhelmed.”

Um, but such a proposal is not on offer.

We have a large “problem” with illegal immigration from Mexico because of three facts: a) the large wealth gap between the two countries; b) the fact that our southern neighbor shares a land border with us; and, c) the fact that this land border is very long.

If you changed any of the three above, you’d have a much smaller inflow of illegal immigrants. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), the US can’t really do much about these facts, and hence it will continue to receive large numbers of immigrants from south of the border. The only question is whether or not America decides to provide a legal means for this migration to take place. But these facts are not observable with respect to other places, so, I think it’s safe to say, despite the warnings of the restrictionists, we won’t soon be overwhelmed with illegal immigrants from Indonesia or Mozambique.


Written by Jasper

June 10, 2007 at 1:39 am

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