Posted by: patrick | December 18, 2008

an argument for (more) open borders

Today I was up awake late when I caught Lou Dobbs’s show on CNN. I’m not a regular watcher of CNN, but I know of his rants against illegal immigration and his call to protect the borders. Today’s commentary included  how the “open borders lobby” is happily awaiting the inauguration of Barack Obama, so they can further their agenda, etc. etc. Plus they included a clip of the drug cartel violence happening in northern Mexico, in cities close to the US border.

Soon after I tried to go to sleep, but the words “you nativist prick” kept on ringing in my head. So I’m writing this post.

I’m definitely one of those card-carrying open borders advocates. I don’t discount the need for documentation and security precautions, but I know the vast majority of people who do come to the United States are seeking honest work. Can’t say I’m very impartial on this subject, since I’m the son of immigrants from the Philippines who created a very successful business here in San Francisco. I’d like to believe that 99.99% of all immigrants (legal and undocumented) fit the description of hardworking and dedicated.

Ever since I’ve studied a bit of economics over the past few years, I do agree with global capitalism’s belief that capital should travel freely from place to place, going to where it is needed or wanted. But capital should not only include dollars, euros, etc.; it should also include human capital. People in the world should have the freedom to work where they want, within reasonable bounds. Obviously I’m not looking for terrorists to travel unfettered from one continent to the next, but I believe the fear of terrorism and an over-emphasis on security have led to our entry processes for immigrants being too restrictive.

I believe that immigrants as a whole benefit the United States vastly more than the costs. One could say that the increased demand for consumer goods and services created by immigrants creates new jobs to fulfill that demand. While it is very possible that wages can be driven downward due to increased job market competition by an influx of immigrants (particularly in low-wage jobs), I think a zero-sum competition model for jobs, where a native-born American loses out when a immigrant finds a job here in the U.S., is too simplistic and pessimistic.

When it comes to high-skill careers and college/graduate students wanting to study here, we should be breaking down obstacles to their entry to America, not making new ones. Who’s going to keep Medicare and Social Security going with their payroll tax deductions? That’s right: immigrants.

I think that’s it for now. Haven’t been this worked up in a while.


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