Immigration: My Eyes Work Fine
By Bryan Caplan
Critics of my open borders advocacy often accuse me of intellectual blindness, of living in a fantasy world of my own creation. So rather than rehash any of my arguments or review the academic evidence yet again, I’m going to celebrate Open Borders Day by listing the facts about immigration I see with my own two eyes.
1. I see immigrants – legal and illegal – working hard, without complaining, struggling to make a better life for themselves and their families.
2. I see immigrants – legal and illegal – contributing far more to the world than they could possibly have done at home.
3. I see natives happy to hire and patronize immigrants – and rarely fretting about these immigrants’ legal status.
4. I see that people call me out of touch because I live in Fairfax instead of in a poor immigrant neighborhood. But they don’t think themselves out
of touch because they live in America instead of the Third World.
5. I see that almost all natives break the law on a regular basis. Almost everyone drives over 55 mph on the freeway, for starters. But few natives feel guilty about breaking laws that seem unreasonable, and almost no one wants to crack down on natives who break such laws.
6. The typical illegal immigrant who “went back where he came from” would drastically reduce his family’s standard of living and make the world a poorer place. If following the 55 mph speed limit is unreasonable, so is following U.S. immigration law – to put it mildly. But I see the same natives who break laws every day condemn illegal immigrants as criminals, and yearn to crack down on them.
7. If the typical low-skilled immigrant stayed home and tried to improve his political system, he would have near-zero chance of success. But I see that natives are quick to condemn immigrants for failing to reform their polities.
8. Virtually all of the complaints leveled against immigrants also apply to many natives. I see that native women who enter the workforce make life harder for native men competing for the same jobs. I see that low-income natives who have children cost taxpayers money. I see that young natives vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
9. These standard complaints about immigrants are widely viewed as a good reason to exile immigrants to their often wretched birth countries. When the same complaints are leveled against natives, though, the standard reactions I see are apathy, fatalism, and even denial.
10. The standard complaints about immigrants are widely treated as good reasons to exile virtually all immigrants to their often wretched birth countries – even when the specific complaint plainly doesn’t apply to many immigrants. For example, when people complain about immigrant crime, I never see them say, “Since young males commit virtually all serious crime, this is obviously only an argument against young male immigrants.”
11. Most arguments for immigration restriction are equally good arguments for government regulation of natives’ fertility. But I see that almost everyone favors immigration restrictions, and almost no one favors fertility restrictions.
12. I see that almost everything immigrants do makes their critics angry. The critics are angry when immigrants work, and angry when they’re on welfare. The critics are angry if immigrants are visible, and angry if immigrants keep to themselves. The critics are angry if immigrants increase housing prices and angry if immigrants reduce housing prices.
13. I see that human beings have a strong bias against out-groups – but partially restrain these biases to avoid social disapproval.
14. I see that, in our society, this social disapproval is unusually mild when the out-group is current illegal immigrants, and near-zero when the out-group is would-be illegal immigrants.
Put it all together, and what do I see? I see human beings without the good fortune to be born in the First World escaping poverty through honest toil. I see these largely admirable people singled out for public scorn and legal persecution. And I see that the reason for their ill-treatment is not that they’re breaking the law, taking jobs, using welfare, or any other choice they make, but because the foreigners in our midst and the foreigners at the gates are the last easy outlets for out-group bias.