Immigration as a Civil Right
By Bryan Caplan
Many today who oppose open immigration, despite having immigrant antecedents, say things like “Well, my grandparents came the right way.” Sure. That’s because they were allowed to. In the 1920s, Ellis Island was sometimes referred to as “The Island of Tears.” Why? Because back then 1-2% of immigrants were turned away. Today, the numbers are reversed. The vast majority of would-be immigrants know that the waiting list for them to get into the US lasts longer than their lifetimes, especially when those lifetimes are shortened by war and famine.
Even if you don’t want more immigrants, the moral case for immigration is clear: If someone can make a better life for her or himself by moving across a border, you shouldn’t stop them unless there are very good reasons. I admit, there may be such reasons, at least in principle. Opponents of more open immigration often cite crime, terrorism, welfare expenses, cultural differences, and so on. In Open Borders, we are at pains to use logic and stats to show that these concerns are either overblown or simply wrong on the facts. Indeed, the available evidence shows immigrants contribute to our wealth and safety while becoming part of our culture as rapidly as they did back in the days of predominantly European immigration.
But suppose you’re already tending toward our side of this discussion. I want to nudge you a little farther. I want you to think of free movement across borders as not just a matter of humanitarianism, not just a matter of good policy, but as an issue of civil rights, in the same tradition as those of Milk, and King, and Stanton, and indeed others yet to come.
The tentative release date for our book, Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, is October 2019. You’ll know about pre-ordering when we do…