In mid-October 2023, I wrote a draft of a blog post that I didn’t end up posting. I’m running it below, word for word as I wrote it in October. In October, I ran it by a friend who is very pro-immigration and, even though he largely agreed with it, he thought my proposal wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being accepted. The barriers to people immigrating from anywhere, he argued correctly, are just too high. So the idea of letting people in from Gaza didn’t seem worth bothering to push.

He persuaded me. I shouldn’t have been persuaded. Because look at what just has happened. The Biden administration is starting to talk about letting people in from Gaza. Here’s a post from Dave DeCamp from, titled, “White House Considers Taking in Palestinian Refugees from Gaza.”

And here’s a quote from his short post:

The Biden administration is considering taking in certain Palestinian refugees and giving them a permanent safe haven in the US, CBS News reported on Tuesday.

The report said that officials across several government agencies are examining options to resettle Palestinians who have immediate family members who are American citizens or permanent residents. They are also considering making the option available for Palestinians with any relatives who are Americans.

The number of Palestinians eligible for permanent resettlement in the US is expected to be relatively small, but the report said it would mark the first time the US refugee program accepts Palestinians in large numbers.

I should not have accepted the idea that proposals that seem unlikely today will be unlikely 6 or 7 months from now.

Here’s my post from October. I’ve kept the same title.

Or, at least, let some of them in.

Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have been competing recently for the title of who most wants to keep people from Gaza out of the United States. I can’t compete, because I want to allow many of the people from Gaza in to the United States. And even in the likely case that I can’t convince many people, I want to allow many people to leave Gaza. They are not allowed do so now.

Many critics of Israeli government policy have claimed that Israel has made Gaza into an “open-air prison.” But a simple look at a map tells you that that can’t be true. The Israeli government can’t do it alone. What has made Gaza into an open-air prison is the fact that Israel’s government won’t let many Gazans enter Israel and that Egypt’s government won’t let many Gazans enter Egypt. There’s not complete closure for people entering Israel, or, at least, there wasn’t before the horrendous Hamas murders on October 7. Similarly, there hasn’t been, until recently, complete closure into Egypt. But in both cases, it was a trickle.

Of course, there’s one other possible way to exit Gaza: by boat. But Israel’s Navy forcibly prevents people from leaving Gaza by boat.

Let’s imagine that the U.S. government or some other government decides to let in some people from Gaza and that the various governments persuade Israel’s government to let them go. How would a government choose whom to let in?

It should be obvious that it’s a really bad idea to let in members of Hamas or even non-members who strongly support the Hamas agenda of wiping out Jews. And vetting them is not easy. What kinds of records would a government require? When I immigrated to the United States in 1977, I had to get a statement from the RCMP that I had no criminal record in Canada. That was relatively easy to do. Can the U.S. government trust a police force in Gaza to the same extent it could trust the RCMP? Probably not.

In short, I don’t have a good way to suggest for vetting potential immigrants from Gaza. But that doesn’t mean that no one does. In particular, I would want to know what Alex Nowrasteh and David Bier, two immigration analysts and proponents at the Cato Institute, think.

One thing that helps the vetting problem is self-selection. Many people would rather stay in Gaza than leave because they still believe that they can take over Israel and run the Jews into the sea. Fortunately, that’s highly unlikely, but try telling them that.

Better yet, don’t try telling them that. Leave them and choose from the ones who want to come.

Let’s say that the vetting problem is solved. We’re unlikely to get, say one million people from Gaza. It’s more likely to be hundreds of thousands. If it were, say, 200,000, that’s approximately 10 percent of the number of residents. That may not sound like a lot. But one conclusion I came to when I was an economist with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers is that if you solve 10 percent of a problem, and do so with almost no new government spending, you’ve done a lot.

And the way to have almost no government spending, beyond the amount spent on vetting, is to let them work. People coming from Gaza, like immigrants from other low-income countries, would immediately multiply their productivity, as Bryan Caplan has shown in Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. So there would be no need for government to house or feed them.

You might wonder why, then, governments in various cities are breaking their budgets to house and feed immigrants who come in through our southern border. It’s for one main reason: for the first 180 days they’re here, they can’t legally work.

What about the fear that even those who don’t support Hamas will be anti-semitic? This is a reasonable fear. But before Ariel Sharon forcibly removed thousands of Jews from Gaza, those Jews got along reasonably well with many of their Arab neighbors. What changed is that now the only contact most residents of Gaza have ever had with Israelis (the median age of a resident of Gaza is about 19) is with Israeli soldiers or Israeli police. That’s bound to affect, in a negative way, their overall impression of Jews. The late Carlos Ball, whose father was once the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, told me that his father had said, “Never judge a country by its government bureaucracy.” The implication was that the people of any country are almost always nicer than the bureaucrats. If I had had to judge Americans by the way the bureaucrats at the Immigration and Naturalization Service treated me, I wouldn’t have wanted to come. Similarly, many Gazans who come here might well be anti-semitic. But most of them would be too busy making a living and enjoying the incredible wealth that they would be creating. Trade creates peace. It also reduces racism.