Debate – What to Do about Immigration

The United States has laws in place to limit the number of immigrants granted entry. How many immigrants should be allowed to call America home? Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, argues that the United States should have open borders. Jan Ting, professor of law at Temple University, argues that there need to be limits on the number of immigrants.

Prof. Caplan argues that immigration laws deny basic human rights. All people deserve to have the opportunity for a better life and should not be penalized simply for being born on the wrong side of a border. The supposed negative effects of free immigration are greatly overstated at best and often opposite the truth. Open border policies are estimated to lead to a doubling of global productivity, too. Immigrants pay about as much in tax as they use in benefits. And, he argues, there are cheaper and more humane remedies for dealing with any costs of immigration than preventing people from entering the country.

Prof. Ting argues that while he has deep respect for immigrants, there are valid reasons for not having completely open borders. He states that the United States has the most generous immigration policy in the world, and that limiting the number of immigrants allowed each year helps immigrants better assimilate. He expresses concern that open borders would create an influx of people too great for our infrastructure and that they may put undue pressure on the environment.

Is immigration an issue of morality? Can it be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis? Does a cost-benefit analysis even suggest limitations? Watch the video and tell us what you think.


  1. connornll


  2. andrei.roibu

    Bryan Caplan is right. Inferior cultures or people from less developed backgrounds will always want to go and work for more value. These people will work more, better for less than the native workers, thus producing plus value, not only for big business, but both for the adoptive communities and for their native communities. Moreover, a lot of studies show that immigrants do no harm to their adoptive communities, in terms of taking away jobs and benefits. The conclusion: immigration is as old as humanity and it’s here to stay. Moreover, immigration never destroyed anyone; IT ACTUALLY MADE THEM BETTER. 

  3. Anonymous

    I believe that Prof. Caplan is ignoring the enormous problem of poverty, and inequality, in this country.  We are already facing a crisis of homelessness.  If we allow significantly more people to immigrate (say at least double), that problem will almost certainly increase.  Also, we are already seeing signs of malnutrition and hunger in our most vulnerable.  Food banks and other resources are stretched thin.
    Related to this, the people living in poorer countries are not necessarily less skilled, they are just lower paid.  The average wage in Nigeria may be much lower than in America, but the cost of living is also lower.  You would need around 5,261.60$ in San Jose, CA (where I live) to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 3,600.00$ in Lagos, Nigeria, or $1,300 in Delhi, India.  The average salary (after taxes) in Delhi is $553.59, in Lagos $739.37, and in San Jose $4,494.50.  US minimum wage before taxes is $1,256/mo for a full-time job.  San Jose just increased our minimum wage to $1,733/mo for a full-time job.
    I am all for a more just immigration system, and hope that a greater percentage of those who want to become citizens will be allowed to do so.  However, opening up our borders completely would likely increase the already problematic inequality in this country.  Increasing foreign aid and stopping the systematic oppression of other countries for short-sighted gains to our own (we have a history of this, especially in warfare and extraction of resources) is a better long-term solution.  Plenty of people only immigrate because they can’t see any opportunities in their home country.  Wouldn’t it be better if they could?

  4. Grady Flanagan

    The biggest issue that needs to be fixed is fixing the illegal immigration problem. There are two ways to do this. Close the borders or change the tax system. The two arguments against immigration center on security and taxes. If you are concerned greatly about security because for every 10 or 100 good immigrants we let in, a bad one comes in, then that is nearly impossible to fix. The tax problem could be fixed via a consumption tax instead of an income tax. 

  5. jgreene

    Immigration should always be accomplished in a lawful, systematic process. I too am not willing to bet the republic on open boarders and free/unlimited immigration. Whether people want to face it or not, the fact is, the country does not have an unlimited monetary supply to provide for and bridge the gap for the social services illegal immigrants generally require. 

  6. Lukas Koube

    when the government centrally plans healthcare we end up with worse healthcare that is more expensive. when the government plans immigration we end up with worse immigration that costs america dearly. 

    we force the smartest people back to their own country after we educate them…we give the for incentive criminals to cross the border…these laws will destroy the nation. 
  7. Lev Burov

    To answer Lukas Koube, on his point of government controlled immigration.

    While the critique is based on generally sound libertarian principles, it disregards the reality of the fact that we do not live in a libertarian system. There is an immense amount of welfare in the States, and so an open border would be nothing less than an invitation to free money for everyone in the world.

    Had we no free government social services, that argument would have much more weight.

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