Debate – What Would Happen if America Opened its Borders?

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.

In this clip, Prof. Ting argues that open borders would result in an enormous increase in the number of immigrants to the United States. He points out that there are so many opportunities here that people would come in huge numbers from less developed countries. The strain on the United States infrastructure and environment could be enormous.

In his response, Prof. Caplan argues that the fact people would want to come in such great numbers is, in his mind, an argument favoring open borders. People should be living in places where they can achieve their potential. For many people around the world, this means they need to move. Would this have effects on the U.S. economy? Absolutely. Prof. Caplan argues that in the short run, housing prices would probably increase, for example. In addition, we may see a move to having personal servants, as many of the low-skilled workers in the world have skill sets that fall below the lowest-skilled workers in the United States. To offset pressures on the environment, Prof. Caplan recommends increasing costs for pollution and other environmental hazards.
What do you think? Do you think the fact that many people would want to immigrate to the United States is an argument in favor or against opening the borders?


  1. Anonymous

    I reckon that immigration can really be an incentive for economic growth, providing good, reliable working hands for the economy.  

  2. agavin2342

    Really interesting perspectives. I found it interesting that their points were the inverse of each other’s. However I have to say that I am against open borders, I think it’s dangerous, as the US couldn’t necessarily hold influx of the millions that would immigrate into this country. However, I do see the positives of increased immigration, just in a manner that is more controlled. 

  3. libertyiowa

    The nanny state that United States now has did not exist when the great floods of immigration occurred in the 18th & 19th centuries. Wouldn’t any comprehensive immigration plan that essentially opened the borders to anyone to legally immigrate to the United States have to include comprehensive social programming reform (or elimination)?  

  4. Ryan Boyd

    It would be interesting, because I agree that there are dangers into just opening the flood gates. However, I have to say I think that any problems like overcrowding may actually lead to amazing innovations that wouldn’t occur otherwise. Creating such conditions may seem bad, but necessity is the mother of innovation.

  5. Ryan Boyd

    That would depend. In my opinion, many of the social programs like Social Security are unsustainable for my generation anyways. However, you could try to string things along if they were working by simply having these new immigrants put into the system as much as they take out. This of course would require sustainable programs though, which we really don’t have.

  6. cmjohnson732

    I think we need to tighten up the border security but cut much of the red tape that makes it hard for immigrants to earn their citizenship. The quotas from different regions or countries are ridiculous. We need to have a first come first serve system.

  7. Danina Massey

    help there land to build business so they wouldnt want to leave opinion

  8. cleonwilson

    what about the 92 million americans not working here right now

  9. C Myers

    Why tighten border security? It would be more economically beneficial to just let people come and go as they please, especially if people see employment opportunities just miles over the border.

  10. Anonymous

    The fact is that the United States already has too large a population.  Canada and Australia have similiar land mass areas with only about a tenth of the population.  Their standard of living is higher than the US,  they have better social safety nets, and their citizens are happier, more secure and have greater economic opportunity.   Much of the US’s natural habitat has already been destroyed by unchecked immigration.  It’s nothing like the unspoiled land that it was 400 years ago.  Don’t we owe it to our children to not destroy what is left?  If we fill it up today,  there are unknown consequences down the line to our descendants. 

  11. Anonymous

    Didn’t you hear?  The fact that your neighbor can’t find a job and feed his family should be irrelevant and is no reason we can’t provide a job to someone on the other side of the world and feed his family.  Lets improve his lot in life, while simultaneously destroying our neighbor.  Those arguing for this say,  well we could fix that by just providing welfare to your neighbors family.  I don’t think that is good for the neighbor or our country.  Talk about breeding resentment and anger!

  12. Anonymous

    Yes,  we do need quotas from different countries and regions.  If you took half the population of India and let them immigrate here, then you have just committed genocide on America and marginalized the American culture, language and citizens. 

  13. Tonihka

    Thank you for doing this. 

  14. Ian A

    Dr. Caplan is the best!

  15. Lukas Koube

    one day i would like to be as smart as Dr. Caplan!

  16. Anonymous

    I think there would be a huge increase  of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment throughout, but especially around certain areas where immigrants would land. Most people who are moving out of those poverous places, who won’t have a ton of money on hand, would be greated by the higher living costs of America. 

    On a plus side, there would be an increase in the manual labor workforce; which is a definite need right now.
  17. Anonymous

    The U.S. needs to quickly increase immigration, we are larger than China in land mass if you include Alaska, yet we have about 1/5 of their population, of course many more people can live here, maybe even double of what we already have.  We are a big country and have a huge carrying capacity. Look at all the communities in the Midwest, the rust belt, the Southwest and other places that have been abandoned and could use some sprucing up.  Immigrants would be glad to come in and regenerate economic activity in so many depressed areas of the country.  Of course we need immigrants with skills knowledge and wealth.  The problem is if we don’t, China and India, with their huge internal markets will soon overtake us.  More people = more profits, that’s why all the big companies think the U.S. market is small potatoes and are focusing on Asia, that’s where the money is. 

  18. rafaoz

    thanks dr. caplan!

  19. Andremaia

    We already know what can happen if we open our borders, because we can look at our history.

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