Quotable quotes

Pro Open Borders

  • The efficient, egalitarian, libertarian, utilitarian way to double world GDP — Bryan Caplan, title of a blog post
  • If research energy were proportional to the inefficiency of the status quo, virtually every economist would study immigration. And if outrage were proportional to harm, virtually every protest on earth would be in favor of open borders. — Bryan Caplan, the same blog post
  • In effect all I’m proposing is that immigration should be brought under the same international legal framework as emigration. Immigration controls would become the exception rather than the rule, and would need to meet stringent tests in terms of evidence of national catastrophe that threatens the life of the nation, and so would be subject to international standards of fairness and legality. This is far from a picture of borderless, lawless anarchy. — Phillip Cole
  • We can’t exclude anybody from the scope of our moral principles unless there’s a morally relevant difference that justifies us in doing so… And yet we don’t seem to consider that the determination of life prospects by the randomness of birth to be rare and exceptional at all – we just accept it as morally legitimate. But how bizarre is that? — Phillip Cole
  • I find it bizarre that so many people focus on the plight of the least well-off in rich societies, and yet ignore the issue of immigration. From my point of view, if you do not advocate open immigration, any claim to be concerned about social justice or the well being of the poor is mere pretense. When economists estimate the welfare losses from immigration restrictions, they tend to conclude that eliminating immigration restrictions would double world GDP. The poorest immigrants would see the largest gains. The families and friends they leave behind would see large gains. Immigration restrictions expose the worlds’ poor to exploitation. If you have an economic system where everything can be globalised, except poor labour, then you make the world’s poor sitting ducks for exploitation. They can’t go where labour is scarce to get a good deal. They are forced to wait for capital to come find them and give them a bad deal. It’s not just that these restrictions are inefficient. Immigration restrictions impose poverty, suffering, pain, and death on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. — Jason Brennan
  • [T]he problem with immigration restrictions is not that they don’t work. The problem is that they do! — Vipul Naik, part of a blog post.

Pro Immigration

  • Why ruin the world’s best anti-poverty program? — Alex Tabarrok, title of an article on the Independent Institute website.
  • Migration, for me, is where we really encounter the God of the Bible—the God of Abraham, of Exodus, of the great journey — Padre Flor Maria Rigoni
  • Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now practically read it, all men are created equal except negroes. When the Know-nothings [anti-immigration movement] get control, it will read, all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics. When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]. — Abraham Lincoln (see also the Open Borders blog post, Abe Lincoln would be a Russian now)

  • If my kids went to sleep hungry every night and my country didn’t give me an opportunity to feed them, there isn’t a law, no matter how restrictive, that would prevent me from coming here. — Marco Rubio
  • The industrial world currently transfers something on the order of $70 billion a year in overseas development assistance… A recent World Bank study has estimated the benefits of the rich countries allowing just a 3 percent rise in their labor force through relaxing restrictions. The gains from even this modest increase to poor-country citizens are $300 billion—roughly four and a half times that magnitude of foreign aid. What does it cost the rich countries to achieve these massive gains? Actually, according to these same estimates, the current rich-country residents benefit from this relaxation on distortions to labor markets—so the net cost is in reality a net benefit of $51 billion. It would seem that the choice between spending $70 billion on foreign aid for an uncertain magnitude of gains versus a policy change with a net benefit to rich-country residents of $51 billion for gains to the world’s poor of $300 billion would, naively, be an easy one. The crude “cost-effectiveness” of gains to the poor per aggregate cost to the rich country is infinitely larger. But rather than increasing commitments to expanding labor mobility as a complement to assistance, one estimate is that the total spent by just five industrial countries on preventing these labor flows is $17 billion—a substantial fraction of what they spend to help others. — Lant Pritchett
  • Today, we are “protecting” ourselves as we were in 1924, against being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe. This is fantastic…We do not need to be protected against immigrants from these countries–on the contrary we want to stretch out a helping hand, to save those who have managed to flee into Western Europe, to succor those who are brave enough to escape from barbarism, to welcome and restore them against the day when their countries will, as we hope, be free again….These are only a few examples of the absurdity, the cruelty of carrying over into this year of 1952 the isolationist limitations of our 1924 law. In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration. — Harry Truman, vetoing the US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952
  • Every visa officer today lives in fear that he will let in the next Mohammad Atta. As a result, he is probably keeping out the next Bill Gates. — Fareed Zakaria
  • The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment. — George Washington

Immigration Law

  • That it took the Supreme Court in 2010 to tell us that non-citizens are entitled to be made aware of the full dimensions of their legal peril should be understood, I think, as a kind of wake-up call. In this nation of immigrants and their descendants, we have become so obsessed with rooting out, locking up and packing off those whom we decide should not be permitted to remain among us that we are in danger of losing a moral center of gravity. — Linda Greenhouse
  • Here we are talking about two crimes. One is a small amount of marijuana. He gets 20 days in jail. The other is a pill that I never heard of, a Xan-something, and he gets what, 10 days in jail for that. If you could just present this scenario to an intelligent person who didn’t go to law school, that you are going to not only remove him from this country, but say ‘Never, ever darken our doors again’ because of one marijuana cigarette and one Xan-something pill — it, it just seems to me that if there is a way of reading the statute that would not lead to that absurd result, you would want to read the statute …. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg