Regulatory Review, a publication affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s regulatory program, just released my new article on How Immigration Restrictions Harm US Citizens as well as Potential Immigrants. Here is an excerpt:
Immigration policies are often designed by comparing the interests of potential immigrants with those of American-born Americans. Indeed, it is true that immigration restrictions seriously harm potential migrants, many of whom are relegated to lives of poverty and oppression simply because they were born to the wrong parents or in the wrong place. But restrictions also often inflict severe economic damage and injustice on contemporary American citizens. This damage is often only briefly summarized in public discourse and is often excluded from standard estimates of the burden on the US economy from government regulation. But they’re real anyway …
The successful development of two COVID-19 vaccines (one that has just been approved by regulators in the US and elsewhere, and one that is likely to be approved soon) could end the epidemic that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the US the whole world. It is important that both vaccines were developed by companies run by immigrants or children of immigrants.
Few immigrants are likely to make contributions on the scale of the COVID-19 vaccines. However, excluding large numbers of migrants inevitably means excluding some who could make extraordinary progress. And the loss of even those few is a huge cost.
In addition, even “normal” immigrants collectively make enormous economic contributions.
Perhaps we should take in migrants who are likely to become valuable workers but keep most of the others away. However, this reasoning assumes that the government can do a good job by distributing labor and predicting which people will make useful contributions. It is unlikely that this assumption is true. If it were healthy, the Soviet Union would have been a great economic success.
Many of the greatest scientists and entrepreneurs with a migrant background came from humble backgrounds and, according to current proposals, would have been excluded from so-called “performance-oriented” immigration. The world is full of people with humble initial qualifications who can achieve great things in a society that offers them meaningful opportunities to do so. By excluding them, we shoot ourselves in the foot….
Economic damage is a far cry from the only cost of migration restrictions to American citizens. The law enforcement apparatus that has been put in place to detain and deport undocumented migrants inevitably threatens the civil liberties of all Americans.
Because of the weak protection from due process in the immigration enforcement system, the federal government detains and sometimes deports thousands of US citizens each year after mistaking them for undocumented immigrants.
The last part of the article briefly summarizes how the potential negative effects of migration can be addressed without excluding people. I discuss this topic in more detail in Chapter 6 of my book, Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom.