The lies about immigration keeping the borders open

by Fabius Maximus

Summary: Advocates for open borders rely on a series of fallacies. They are unquestioned in the major news media, but easily debunked.


(1) We need immigrants to keep the economy growing!

This is endlessly said, but has little basis in fact or logic. There are three easy rebuttals.

First, we are beginning a new industrial revolution. Another wave of automation will destroy millions — perhaps tens of millions — of jobs. A shrinking labor force will be a blessing, especially if we educate them well (which our present system does poorly). Bringing in large numbers of poorly educated people to become socially disruptive unemployed is quite daft.

The second reason is more fundamental. An increasing population boosts GDP. That’s arithmetic. That’s nice for the people that own America, who benefit directly from rising GDP. But the rest of us care nothing about national GDP. We care about per capita GDP. How much does GDP rise for the average person? The evidence shows that bringing in vast numbers of unskilled and poorly educated migrants does little for us. Why would anyone believe otherwise?

An even better measure of growth is that of real per capita personal income. America’s borders were opened to migrants in the 1970’s — with the promise to Americans of faster growth. Since then grow has sloweddecade after decade. See the interactive graphs at the Regional Economic Analysis Project (REAP). The bottom line

  • 1960-69: 3.5% — The golden years,
  • 1970-79: 2.3% — The terrible 1970s, in which the borders were opened (not so terrible, in hindsight).
  • 1980-98: 2.2% — The Reagan Revolution. Tax cut didn’t work,
  • 1990-99: 2.0% — The tech boom. It didn’t work, even before the bust!
  • 2000-09: 1.2% — The Bush Jr. years. Tax cuts didn’t work, again,
  • 2010-17: 1.6% — The expansion following the worst recession since the Great Depression. It is piss poor. God only knows what the results will be after the next recession.

Third, increasing population requires expensive additions to US infrastructure. Sewers, water supply, electricity, transportation, etc. But poor, uneducated, unskilled workers (ignoring the number of young and elderly migrants) cannot generate the tax revenue to pay for these upgrades. Hence the increasingly dire state of many US cities — even after the second longest expansion in US history (one that is still running strong).

Fourth, immigration offsets one of the great benefits of the modern era. Fewer people plus less-polluting technology could radically reduce the burden we place on America’s environment. With a stable or falling America, our nation could become a high-tech garden.

For more about this see what is happening in Japan (the extreme example): Must our population grow to ensure prosperity? — Spoiler: no!

(2) Americans always loved massive immigration

“{Excess workers form} a disposable industrial reserve army … a mass of human material always ready for exploitation.”
— Marx’s Das Capital, expanding upon Friedrich Engels’ insight. They got a few things right.

America easily absorbed high rates of immigration during most of the the 19th century, with economic growth fueled by expansion on the frontier (mostly conquests from Mexico and Native Americans) and the fantastic innovations of the late 19th century (faster innovation than we’ve seen since 1960; details here).

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Growth slowed for many reasons after the “closing of the frontier” around 1890 (the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886). Real per capita GDP grew at roughly 2%/year from 1870 to 1890. But in the 17 years of 1907 – 1924, growth was only 1.2%/year.

The American people understood that our ruling elites used immigrants to depress wages. Sometimes by changing the balance of supply and demand for labor. Sometimes by using immigrants as strike-breakers. So pressure slowly grew to restrict immigration. We got the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907 to limit immigration from Japan, the Immigration Act of 1917, the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924.

The Great Depression brought even sterner measures. Liberal icon FDR firmly closed the door to immigrants and forced the repatriation of Mexican workers.

With wages sheltered by low rates of immigration, a large middle class in America was rebuilt (the deflation and frequent depressions of the late 19th century had crushed America’s craftsman and small farmers). Unions grew and wages began the long rise.

The 1% worked to reverse these gains. By 1970 their efforts began to bear fruit. We forgot that the middle class existed behind the shelter of a wall around America, and we allowed our elites to slowly open the borders. The news media floods America with pro-immigrant propaganda (e.g., adopting the term “dreamers” for illegal immigrants).

Now the middle class melts away, like last year’s snow.

(3) All migrants are the same

This is the big lie. It is daft, but a major assumption of most arguments for massive immigration — or even open borders. Migrants are migrants, a boon to the host no matter if they come from a functioning society or a failed state. If they are educated or illiterate. If they bring valuable resources or flood a nation with unneeded unskilled labor. If they are willing to assimilate or determined not to do so. If we intend to foster integration (as America did during the early 20th century) or spurned assimilation (multiculturalism).

It is as if we went insane, believing that delicious food could be made by randomly throwing together whatever we found in the kitchen. Spices, meats, vegetables, dairy foods, and cleaning supplies.


“Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!”
— Advice to a junior tempter from Uncle Screwtape. From C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

None of these assumptions can withstand two minutes scrutiny. But that is not a problem for America’s propagandists. And it will not be until we again become skeptical. That is a prerequisite for reform in America, as described in these posts.


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