Tools for Discussions

Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders

Written by Simon  
Friday, 23 May 2008
In this new book about the immigration debate Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders by Jason Riley performs an important service. He carefully takes each of the anti-immigrant arguments and presents good data, both historical and current to show why each of them is wrong.

He deals with demographics - we need workers, economics - they don’t steal jobs, welfare - they are here to work, terrorism - economic migrant are not a threat to security and assimilation – Latin American immigrants are acculturating at about the same rate as prior immigrants. In chapter five he looks at why the Republican Party chose to take the path of nativism in the 2006 congressional elections, why it hasn’t worked in the short run and will be a disaster for them in the long run.
He saves his toughest criticism for the right wing talk radio hosts who demagogue the Latin American immigrants for ratings and the multiculturalist professors on the left who gave them fodder.
Riley presents his arguments and facts from a free market capitalist point of view and he uses what Ronald Reagan said and did about immigration, including signing ICRA in 1986, as a thread to continually point out the hypocrisy of those who claim to be free market Reagan Republicans but oppose immigration. He also points out that the failure of ICRA was that it didn’t increase legal immigration to the level where it met the needs of our growing economy and therefore planted the seeds of this “immigration crisis”
The book has three shortcomings that will allow both sides to attack it. First is the lack of footnotes. Both sides of the debate will question some of the data and access to the source documents would have strengthened the book. Second it is entirely about the effect of immigration on the current residents of the US. It doesn’t mention the effect on the places that the immigrants leave and on the well being of the world in general. A new book by Lant Pritchett “Let Their People Come” does deal with the these issues and is worth reading in addition to this book. And third he fails to mention the ethical question raised by immigration laws that judge people’s merit based on the accident of their birthplace.
Riley’s book is the well-reasoned “rebuttal to some of the most common anti-immigrant arguments” he set out to write. Well done.