Immigration Debate Topic

"The topic for the Spring [Global Debates] campaign reads: All states should immediately ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families." (Global Debates)


Young people should understand, I think, that claims of "social rights" have the unintended consequence of blocking migration. "Social rights" claims usually turn out to be welfare rights claims, providing "free" (i.e. state-funded) education, medical, and housing services for poor migrants.

And it is just these fears of expanded welfare expenses for immigrants that push middle-income, everyday people, in the U.S. at least, into the anti-immigration camp.

If instead the topic were viewed as a freedom of association issue, and a rights and responsibilities issue, then a "freedom of responsible migration" would be more compelling. And students could learn of the thousands of associations that voluntarily assist immigrants (for both nonprofit and for-profit reasons).

Philippe Legrain makes compelling arguments on immigration issues, drawing from international data: here and here (though from 2007).

[Revised] 2007-2008 NCFCA Team Policy

Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially change its policy on illegal immigration.

September 2009 Public Forum Topic: Resolved: United States policy on illegal immigration should focus on attrition through enforcement rather than amnesty.

Krieble Trumpets Outsourcing of Paperless Immigration Overhaul

The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation today praised an Administration plan to overhaul the nation 's immigration services agency, using a consortium of private-sector contractors to alter the way the government handles millions of visa applications, the citizenship process and work permits. The five-year plan to convert U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services case-management system from paper to electronic systems, and outsourcing the implementation to private companies that can easily handle the workload, is part of a new plan the Foundation has been pushing for years... read more on

A Non-Immigrant Worker program

Krieble The Krieble Foundation proposes a private-sector approach to handling guest workers. Get the federal government out of the way and let employers cover all costs for temporary workers they wish to hire from Mexico. Allow the private sector to certify immigrant workers are "safe" and won't be a burden on taxpayers. Allow sponsoring firms to cover all their costs so that the benefits gained by U.S. employers and immigrant workers are not subsidized by taxpayers coving welfare, school, hospital, or other costs. Details here.

The Wall: The Cost of Securing our Southern Border, video from Reason TV

reasonTB At a time when pundits and politicians of all stripes endorse securing the border between the United States and Mexico, travels south to see what's really going on and what the human and monetary costs are of amping up border patrols. Watch the video, read more...

Let Them In: The Case For Open Borders, by Jason Riley

Cato Book Forum for Let Them In

Their Friend, the State

Book review from Wall Street Journal - [Mr. Goldberg notes that Herbert Croly of The New Republic, whose book "The Promise of American Life" was a founding document of modern statist liberalism, defended Mussolini by comparing fascist violence to the (implicitly justified) martial means by which Lincoln preserved the Union.

"Croly was also something of a eugenicist, saying that the state needed to "interfere on behalf of the really fittest." And indeed, American liberalism once had a strong eugenicist strain. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a close ally of the white supremacist Lothrop Stoddard, the author of "The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy." Eugenics was at the time the natural expression of the Progressives' public-health movement. Mr. Goldberg does not hesitate to note that it proved to be an inspiration for the Nazi Party. ... ] Link to rest of the WSJ review article.

The link to immigration policy? These same eugenics enthusiasts were responsible for U.S. immigration restrictions similarly designed to keep out a "rising tide of color." Even the Southern and Eastern Europeans were seen as darker and less welcome than earlier immigrants from northern Europe. Goldberg's book is less than perfect, according to the WSJ review. The classic book comparing fascism in Germany, Italy, and the U.S. is still John T. Flynn's As We Go Marching. -- Greg Rehmke

A Surgeon’s Path From Migrant Fields to Operating Room

A Conversation With Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa A Surgeon’s Path From Migrant Fields to Operating Room... read the New York Times interview

I wish my American friends could be here with me

TCSDailyI wish my American friends who fret about Mexican immigrants could be here with me. Listening to Emiliano Zapata, a laborer who happens to be the grandson and namesake of the legendary Mexican revolutionary, they perhaps would get a clearer sense of how the migration of Mexicans originated a few decades ago and why it continues today. Read the artcle from TCS Daily

War on the Middle Class

Lou Dobbs is definitely upset with 500 economists who signed a letter in support of immigration to America. This YouTube post of the Lou Dobbs segment on "open immigration" begins with a short clip of Ben Powell arguing that economists favor economic freedom, which emcompasses free trade and open immigration. It is worth noting that most economists who signed the letter (including many Nobel Prize winners) would favor a transition process that would allow a transition from current, historically restrictive immigration levels, to market levels (historically restrictive, that is, when considered as a percent of U.S. population). And most economists who signed the Independent Institute open Letter on Immigration would not support continued expensive and wastful welfare programs that spend taxpayer money on often unneeded and unwanted government programs for immigrants. Wasteful welfare programs do fit into Mr. Dobbs' "War on the Middle Class" theme. Immigration, however, does not, as Ben Powell shows in a KQED documentary, most immigrants have skill levels above or below the middle class, so their labor actually contributes to middle-class job and income gains. Separate KQED documentary on immigration economics, which explains the economic benefits from both high-skill an low-skill legal and illegal immigrants is here.

Immigration case ideas... (initial thoughts...)

New federal govt. policy for illegal immigrants: "Sorry, no voting until you are a citizen..." NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants ran into trouble. The WSJ wrote: "Providing illegal immigrants with a driver's license wouldn't qualify them for public benefits, jobs or legal residency. But it enrages immigration opponents, who see it as the government making life easier for lawbreakers, says Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which argues for reduced immigration." (Nov. 1, p. A6). The WSJ's John Fund writes of a related issue with driver's licenses for illegal immigrants: easy voter registration. Mr. Fund has written extensively on voter fraud, and on strategies by various welfare advocacy groups to register large numbers of new voters among democratic party constituencies. He fears similar efforts will register large numbers of illegal immigrants to vote. With an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in New York old enough to drive, the concern is that the govt. doesn't check to see if those who register really are citizens. And Mr. Fund notes: "After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote." Ideally, terrorists in the U.S. illegally would not be allowed to vote.

Private prisons for criminals who are illegal immigrants. Why should taxpayers fork over millions for expensive government prisons to house immigrants who have commited actual crimes? Instead, allow private firms to operate these prisons, and allow employers to hire prisoners. From wages, prisoners should pay for their food and "housing" and provide restitution to victims. The affirmative has the power to fiat such prisons, and extensive studies by the Reason Foundation show the clear benefits of privately-managed prisons. Government should have oversight and prisoners should be able to chose among both prisons and job opportunities. Reason Foundation page on private prisons here. Who lobbies for more expensive government prisons and against privately-operated prisons? Well, prison guard unions, for one.

Let juries decide. Juries were nullifying slavery county by county according to historian and economist Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (Emancipating Slaves; Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War). Juries ultimately decide which laws apply in their communities and regions. More and more Americans felt slavery was evil, or at least that the runaway slave act was immoral, and they were refusing to vote guity in local cases of runaway slaves captured for return to slavery in the south. Similarly, if juries were to decide on when captured illegal immigrants were to be imprisoned or returned to Haiti or Mexico, communities would be able to shape how anti-immigration laws are applied in their community. Where illegal immigrants commit actual crimes against citizens (or other immigrants), see private prison plan, above. But when they are just picking lettuce, building houses, or working in factories, maybe local juries would not see the harm and refuse to convict...

Economic vs. political liberties. U.S. immigration and refugee policies try to distinguish between those wishing to come to the U.S. for political reasons and those coming for economic reasons. The government view is that this matters. Political liberties matter more to the zillions of political science majors serving in government than do claims for economic liberty. Government can't stop you from public speech, no matter how irritating or offensive, but to start a business, well, you need a permit for that. Performing naked is considered a free-speech issue, but performing work, well, that is a matter local, state, and federal bureaucrats will have to first approve. This twisted Constitutional reality stems from the New Deal era when the Roosevelt Administration clamped down on business in order to try to keep prices and employment up (thus accidently prolonging the Great Depression). But to force business owners to do what government economists thought would help, there was the problem of "obligations of contract" that the Constitution said should not be interfered with. So the Supreme Court, after being threatened and reconstituted, voted that the Federal government could intervene in any economic matters they chose, as long as they didn't interfere with freedoms of speech and religion. So... immigration and refugee policy favors these political liberties, and tries similarly to discount and discourage anyone wishing to come to the U.S. for "merely" economic reasons. A debate on Immigration and Economic Liberty here. Bernard Siegan's classic Economic Liberties and the Constitution (on Google) is one place to start. Richard Epstein's recent How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution is highly recommended.

Polls show voters want lower immigration levels

Polls show voters want lower immigration levels.

Why not commission polls to show voters want higher immigration levels? Sir Humphrey Appleby shows how surveys really work.

Watch how in this clip from "Yes, Prime Minister" the acclaimed British comedy series (Margaret Thatcher's favorite show).

Who's Gonna Do the Work?

immigration Read the full article in Forbes, Aug. 2007.

High schoolers beat MIT in robotics contest

High schoolers beat MIT in robotics contest...

The case in Bond, Migration Bond

The case in Bond, Migration Bond... All those undocumented in the U.S. apply for a key document. An insurance bond, offered by insurance companies, "The insurance company make sure he isn't on a terrorist watch list or wanted for any crimes." Employer can pay insurance premium on immigration bond that would allow three years of work in the U.S. (and the insurance would be for any health, welfare, or other expense that might otherwise fall to taxpayers.) For details see this Sept. 17th Forbes article.

KQED Immigration documentary

KQED Immigration Calculations documentary (free to stream). Four economists analyze recent immigration. Positive spillover effects. Immigrant labor (legal and illegal) complements U.S. labor due to difference in immigrant labor skills sets (high and low) and U.S. citizens (mostly medium skills). Problems of new immigrant drains on social "services" discussed.

A Simpler, Better Immigration Plan

(link now to Atlantic Online)

Immigration 'Solutions' by Thomas Sowell (April 11, 2006)

Immigrant engineers have created more new jobs in America than the total number of immigrant engineers over the last 20 years. Separate Forbes article The Implications of Immigrant Entrepreneurship here.

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: Mexican Immigration Filmed on August 26, 2003. Victor Davis Hanson is fascinating in this discussion culture, color and California. Richard Rodriguez is fascinating on the "Americanization of Mexico." How Mexican immigrants have taken American culture back with them as they migrated between cultures. Hanson focuses on problems caused by inadequate education of immigrants (thanks in large part to mismanaged government schools). Rodriguez: Latin American is being converted by United States missionaries to evangelical Christianity...

My favorite article on immigration... According to Massey "The rate of undocumented migration, adjusted for population growth, to the United States has not increased in 20 years." What has decreased, thanks to a massive increase in government spending on border control, is the rate of return of illegal immigrants. Where before 50% would return to Mexico within 12 months, now only 25% do. The Border Patrol's annual budget has risen from $200 million to $1.6 billion and staffing has increased from 2,500 to 12,000. The unintended consequence of this expanded border control effort has been to keep illegal immigrants in the U.S. longer, by making return trips harder and more expensive. Massey notes: "The only thing we have to show for two decades of border militarization is a larger undocumented population than we would otherwise have, a rising number of Mexicans dying while trying to cross, and a growing burden on taxpayers for enforcement that is counterproductive." (guest editorial, New York Times, April 4, 2006).

More on Massay's Mexican Migration Project empirical research in this Cato Unbound post (August, 2006).

Better treatment for immigrants... Here are some general thoughts, revised slightly from an earlier post... An affirmative could focus on immigrants obeying original Constitutional rules and common-sense matters (such as having adequate insurance so as not to be a burden on taxpayers for hospital stays or car accidents). Those living peacefully in the U.S. with informal social approval, but not government sanction, should be treated at least as rights-bearing individuals. Immigrants (legal or otherwise) have no claim to vote nor absorb government (taxpayer) funds via hospitals, welfare, schools (or jails!) until they become citizens (then they are welcome to share our jails and public schools...).

All people have a natural right to economic freedom that they do not lose when they cross political boundaries. These rights do not include tresspassing on private property, of course. The obvious problem for these immigrants is that their first act in the U.S. is the break the law of the land by entering the country unlawfully.

Recent debates over immigration center on the welfare state and on politics (recent immigrants tend to vote for the party that grants them legal residence, so democrats have strong incentives to delay immigration reform until the next democratic administration).

Before the New Deal and the welfare state that emerged from massive federal intervention into the U.S. economy, it didn't matter much whether a Mexican or Italian or German was in the U.S. to live and work, or as a citizen. Recent immigrants had no claim on other people's money and transactions between recent immigrants and long-time residents were voluntary.

America's fast-expanding factories of the early 1900s drew millions of immigrants from Europe and Asia. Impoverished immigrants came and worked, earned substantial incomes, and many returned home wealthy (especially Italians...see Thomas Sowell's excellent book Ethnic America for migration patterns through American history). Those that stayed to become U.S. citizens, sent millions of dollars home helping to much improve their home countries, and slowing migration pressure in the process (see especially Roger Daniels' Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life for details).

The U.S. Constitution doesn't seem to allow much of the welfare state that has emerged since the New Deal (see John Stossel Goes to Washington for a quick overview). (But, of course, the Supreme Court decides how the Constitution's word are interpreted.) One affirmative case might allow new immigrants a visitor/guest/sojourner status where they voluntarily opt-out of welfare claims, including public school claims, in return for staying in the U.S. Taxpayers would no longer fear increased immigration might overcrowd hospitals and schools and raise taxes or deficits.

It is labor unions that have historically been the main institutional opposition to immigration. Unions feared that immigrants would be brought in to break strikes and to generally push down wage rates. However, this fear is based in large part on economic ignorance and misunderstandings (as is so much federal legislation). There is no limit to the number of jobs in an economy. New workers may drive down wages in some industries, but at the same time push wages up in other industries. And if U.S. wages are significantly higher than wages for similar jobs in other countries, manufacturing will move to other countries, as is happening in the auto and auto parts industry.

Excerpts from: Closed Borders, by Alan Dowty

Also highly recommended for a history of U.S. immigration policy is Roger Daniels Guarding the Golden Door.

Older links and notes of interest on immigration issues:

The Independent ReviewThe Immigration Problem: Then and Now by Richard Vedder, Lowell Gallaway, Stephen Moore (Winter, 2000) The argument that immigrants to the United States take undue advantage of the welfare state, although plausible, is exaggerated or just plain wrong. Excluding refugees, immigrants resort to welfare less often than native-born Americans.... [Click here for link to page with full article, in Acrobat format.]

Articles on Immigration from Ideas on Liberty by The Foundation for Economic Education.

The American Enterprise

Immigration Debate in The American Enterprise: Fixing Our Immigration Predicament

Alexis de Tocqueville Institute AdTI Immigration Page

Center for Equal OpportunityImmigration Is Not About Race By Linda Chavez With Americans increasingly concerned about their own economic future, it's no wonder so many are becoming less generous in their attitudes toward immigrants. A majority of Americans, according to most polls, want to see fewer immigrants admitted. And more than two-thirds believe the immigrants who come here are failing to assimilate into the American melting pot. A book by Forbes senior editor Peter Brimelow called Alien Nation confirms the worst fears about what immigrants are doing to America. According to Brimelow, the United States is in danger of becoming, literally, an alien nation, overrun by millions of brown-skinned immigrants from Latin America and Asia. [Click here for CEO home page, then click Immigration button for full article.]

Center for Immigration StudiesThe CIS offers an extensive site with many links and recent articles. Debaters should be aware that the CIS opposes current U.S. immigration levels (just as the the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute favors current immigration). Articles on the CIS site emphasize negative consequences of immigration and reflect pessimistic views of economic growth and technology. That said, the site is a valuable source for research on the immigration topic. Click here for the CIS website.

Independent Review

Coming to America


Golden Door

let them in

closed borders

Age of Migration

Fatal Misconception

NYT review here. Unfortunately, the reviewer seems a fan of population control, so wishes the book reported on benefits of population control efforts. Still the history is so horrific...

Articles on Immigration

Migration Rights, Natural Law, and the Free Society, by Joe Klesney

The Freedom to Move as an International Problem, by Ludwig von Mises

Fighting Communism with Free Trade and Open Immigration, by Frank W. Bubb

Closed Borders, by Alan Dowty

We Import Capital or We Export People, by Gustavo R. Velasco

Free Markets Mean Free Movement,

by John Gray

Assimilation, American Style, by Peter Salins

Immigration and Somalia by Gregory Rehmke (

Movers and Shakers: How immigrants are reviving neighborhoods given up for dead

crackdownImmigration Crackdown French and E.U. plans for dealing with illegal immigration...

Intercollegiate Studies Institute debate on immigration with Ben Powell and Victor Davis Hanson.

Recent immigration articles from The Independent Review