Forget the Wall Already, It’s Time for the U.S. to Have Open Borders

The solution to America’s immigration problems is open borders, under which the United States imposes no immigration restrictions at all.

President Donald Trump’s recent tweets against open borders come as no surprise. Indeed, even fervent immigration advocates worry that open borders would lower the wages of low-skilled natives, erode national security, and overburden the social safety net. Trump doubled down, tweeting that he would be “willing to ‘shut down’ government” unless Congress approves funding for a border wall with Mexico.

Trump, however, has it exactly backwards: The solution to America’s immigration problems is open borders, under which the United States imposes no immigration restrictions at all. If the U.S. adopts this policy, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

Legalize ALL immigration

Illegal immigration will disappear, by definition. Much commentary on immigration — Trump and fellow travelers aside — suggests that legal immigration is good and that illegal immigration is bad. So, legalize all immigration.

Government will then have no need to define or interpret rules about asylum, economic hardship, family reunification, family separation, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and so on. When all immigration is legal, these issues are irrelevant.

The question of fairness about who enters first — those who waited in line or those who entered illegally — disappears. Amnesty for existing illegal immigrants also becomes a non-issue. Or an open borders policy could require anyone who entered illegally to exit the country — for exactly five minutes — and then re-enter legally.

Think about the money we could save and make

Expenditure on immigration enforcement would shrink to nothing, because open borders means no walls, fences, screening at airports, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), deportations, detention centers or immigration courts. A 2013 report estimated that immigration enforcement cost more than $18 billion annually, and standard indicators suggest costs have grown further since then.

By Jeffrey Miron for USA TODAY
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