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I’m Thankful for Immigrants


Thanksgiving is a time when we consider God’s provision for some of the original undocumented immigrants: the Pilgrims. The most recent issue of the New Yorker makes this point brilliantly. In recent months, Alabama has decided to make life harder for undocumented workers, and last weekend, Benjamin Powell and I had an article published in the Birmingham News in which we questioned the wisdom of immigration restrictions. The article provoked some interesting comments and reactions, which I’m going to respond to here.

1. ”What do the data say and what are your sources?”

We claimed that immigration is a net boon to the American economy, and indeed we agree with Julian Simon that people are The Ultimate Resource. Professor Powell discusses the case for immigration in greater detail in this article. Bryan Caplan makes a compelling case in this lecture, and Lant Pritchett’s Let Their People Come—which you can download for $0—converted me from the view that open immigration is just a good idea to the view that open immigration is a moral imperative. Simon answers the ”there are too many people” objection, as well.

2. ”I work in [X] Industry, and all the jobs that used to be done by Americans are being done by immigrants. If wages were higher, Americans would do these jobs.”

There are two problems with this. The first is that it focuses only on what can be seen, and this can be very deceptive. It ignores the harder-to-see but nonetheless very real benefits of immigration. It’s the same kind of argument that leads people to think that wars and natural disasters are good for the economy, but Frederic Bastiat exploded that fallacy a long time ago (I explain here, in a video, and here, in an article).

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Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and Assistant Professor of Economics at Samford University.
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