Open Immigration

Posted on November 19, 2013 by


When we advocate open immigration we are not advocating free and complete amnesty for all undocumented aliens. Amnesty is related and intertwined with immigration, but is not exactly the same issue. You can support open immigration and not believe all undocumented aliens should remain in the nation. Open immigration does not mean that anyone should be allowed in the country. Immigration, however, should not be based on the arbitrary criteria devised by politicians and bureaucrats rewarding their constituents or special interest groups. Today’s immigration laws are not rational from an economic standpoint. They make it very difficult for individuals that should immigrate to the United States and lump legitimate immigrants in the same category with individuals that are less desirable. Our laws have this undesirable result by severely restricting the numbers of productive immigrants that we allowed to enter the country. Immigration laws should prohibit immigrants that pose either a criminal risk or a public health threat, but beyond those two criteria we should have open borders. Likewise, current undocumented aliens who are neither a criminal risk nor a public-health threat should be given an opportunity to attain legal residency if that is their wish.

In the overall themes that course through Scripture, sojourners, aliens or strangers are given the same status as widows and orphans. People who are sojourners are to be respected and cared for. We are to recognize the image of God in them, even though they may be temporarily displaced, and care for them. When God is commanding the Israelites to obey the Law from their hearts we find that: “18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19 ESV). Leviticus 19:33-34 teaches that “33 When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (ESV). In Matthew 25, with Christ seated on his throne judging the nations, we find that when we respect the stranger and treat him with love and kindness we are serving Christ. “35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Matthew 25:35 (ESV).

Of course, biblical statements on immigration are perfectly consistent with good economics. The true source of economic growth and wealth creation in the United States economy rests in the people who make up the economy. People created in the image of the Creator God use their God given ingenuity to take what God has given and reshape, mold and transform the earth and all that is in it (Gen. 1:26-28). When we convert the earth and all that is in it, we create different goods and services that are more valuable to us. God placed man on the earth “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). When people go about this God ordained use of the assets He has provided for us, we are fulfilling part of our created purpose. It is only humans created in God’s image who are able to use the resources and leave them in a state where the resources have more value than when we found them. Nation’s economies are only as strong as the people who work in them. We should welcome new people to come and create in our economy.

Virtually all economists from all schools of thought believe that we should have free mobility of labor – open immigration. Classical, classical liberal, neoclassical, monetarist, Austrians and even some Keynesians believe in open immigration as a primary causal factor in economic development and growth (1). Higher wages attract productive people to emigrate to fill employment opportunities. In turn these productive individuals add to the economic development of their host country. Open immigration is an economic gain to the nation receiving and providing for the immigrants. Empirical studies show this. When categorized by productivity and wage earning capability, all immigrant groups, with the exception of unskilled low wage earners, are a net gain to the nation. With enough time for adjustment even low skill workers help the economy. When immigrants take low skill positions, native born workers take higher productivity and higher pay employment. High skilled foreign workers are nothing but an economic blessing. The Winter 2012 issue of the Cato Journal, dedicated to analyzing immigration, contains excellent economic and policy analysis.

Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda is founding director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has found “that comprehensive immigration reform would yield at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. This is a compelling economic reason to move away from the current “vicious cycle” where enforcement-only policies perpetuate unauthorized migration and exert downward pressure on already low wages, and toward a “virtuous cycle” of worker empowerment in which legal status and labor rights exert upward pressure on wages.”

One on the largest hindrances to economic development in developing nations is the presence of an informal extra legal economy alongside the formal economy. The people in the informal economy are kept out of the formal economy by an invisible wall of legal barriers and a failure to have well documented property rights. While the amount of lost economic activity by the informal economy formed by undocumented aliens in the US economy is not as significant for our economy as for economies in the development world, it is still very important. With the potentially devastating federal and state deficit and debt problems faced in the US, we need to incorporate illegal aliens in the US into our robust formal economy. The effect on the deficit would be very favorable.

Sound theological analysis and good economics lead to the same result. Open immigration is a humane, effective and correct policy for the United States.

Posted in: Immigration