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open borders: reply to seth stodder

In early December, I had a very engaging discussion with Seth Stodder, who served as Undersecretary of Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, and currently works as an attorney and professor of law. The debate was about open borders and it was host by the Pacific Council on International Policy at the University of Southern California. Here’s I’d like to delve into some of Mr. Stoddard’s comments, then I will tell you who “won” the debate.

Overall, I was pleased to see that Mr. Stodder did not argue with the basic social science. He seemed to accept the immigrants were not more likely to be criminals than native born people and that immigration would not produce mass unemployment. He did object to open borders on the following grounds:

  1. Mr. Stodder referred to sovereignty multiple times in debate. This is one objection to open borders that has always left me puzzled. A state can certainly choose to retract a law and it still remains sovereign. It happens all the time. The issue is whether a government should restrict migration. We have abolished all kinds of laws with challenging the basic idea soverignty.
  2. Mr. Stodder also referred to the need for people to have input into who is in their community. This is a more substantial argument. There are two responses. On ethical grounds, we often say that many restictions on who can be in a community are immoral. For example, if people democratically voted to ban Jews or Blacks from their neighbrohood, we would say that is immoral. We might even have legal or constitutional restrictions on such statutes. Here, I’ll be open: clear ethical principals should over ride democratic politics. On pragmatic grounds, restrictions are wildly counter productive and damage people in the community. If I want to sell my house to Mexicans and the voters say I can’t, I am harmed. Migration restrictions multiply that harm, they do not enhance the community.
  3. The final issue, which is important and subtle, is that borders provide a way to help with “digesting” the inflow of people. Empirically, this really seems off. Just walk around some popular borders, like the US-Mexico border. You see congestion and even crime, as people get tired of waiting for years to get permission to escape poverty and crime. It is not orderly. Rather than let people adjust to the new country, we just create chaos at the border. Another empirical point is that the US has seen some massive internal migrations and we don’t see massive disorganization. For example, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans migrated to the US and it was okay, 6 *million* blacks moved North in the Great Migration, and thousands of people moved from New Orleans after Hurrican Katrina. If we let people move around, we can have a great deal of order. If we set giant walls and borders, we’d just create misery.

So who won? The way they score the debate is through a poll – and whoever “moves the needle” in their direction “wins.” Results? Pre-debate: 45% for open borders/55% against. Post-debate: 50%/50%. Whoooo hooo!!!! One step at a time.

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++++++
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

December 23, 2020 at 12:47 am

Posted in uncategorized

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