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Immigration: The Wrong Debate

Immigration: The Wrong Debate

Originally written July 3, 2013 this post was updated July 10, 2018 because immigration seems to be one of the hottest issues this year, and in my opinion – it is a complete non-issue. Absolutely nothing has changed over that time.

The immigration debate isn’t really about immigration. It’s about economics. I say this because when we say why should someone be “allowed” or “not allowed” to enter the United States, we are really asking what is the consequence of their arrival? So let’s look at the reasons people are upset about “illegals.”

1. Cost – as I hear all the time, “illegals” are costing the American taxpayer X number of dollars per year.

Solution: stop structuring the entitlement system, so that more and more people receive government money. And, fix the tax code so income is not taxed. Cost problem solved.

This is a fiscal issue that exists regardless of immigration, and has nothing to do with immigration. It has everything to do with fiscal responsibility and an immoral tax system.

If people are not taking from me or my children without our choice (via the tax system) to support such insanity, it is a non-issue for every American in terms of costs.

Costs are tied to unsustainable entitlements, not immigration. Fix the tax and entitlement system, and the costs are a non-issue. Did you know that Social Security and Medicare (which will be insolvent in just 8 years according to its own report) are the real drivers of the ballooning federal budget? These programs will collapse regardless of what happens with immigration.


2. Crime – the vast majority of violent crime is either between people who know one another and have some inter-personal problem or it is brought about by the drug trade. It’s incredibly rare that people are assaulters and killers independent of the 2 factors I listed above. There isn’t a Hannibal Lector on every corner, so it obviously follows that the average immigrant is not a violent criminal.

In fact, according to repeated reports from free market think-tank, Cato Institute, “Illegal immigrants, non-citizens, and legal immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated, convicted, or arrested for crimes than native-born Americans.”

But, we can’t remove interpersonal struggle from people’s lives, so we are really down to a discussion on drugs. Want to make violent crime a non-factor?  Legalize drugs.

Drugs are so incredibly attractive to people, because the demand is high and the distribution is limited. Sprinkle in the illegal aspect, and you create a black market where it pays huge dividends to own, expand, control and protect your obscene profit at almost any cost. The profitability of drugs is what incentivizes the violence. This has absolutely nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with the laws of supply and demand.

In the words of one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite economists, Milton Friedman, “If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.”

Crime and immigration are separate issues.


3. Safety – I have been told that we must secure the borders because it’s an entry point for terrorists. Did you know that we were essentially an “open borders” country for a great many years from the founding? The founders had no sense of national “immigration” control, and they were dealing with pirates, criminals and even competing countries for the new American soil. But that was then, and this now. Discussing safety requires a bit more explanation, so humor me…

The arms and terrorist factor – It is said that we are scared that a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb could be smuggled through an open border, and therefore represents a serious national security risk. Ok. So who would do such a thing? I am told it is terrorists who are intent on destroying the United States. So then, we must consider…the terrorist factor. Who are they? Where are they from? And why do they do what they do?

Organized jihadists are very well funded, and because of access to resources they have no problem obtaining the proper credentials to travel and reside in countries as needed.

In fact, did you know that almost every major act of terror ever committed on US soil was an act performed by a US citizen or someone who was in the country completely “legally”?

So let’s imagine for just one second that you built the Great Wall of China along the Mexican and Canadian borders. I think most people who are calling for serious border security envision a fence, so I’m providing a wall on all non-coastal borders. Much better, of course.

Do you think the terrorists that had enough friends and money in enough high places to either build, buy or steal a nuclear weapon are not smart enough and determined enough to bypass a wall? Are you serious?

A wall, a fence or whatever other obstruction you can build is essentially useless.

So, what we really need to be asking ourselves is – why do terrorists exist who want to harm Americans?

The answer is rather complex, but here is the ridiculously simplified version. They want to harm Americans because the US government has been taking over and intervening in their countries for years. They hate these interventions, and are striking back.

Why does the US care what happens in those countries? If oil were not present in the middle east, the US government would not be spending a dollar in the region. It is, what it is. US energy and trade policy have become so screwed up, that energy needs have incentivized intervention in countries that are oil rich. Mind you – its not always US oil access that’s being protected. Its plenty of other countries oil supply from that region, so the US is playing the role of world police. This angers a lot of people in a number of countries, holy wars are declared and terrorism becomes a real problem.

Fix US energy and trade policy, and you fix the oil problem that has defined our foreign policy. Fix the oil problem, and you end US interventions in a great number of countries. End the interventions, and you stop the blowback that defines why terrorists target America. Immigration has absolutely nothing to do with terrorist attacks.


Bottom line, if we were pushing freedom friendly fiscal, tax, monetary, energy, trade and foreign policy – immigration would not even be debated. It’s all about economics. It’s all about how central planning and government control has created an enormous problem that continues to consume us.

I am neither naïve, nor stupid. I know those things will not to be solved with the current crop of corporatists who run the show. I know we have to deal with reality. I understand I may never see all of those things fixed. I know this is largely a fight for political positioning. I get it.

Just know what the debate should really be about – economics. You fix the economic problems, and you don’t have an immigration problem. Amnesty didn’t solve anything when Reagan did it. Amnesty wouldn’t make any difference this time either. Strict immigration standards, deportations or a monstrous wall won’t solve the problems of fiscal insanity, crime or terrorist threats either.

At the end of the day – the current problems being discussed have nothing to do with immigration. Until the economic problems are fixed, history will repeat itself again.

We are having the wrong debate.