Henry John Temple once said “Countries don’t have permanent friends only permanent interests.” How else to explain how our once enemies (Japan and Germany) are our friends and our once friends (China and Russia) are our enemies? The same is true in politics where once the right favored easing immigration in order to attract cheap labor and the left opposed it. Bernie Sanders once said that open borders was a Koch Brothers proposal. Of course now he embraces it. On the right, freedom of movement of people (labor) across borders was equated with freedom of movement of capital. Thus, classical economists provided the rationale behind the desire of big businesses to have a freer flow of immigrants. On the other hand, the most fierce opposition to freer immigration was by the labor unions – for obvious reasons. Less immigration meant fewer competitors and higher wages for union members.
Now the script has flipped with the left favoring open borders and the right opposing it. A closer look at the supporters on the left reveals billionaires such as Bill Gates and the executives of “woke” corporations such as Nike and those that employ large numbers of immigrant labor. These workers may be well educated with technical expertise and be in areas where there is a shortage of native born workers. The workers may also be at the bottom of the skill ladder and work at low wages. The rich on the left need their gardeners, maids, nannys and cooks as well as IT and AI experts. The right, on the other hand, has latched onto the exploitive nature of open borders and security issues such as drug trafficking, sex trafficking, entry of criminals and terrorists.
So there is an empirical issue here. Is there evidence that areas with high numbers of illegals have lower wages than other areas? If there is a wage differential, does it persist over all skill levels? Asia, Mexico, Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Canada and the rest of the world have been exporters of educated professionals to the United States, in essence making those countries poorer and ours better off. Some on the left and the right might say that this is a good thing for America. But today’s argument is not over the well educated immigrants but over the masses who show up at our southern border. What percentage of those people are professionals? In a survey of “unauthorized” residents of the United States, it was reported that 24 percent had the equivalence of a high school education, 12 percent had some college and 18 percent had college degree or higher. Of course, many illegals with higher education may have to work in areas other than where they have expertise. One would think that doctors and lawyers would not be able to practice legally in the United States. I am less certain about engineers and architects.
I have a soft spot for those who trek hundreds of miles, leave their homes with few possessions in search of a better life for themselves and their families. For many immigrant groups, the second generation will in many cases be more American than the native born. They will be capitalists, well educated and English speaking. However, for me, the most important reason not to have open borders is that such a policy overwhelms the border states. There are real costs to social services, education and health care. There are costs associated with law enforcement and crime. That those residents on the border do not welcome the influx can be seen in the changing politics at the border where increasing numbers of residents have switched party allegiance and are electing Republicans rather than Democrats. We have laws on the books that need to be enforced and laws that need to be written. However, neither party appears willing to tackle the issue. The Democrats are fearful of alienating the far left in their ranks and the Republicans appear to want to keep the issue alive for political reasons.
Lastly, the FBI defines a Ponzi scheme as one that “promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments. Instead of investing the funds of victims, however, the con artist pays “dividends” to initial investors using the funds of subsequent investors.” That sounds like Social Security to me and its looming insolvency may be another reason why the Left favors open borders.