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The Most Common Arguments Against Immigration and Why They’re Wrong

By Alex Nowrasteh


April 29th, 2021

What are the best counter-arguments to common complaints about immigration?

Immigration has been the most hotly debated public policy issue in the United States since Donald Trump entered the Republican primary in mid-2015. His campaign for president began with a speech about the evils of illegal immigration. He went on to support drastic cuts to legal immigration and promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico. During his time in office, he did almost everything in his power as president to reduce legal immigration, build a border wall, and increase immigration enforcement–with only the resistance of American cities and states, unfavorable court rulings, Congress’s unwillingness to support his policies, and his administration’s own incompetence holding him back. A new Biden Administration has an opportunity to reverse the anti-immigration actions of the Trump Administration and expand legal immigration.

For more than a decade, my job has been to produce original research on the topic of immigration, to read hundreds of thousands of pages of other people’s research, and to debate opposing scholars in public and on various media. But the best preparation for the current immigration debate was listening to the questions and concerns of Americans who don’t live in Washington, DC, or work in public policy. The major problem with “patriotic correctness” and “political correctness” is that many people rarely state their real objections to liberalized immigration for fear of being called racist, xenophobic, bigoted, ignorant, evil, or stupid. When the cost of asking questions and voicing objections are raised publicly, but the underlying opinions don’t change; they merely remain unanswered and can simmer. 

This booklet attempts to answer the most common objections to immigration that I’ve heard throughout my career from policy wonks and academics as well as from ordinary Americans. Few people can devote years of their life to studying the most relevant public policy questions and evidence for any issue. However, as one who has had that extraordinary privilege, I’ve written this booklet that boils them down to the 15 most common objections and explains how I respond to them. 

These arguments against immigrants are the main ones usually debated. There are others that people use in opposition to immigration, but many of those revolve around issues of “fairness”–a word with a fuzzy meaning that differs dramatically between people and cultures. Arguments about fairness depend entirely on feelings and, usually, on a misunderstanding of the facts, a misunderstanding that can be corrected by reference to any of the earlier points. 

This document’s responses to the common complaints about immigration are short, quick, and consistent with the evidence regarding immigration and its alleged negative impact on the United States. One can, of course, disagree with a pro-immigration policy position after being confronted with such facts, but that person must come up with entirely different arguments.

This is a far-reduced excerpt, please find the full article here

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