I’m always on the lookout for new, innovative arguments against immigration. Restrictionists tend not to disappoint in coming up with creative arguments, but usually these are modest permutations and perturbations of existing arguments. Recently, however, I encountered an honestly creative, offbeat, and mind-blowing argument for immigration restriction. If I had to classify it, it would come under political externalities or under second-order harms. But neither classification does justice to the sheer creativity of the objection. The credit goes to none other than restrictionism’s most creative proponent, Steve Sailer.
Sailer makes the argument in this EconLog comment, which I’ll take the liberty of quoting in full (emphasis mine):
92% of elected Hispanic officials are Democrats. So, self-appointed Hispanic leaders tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. One reason is affirmative action. Most of these self-annointed leaders are affirmative action beneficiaries, and they have two self-interests: preserve ethnic preferences for Hispanics and increase the number of Hispanics in the country to make themselves appear more powerful.
The way out of this trap is for Republicans to eliminate all affirmative action (including disparate impact discrimination lawsuits) for Hispanics and to close the borders. After a period of wailing and gnashing of teeth, new Hispanic leaders will arise who actually represent the interests of Hispanic voters, not of themselves.
I vaguely recall reading a similar argument by Sailer elsewhere, but I can’t find any other link at the moment. Let me abstract Sailer’s framework. Some Hispanics immigrate to the United States. They increase the total number of Hispanics. Sailer is not concerned (in this comment) about whether these particular Hispanics agitate for affirmative action, or for any of the policies Sailer disfavors. He is not complaining about their actions, either in the economic and social realm or through the political channel. His complaint here is that their sheer existence in the United States makes it easy for self-appointed Hispanic representatives (who are often natives, not immigrants) to point to their numbers and make the case for certain policies (such as affirmative action) which Sailer considers harmful to the United States. And note that the people to whom they’re making the case are also usually natives, not immigrants. In other words, the existence of immigrants makes it easier for some natives to convince some other natives of policies that Sailer considers harmful to the United States. This, according to Sailer, is sufficient justification “to close the borders” as Sailer puts it.
Frankly, Sailer’s argument is a trump card, and there really isn’t much I can say in response. If people’s mere existence inside of a border, rather than what they do or don’t do, is sufficient grounds for closing a border, then it’s time for open borders advocates to pack up. Restrictionists win hands down, just as they do when they use pure racialist arguments.
3 thoughts on “An offbeat argument for immigration restriction”
Wait, but the immigrant population which these liberal-minded affirmative action buffs point to can’t vote. Doesn’t that change the game a little bit? Democracy is a numbers game, I agree, but it’s about the existence of people who vote and the meaninglessness of those who don’t.
The affirmative action is not for the immigrants per se but for the ethnic group whose numbers are bolstered by the immigrants. The actual users of the affirmative action may very well be natives of that ethnic group. Sailer’s argument (which I don’t endorse) is that natives of the ethnic group use the expansion in numbers caused by immigrants to argue for increased quotas for that ethnic group, which ultimately get filled in by the natives themselves, usually natives who do not really represent the interests of the masses of that ethnic group. Sailer is making an argument that could be thought of as a US analogue of “creamy layer”-style objections that have been raised to quotas in the Indian context, except that he’s bringing in the marginal effect of immigration into his analysis.