There is no Pro-OB Candidate

In the past few months readers have likely been barraged with messages about how voting for Trump is equivalent to declaring yourself a bigot. My preferred radio station currently has a series of ads encouraging listeners to vote ‘against misogyny and racism’ this upcoming election. Let me make the case that neither major candidate for US president is the clear ‘Open Borders’ candidate and that OB advocates would better serve the cause through other means.

There are those who claim that Trump has normalized anti-migrant sentiment and Clinton should be supported as a symbolic gesture that one opposes such sentiment. As I often remind readers, I am an illegal alien. I bring this up because, although it is taboo to speak ill of migrants in polite company, it is still acceptable in most cases to speak ill of “illegal” migrants. “Legal migrants are hardworking and contribute to our society, but illegals are destroying our social fabric.” Throughout my life I have had to tolerate hearing some absurd claims ranging from low brow jokes (“Why doesn’t Mexico do well in the Olympics? Any Mexican who can run and jump is in the US.”) to outright racist comments.

The thing about this is that I’ve heard these things throughout my whole life. I can’t point to a time when they ceased. Even Trump’s locker-room talk video was in my opinion mild. Just a few weeks ago I overheard a group of office workers talk about how they didn’t like Mexican men, but they liked Mexican women because of how ‘exotic’ they looked. It is true that Trump’s speeches are especially absurd compared to his contemporaries, but they differ in degree not kind. I suspect that a subset of Trump’s opponents dislikes him because he makes them realize how awful they themselves are.

I am worried that after Trump loses (at time of writing Clinton has a 78% chance of winning in the betting markets) those who publicly opposed him will feel they have moral license to act against migrants. “I’m not racist, I voted against Trump.” Such an effect is not unprecedented. Political psychologists have previously found that endorsing Obama gave voters moral license to discriminate against – “I don’t dislike blacks, I voted for Obama”.

There are those who believe a Clinton presidency will mean the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, and so a vote for her is one towards Open Borders on the margin. I am unconvinced this is the case.

The republicans are likely to retain control of the House of Representatives for the foreseeable future (see the betting markets) and won’t allow legislative reform. It is possible congressional republicans would tolerate the passage of migration reform as part of an effort to re-brand the party – but I don’t see it happening. If the party had been serious about re-branding itself, it would have done so after Romney’s loss in 2012. I think in the near future party elites, from both major parties, will be too busy fighting their respective populist wings to enact any significant legislative reforms.

President Clinton could end up enacting reform through executive actions in the same way President Obama has but reform in this manner has sharp decreases in returns. She can expand deferred action for larger portions of the unauthorized migrant population, but the legal fiction of deferred action is that it’s goal is to prioritize the deportation of other migrants. I am a doctoral student in a liberal California university so I am personally low on that priority list, but I am still on it. As are countless others whose only crime is wanting a chance to work to feed themselves and their families.

At any rate what happens for those of us in the United States is of relatively little importance. We’re already in the United States. Deferred action expanded the number of opportunities for those of us here illegally, but we were here before it and will be here after it. As difficult as life in this status is, it is still a better quality life than what we could expect in our countries of origin. If it weren’t we would have gone long ago.

Those who suffer the most, and for whom deferred action means little, are those who haven’t been able to migrate through legal or illegal means. We Mexicans are lucky; we need to cross only the US border. North Africans are also lucky; they only need to cross the Mediterranean. Those who suffer the most are those in Central America, Sub-Sahara Africa, and so forth and so forth who must cross multiple borders. Deferred action is not enough.

If you are still undecided whether to vote for Trump or Clinton, do not feel compelled to vote for Clinton out of belief that she is the marginal pro-Open Borders candidate. She isn’t. Nor should you feel compelled to vote against Trump to signal that you aren’t anti-migrant. If you wish to signal your support for open borders you would be more effective by helping plan an event for Open Borders day,contributing to this blog, or countless other things. Victory for open borders relies on winning over minds, not votes.

Michelangelo Landgrave is an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach.

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