US-Canada open borders referendum bleg

I define “open borders between the US and Canada” as meaning that US and Canadian citizens are free to enter the other country not just for short-term visits but for long-term visits and can settle in the other country to live, work, marry, or do other stuff, without needing to go through any immigration bureaucracy. Border checkpoints may still exist. One might define open borders more expansively to include all permanent residents of either country. As co-blogger John Lee noted in this post, the US-Canada border is not completely open in this sense: while citizens and even permanent residents can move freely between the countries for short-term visits, they still need to go through a bureaucratic (and uncertain) process in order to take up a job or settle long-term.

My two bleg questions:

  • If the United States had a nationwide referendum among citizens (with simple nationwide vote-counting, unlike the complicated electoral college system used for presidential elections) on whether the US should have open borders with Canada, would the referendum pass, and by what margin? Feel free to provide probability distributions, and if necessary, indicate sensitivity to framing, timing, and contextual factors that affect the outcome. Note that “pass” here is based on a majority of those who vote, not based on a majority of the entire citizenry.
  • If Canada had an equivalent nationwide referendum, would it pass? Again feel free to provide probability distributions, and if necessary, indicate sensitivity to framing, timing, and contextual factors that affect the outcome. Note that “pass” here is based on a majority of those who vote, not based on a majority of the entire citizenry.

UPDATE: A friend on Facebook had pointed me a while back to Annexation movements of Canada.

11 thoughts on “US-Canada open borders referendum bleg”

  1. To answer the probability questions posed, I think the US would pass the referendum with between 50-60% in favor (the range I have with maybe 70% confidence) assuming about equivalent propagandizing ability on both restrictionist and open borders sides. Canada is the most approved of country by Americans and many Americans see Canadians as just a type of American who lives in a frozen wasteland anyways. An assurance of Canada maintaining strong limits on outside immigration would probably raise my guesstimated margins with 60-70% in favor.

    I’m less sure of Canada, but I think there is a fairly decent chance they would approve given how well Canada did after NAFTA. In both cases I’d wager it would be a bit easier for politicians to pass this in both countries due to making it easier for them to directly negotiate things like “keep non-Canadian/Americans from immigrating in too large of numbers” or perhaps limiting this to citizens and making sure each side kept citizenship limited.

  2. Hm, having lived in both countries, and currently contemplating immigrating from the US to Canada, this is something I’ve thought about a lot.

    1. It would probably pass in the US if both parties supported it, which they likely would unless there were purely crass political calculus against it, i.e. many republicans refusing to support any initiative proposed by Obama for the simple reason of not wanting to be seen as supporting Obama. ~65-70% with a 95% CI of 15%. Canada is popular in the US, and most Americans would be reasonably

    2. Canada is actually a much tougher sell than the US. Specifically, Quebec will be the tough sell. Quebecois society has a substantial fear of losing its identity and heritage to the English speaking societies which surround it on all frontiers. For example, Quebec has established its own immigration bureau, Immigration Quebec, which requires separate approval for immigrants who intend to settle in Quebec.

    With reference to English-speaking Canada, in general Canadians are proud of their separateness from the United States, and I think most would fear that a fully open border would end up with the US exerting too much domestic influence in Canada (and Americans mooching on their healthcare system).

    Also, much more than the US, the Canadian taxation system relies on enforcing the US border. Many things such as gasoline, dairy, meat, and most consumer goods are substantially cheaper in the US than Canada due to taxes. The Canadian government would lose a lot of money to tax arbitrage if the border were open (keep in mind how many Canadians live

    Now, I think a proposal that could fly in Canada and the US pretty easily would be an open work visa policy, whereby while there is still nominal enforcement of the border, anyone who passes a basic criminal background check and is a US/Canadian citizen can get something like a 5 year work/residency permit for the other country, and once living in the other country for a number of years without using safety net programs apply for permanent residency.

    1. That’s an interesting analysis. What makes me curious about this all is why no such proposal has yet been fielded in Canada or the US. Has it and I’ve just missed it? Have politicians just not thought of this (despite thinking up NAFTA in the 90s)? Or is there some factor blocking this from being discussed.

    2. Your last proposal is pretty similar I think to what the EU does for countries who are within the EU but not within the Schengen zone (the main example of such a country is the UK). EU citizens still need to clear border checkpoints, but there is a presumption in favour of allowing them to work and study in any EU country, which meets our definition of open borders.

  3. You must be a Canadian. I don’t blame you for thinking this is a good idea. But, we already own 80% of your economy, and don’t need the extra wasteland, considering we already have Wyoming, Montana and Alaska. Your military is impotent, using our out-moded equipment that we sell to you. We use you as a buffer-state. If Russia was going to attack, we would prefer to fight on Canadian soil. That’s the only reason you exist. Since you love Islam and whatever other filth up there, a border between out two nations is still necessary. Obviously, the average Canadian is no threat to anyone.

  4. don’t listen to Mike, he is a frustrated ignorant SOTB, the only one wasted here is you. I’m American, half of my family are Canadians, every time I cross the border is a pain in the ass, the same way for them. That’s the first question that arise when we see each other. Did you have any problems at the border? how long did it take?. Before I could just cross using my driver license. I miss those days. We american and Canadians are the same in many many ways. why not.

  5. I think its a good idea.. The border passes through towns, a library and some houses and people in the border communities dont like being kept on one side

  6. America is moving backwards in almost every way possible. Tearing up paved roads and reverting to gravel. Turning our public highways system into toll roads. Closing the border with Canada. Now I need a passport to drive from Alaska. Progress, USA! USA! Land of the free. Papers please.

  7. Would like to see the polling data to back up opinions of these countries vis-a-vis one another.

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