The Corner


Go Figure: A Secure Border Increases Support for Legal Immigration!

A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks out over Tijuana, Mexico from the U.S.-Mexico border wall in San Diego, Calif., February 2, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

William Saletan spotlights a research paper which concludes that:

Allocating more government resources to border security increases desired levels of immigration. This effect is likely driven by a sense of control over immigration, induced by border security measures even when the number or characteristics of immigrants remain unchanged. Our findings suggest that border controls, which are widely considered as symbols of closure and isolation, can promote openness to immigration.

To quote the old Vulcan proverb, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

The first governors to push criminal-justice reforms through were Republicans such as Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal — and they likely succeeded because no one thought of them as “soft on crime.” Welfare reform only became law at the federal level when Bill Clinton, a Democrat, admitted it was needed.

If you want a particular policy goal — “change policy X” — the need for change is most compelling when it comes from a person who is traditionally a defender of policy X. And that defender of policy X will be trusted to implement changes in a way that a traditional critic of policy X will not.

If Democrats want a country that wholeheartedly welcomes and embraces legal immigrants, they should embrace border security in as many effective forms as possible. And if Republicans want a secure border, they should rebuke any public expressions of xenophobia or suggestions that legal immigrants are somehow not “real” Americans.


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