What Would Open Immigration Look Like?


Personally, I am not open borders. If you knew me personally or have been exposed to my rants on immigration in the past this may surprise you. What I do advocate for, however, is open immigration. I’d be willing to compromise on certain aspects of the system, but for the most part I believe it is what serves Americans best, and with certain safeguards in place it can be used to benefit the American people rather than creating chaos at the border and abroad as the current policies do now.

While many people’s jaws drop at the mere mention of “open borders” or as I prefer to say “Open immigration” (since there would still be controls and  some border security) there was a time it wasn’t that uncommon. Not only did we have open immigration for all those able to arrive on Ellis Island and able to pass a disease check until essentially 1921, we continued to maintain an open border with Mexico until about 1929 Until then Mexican immigrants were excluded from ALL immigration caps and until that year were not even required to obtain visas when entering the country. Much of that changed due to nativism and over all hostility towards immigrants, and particularly immigrant laborers who were difficult to compete with, but also due to circumstances brought on by the war on drugs (a subject perhaps for another post).

This all pretty much made sense. After all, the two countries are not only next door neighbors with much to offer one another, but they share one of the longest national borders in the world

In this post I will discuss what an open immigration policy would look like it, and in those following I will explain some of the dilemnas brought to us by the immigration issue and their potential remedies. Keep in mind that I tend to never side with prohibitionists, especially those who advocate for blanket prohibition on anything. Historically, prohibition has never worked at any extensive level, and has usually only exasperated the problems it has sought to solve. As the border crisis reveals, this can certainly be said of immigration every bit as much as it can be said for drugs, alcohol, and prostitution. The superior approach is to simply apply certain safe measures to a situation in order to maximize the benefits it has to offer while filtering out potential problems. In other words for immigration what we need is not a wall but a filter.

Under an open immigration system I would propose the creation of a new visa. It would not scrap the entire immigration system by any means, but it would potentially render a number of programs obsolete, potentially fazing everything else out naturally over time. This Extended Guest Visa would allow any aspiring immigrant who can physically arrive here to apply for the visa, and any applicant who is able to pass an extensive background and basic health check, and agrees they will not be eligible for certain public benefits, is allowed to become an immigrant to the United States. This would be similar to the open immigration policies the U.S entertained (for the most part with few serious restrictions) before 1921. The Extended Guest Visa could be good indefinitely or good for a short period (maybe a year or two) but be indefinitely renewable. Either way the guest immigrant would be eligible to work and live in the United States. They would be subject all taxes and laws of both the United States and the state and locality in which they reside. Employers hiring them would all be subject to same labor standards and applicable taxes as those hiring American citizens.

There would be established, a zero-tolerance policy for those convicted of violent felonies via constitutional due process, which would invalidate their visas and result in deportation. There could be a three strikes system for habitual offenders of less serious crimes. The visa would also allow the guest the right to start a business, which we know would benefit the economy and create jobs based on the fact that immigrants are more likely to do so than native born citizens. They too would be subject to the same laws and taxes as American citizens. If it concerns the community states could be free to require these businesses to take certain efforts to place a priority on hiring American citizens assuming they are hiring.

An open immigration system, while not fixing ALL immigration woes is far superior to the restrictive system we currently have now. The current system has produced humanitarian concerns and has provided benefits to drug smugglers and violent criminals who slip through the cracks while border patrol officers play cat and mouse with harmless refugees. An open immigration system would also benefit the economy by providing new consumers to demand products and services. It would bring new laborers for high demand industries. It would also do so without negatively effecting wages and work conditions since employers can’t pay their workers under the table and will be required to employ guest immigrants under the same standards as they would American workers.

It would also improve conditions for migrant laborers by providng them with the opportunity to file work grievances and with the flexibility to change employers without risk of deportation, or blacklisting that often takes place among undocumented workers as well as those in some guest worker programs.

Finally, an open immigration system would reduce crimeflow into the United States by allowing a system to filter out criminals and dangerous individuals and would allow border patrol officers to properly focus their resources on actual criminals. Over all, such a system would benefit all Americans, and would certainly present some hope to many desperate refugees.

Personally, I would settle for a system that subsantially increases caps, creates a new and more expansive migrant workers programs to replace failed guest worker programs, and places a priority on admitting refugees, which have been negatively impacted (intentionally or unintentionally) by U.S policies.

Unofortunately, I don’t believe we will have either system any time soon as democrats and republicans prefer to politicize the issue, and as members of congress continue to deflect responsibility to the executive branch.


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