Economic arguments have long been at the forefront of the debate, and in recent years the question has been revived as opponents of immigration make new claims about the need for restriction. Those arguments are addressed by Alex Nowrasteh, Cato’s director of immigration studies, and Benjamin Powell, executive director of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University, in their new book Wretched Refuse? The Political Economy of Immigration and Institutions.
As the authors explain, advocates of increased immigration restrictions suggest that immigrants undermine the culture, institutions, and productivity of their destination countries. But the evidence doesn’t back that up. Instead, the economics of immigration suggest that now, more than ever, the free flow of people and labor across international borders is highly desirable, and most of the alleged negative consequences are spurious and not backed up by the facts.
Across 11 chapters, Nowrasteh and Powell explain the current state of the debate. Most importantly, there is the potential for massive economic gains to be had from immigration. According to economist Michael Clemens, the current restrictions on international labor mobility are effectively leaving “trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk.” The immigrants themselves stand to gain, but native‐born citizens also benefit from a growing economy. The economic case, and indeed the consensus of most economists, seems to be firmly on the side of more immigration.