Art Carden  

Another Immigrant Sneaks Across the Border to Take an American Job

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ESPN confirms a report that Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has defected. According to the Communist Party newspaper Granma, as quoted by

From the same source, Granma learned of the departure from the country, through unscrupulous, illegal human trafficking, of he who was a player for the Industriales team, Yasmani Tomas.


1. Current baseballers will now earn lower wages because of this change in the supply of baseball services. Obviously.

2. If Tomas was so upset with his life and lack of opportunities in Cuba, he should've stayed there and worked to reform the system from the inside.

3. If he wanted to come to the United States, he should've gotten in line with everyone else instead of skipping to the front. We can't reward that.

4. What additional paperwork will he need in states with vigorous immigration laws? What if he's picked up by the White Sox and assigned to the Birmingham Barons, or if he ends up with the Arizona Diamondbacks or Atlanta Braves?

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COMMENTS (22 to date)
SJ writes:

Like most open borders opponents, I'm fine with admitting people who have unusual and valuable skill sets. In that respect, this guy is more similar to a PhD electrical engineer than a day laborer. It should be relatively easy for people like him to get legal status.

Don Boudreaux writes:

SJ: You oppose, then, only the immigration into the U.S. of people who, in general, stand to gain the most from emigrating from poorer countries to the U.S.

It was not uncommon in the American south until just a few decades ago to hear white people exclaim that they don't mind having to compete for jobs against other white people, but it's unacceptable to have to compete against black people.

I myself, as a young man growing up in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s, heard such statements. I heard these statements from members of an electricians' union and from members of a plumbers' union. The white people making these statements were proud that they were open to allowing other white electricians and plumbers into their unions, but not blacks. And, of course, whites seeking work as electricians and plumbers generally were more skilled than were blacks seeking such work.

Do you believe that the stance of these white union workers is economically reasonable? Ethically defensible?

David R. Henderson writes:

Well done. I disagree with point #1, though. I don’t think an increase in supply of 1 person, when there are at least 2,000 relevant competitors, will change wages much.

mickey writes:

DRH, he said it would lower wages but he didn't say that the absolute or percentage change amounts to much.

MikeDC writes:

@ Don Boudreax,
The white workers' stance may have been economically reasonable but it wasn't ethically defensible because Americans have legal rights and responsibilities with respect to other Americans (and the black workers were).

On the other hand, Americans don't have the same sort of legal rights and responsibilities with respect to non-Americans.

If one starts from a contractarian view of government and rights, which I do, then the folks you've created your rights with (your fellow citizens) have to take precedence over non-citizens.

Dan Hill writes:

Could you point me to the section of the Constitution that establishes my responsibiltiies to my fellow Americans? I think the Founding Fathers would have argued that our only legal responsbility is to stay the hell out of each other's business.

Moral responsibility is a different matter. Explain to me though how I have a greater moral responsibility to an American than any other human being?

So you would support open borders with say Canada, Australia, UK? If not, can you explain the dire consequences you foresee from such a policy?

Paul writes:

I believe Art was speaking tongue in cheek on the first point ... just like on the others.

Dan W. writes:

@ All distinguished professors of institutions of higher learning who support "open borders"

How do you reconcile support for "open borders" while working for institutions that have "closed borders"? Why should learning opportunities be rationed to a few select students? Should not everyone be able to attend classes at George Mason and earn a diploma? If Pedro wants to learn more than Tom and gets a seat in class before Tom arrives should you not let him? Clearly he wants it more than Tom. Why continue to reward Tom with a privilege he gained simply for being at the right place at the right time?

Where do you draw the line between public and private space? Surely you do not want the world to come into your house uninvited. I expect you do not want the world to come onto your campus uninvited. But you do advocate for the world to come into the nation uninvited. These uninvited guests have to live somewhere. Would you be so willing if somewhere was your backyard? Or are you confident that real estate prices and property laws will keep you well insulated from the disorder, poverty and disease associated with mass immigration of impoverished people? What about your fellow citizens who do not enjoy the economic and legal protections you have?

Does being a "fellow citizen" mean anything? If not why have nations at all? Why have government at all? Yet clearly that is not how the world works. We have nations and nations have governments and governments define borders. Doing away with borders is fanciful thinking. To what government authority can a person appeal if there is no border? Can the French government show up in Ohio and claim authority? Crazy no! But if there is no border what is to stop them from making that claim?

So we must have borders. It then falls on the government to apply sensible interpretation and enforcement of what that border means. "Open Borders" falls far short of what most Americans feel is sensible.

Tom West writes:

I find the morality of this quite interesting. Personally, from a strictly moral point of view, I think we have an moral obligation to help others, including non-citizens, and from a philosophical point of view, a person is a person regardless of citizenship.

However like most people, I don't make a huge distinction between my personal assets and the assets of the country that benefit me (except my ownership of national assets is much diluted).

Allowing someone entry into my country that may not benefit me personally is giving away something of mine to benefit someone else. I don't see it (and I don't think the majority see it) as a whole lot of different than government monetary support of non-citizens.

Now, I fully approve of this expenditure to some degree. I don't think the accident of my birth means I have a natural right to the enormous benefits of citizenship, and again I think the moral choice is to share both the citizenship *and* the benefits I've accrued so far (i.e. my wealth and income) because of my citizenship. Neither past nor future benefits are sacredly mine, and I don't get the Libertarian division between the two.

But since I'm a greedy S.O.B., there are limits to the amount I'm willing to share with others both in terms of citizenship and in terms of money.

I favor an expansive immigration policy and a fairly high redistribution, but not open borders or confiscatory (70%) tax rates because I am unwilling to pay the full price of my moral beliefs.

Mercer writes:

Tomas will pay more in taxes then he and his children will receive in government benefits. The poor Latino children currently coming across the Rio Grande will receive more in government benefits then they will pay in taxes.

MikeDC writes:

@Dan Hill,
The responsibilities are implicit in any recognition of rights.

To put it simply, "our only legal responsbility is to stay the hell out of each other's business." is only sufficient as far as what we decide is "each other's business".

That is, the rights we've got are only as meaningful as other citizens' willingness to recognize and enforce them. Social Contract 101.

Morals have nothing to do with it. But you could say legally and ethically you have a greater responsibility to your fellow citizens because yours rights depend on them (and vice versa).

This doesn't mean ludicrous things like you should kill a non-citizen at the whim of a fellow citizen. It's just a presumption to uphold the rule of law and give preference to the mutually beneficial recognition of rights you've created with your fellow citizens.

If you ignore the laws you've created with them, you're asking for trouble.

ThomasH writes:

As with most other things, I'm a marginalist. I see great benefits to people currently living in the US and to immigrants to having a trickle of immigrants each year, say going from 0 to 1,000,000. The number would depend on the mix of skills they bring. I would have my doubts about going from 0 to 10,000,000. So let's liberalize immigration a lot and pause and see about liberalizing a lot more.

Don Boudreaux writes:


You are wise to be a marginalist. I, too, am a marginalist. Therefore, I understand that decisions are made at the margin, and that market forces operate at the margin and change costs and benefits - at the margin - as supply and demand conditions change.

As more immigrants come to the U.S., the attractiveness of immigrating to the U.S. will (generally) decline at the margin. And however much real-world complexities might prompt us to qualify this conclusion in particular circumstances, nothing about marginalism requires that we liberalize the market for human labor (including immigrant labor) any more gradually than we would liberalize the market for steel or for clothing or for pet food.

David R. Henderson writes:

Right you are. I missed it because I read too quickly. My apologies to Art.

SJ writes:

Don Boudreaux:

Do you believe that the stance of these white union workers is economically reasonable? Ethically defensible?

No. And I don't think that support for border controls is equivalent to racism, either. It's a false analogy.

BC writes:

Art missed a few points. We don't even know if this guy speaks English. If Tomas eventually becomes a citizen, he might not vote for libertarian-leaning politicians. Finally, Tomas may not be a Protestant, or something.

Steve writes:

@Don Boudreaux,

"You oppose, then, only the immigration into the U.S. of people who, in general, stand to gain the most from emigrating from poorer countries to the U.S."

What is this? A "from each according to his ability to each according to his need" argument for open borders?

Anyone in a commons has a vested interest to deny entry of those who are perceived to be a higher likelihood of consuming more than they will produce. In our terms, this is based on income - taxpayer services consumed. Given that there is no existing restriction on immigrant birth rates (which is important due to the $10,000/student-year cost of school), use of emergency services, and receiving of welfare benefits, it is purely defensive to accept the government's restrictions on immigration to limit the almost 100% guarantee that several hundred million would immigrate here within a decade who have below-American-average incomes.

Call it elitist, or culture/ethnic protectionist, but this is a real concern and the reason why it will never gain any level of widespread appeal among any fiscally responsible people. The potential damage far exceeds the potential gains. The socialist genie is out of the bottle, and importing hundreds of millions of the primary benefactors of socialism (if only from the persistent, political-reality, though incorrect perception, that socialism helps the poor), will reduce freedom. Rights don't come from paper, they come from the ability to defend them. I don't trust (and all of the data supports this claim) that most poor immigrants will not support more redistribution and socialism: it's clearly in their perceived interest to do so.

NP writes:

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Curtis L. writes:

Don't leave out wet foot/dry foot which makes him automatically eligible for amnesty (of course making millions of dollars is another story).

NZ writes:

I wonder if this guy tried to play ball in Japan but couldn't due to Japan's much more stringent immigration laws.

ZC writes:

Trying to compare this one instance of a highly skilled person immigrating to the US to millions of destitute, unskilled people illegally crossing the border certainly doesn't serve to advance the cause of open borders of loosening immigration policies. As others have noted, this guy will almost certainly pay far more in taxes than he or his progeny will ever consume in Welfare or other transfer payments.

I'd love to see one of the professors response to @Dan W.

Glen Raphael writes:

@steve wrote: "Given that there is no existing restriction on immigrant birth rates (which is important due to the $10,000/student-year cost of school [...] it is purely defensive"

Nope! Yes, if you choose to think of schooling expenses for kids as a subsidy to the parents that is then somewhat reimbursed (or not) out of the parents' income taxes, things quickly get very complex and it looks like childless families are subsidizing families with kids - whether those families are immigrants or not. But they're not.

So don't do that. Just stop thinking of it that way.

Instead, think of paid-for schooling as an investment in the kids which is then paid back (and then some) out of the kids' future taxes.

Once you do that, this perceived problem (and a few others) disappears. Immigrants who come here have already had their own schooling (and childhood health care) paid for by somebody else, then they come here old enough to work and start paying taxes - that's a clear net win. Then later - no matter how many kids these immigrants have - we give those kids some schooling and those same kids grow up to work and pay taxes that pay us back for the investment we made in them. The kids speak better English and are more socialized as Americans and almost certainly able to earn more money than their parents; it's all good.

For accounting purposes, we don't care how many kids immigrants have. one kid=one future taxpayer; 5 kids = 5 future taxpayers. Perfectly balanced.

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