Home | About | Donate

What About Open Borders?

What About Open Borders?

Robert C. Koehler

There are things that go unquestioned in the national discussion. Because this is a country wrapped in fear and self-importance, the basic, unchallenged premise determining how we behave, how we spend our money, is that we need to protect ourselves . . . from The Enemy.


Aside from the humanitarian issues that are so serious regarding Trump’s wall, we need to address the significantly negative impact that such would have on wildlife that migrate (across a border that has absolutely no meaning to them) according to the cycles of food availability. Ecology matters and has implications that are often not understood until failure creeps into the picture. A wall is guaranteed to bring ecological failures to the region. It is prima facie stupidity on this simple level.


As Milton Friedman noted, you can have open borders, or you can have a state that provides social welfare benefits. You cannot have both, because no state can afford to provide endless benefits.


Not walls, we need welcoming centers. We must recognize our role in the continued destruction of people’s lives - they are fleeing conditions created by capitalist monsters and supported by both corporate parties. Welcome them here, we have enough for all.


I didn’t see much actual discussion of the issues in this article. As I see it, there are two issues with respect to having borders open or tightly controlled:

  1. Actual security issues - of course a terrorist could be home grown, or they could slip in undetected through any number of legal avenues. Or they could try to sneak in. Actually seeing numbers here would help (I believe the sneaking in number is pretty small though you could argue it would grow if it were much easier to sneak in).

  2. Issues of labor competition - I assume by open borders, Robert C. Koehler means that anyone coming in has just as much rights to apply for a job here (and vote I presume). This means even more labor pressure I would think. If Robert just means no controlled border but people still have to work illegally, it is even worse because then they are taken advantage of (but still cause the same labor pressure).

Immigration is the one issue I part company with most progressive thought and I definitely do not and will not support open borders. I’m fine with a way less militarized southern border, but I want mandatory e-verify or whatever it takes to get a negligible number of people working her outside legal employment (I’d be fine with a nationwide ID card with right to work shown on the card - this was Robert Scheer’s position int he past as well). I’m also fine with more foreign aid and more fair trade practices with countries south of the border (our current deals screw their people over as well as some portions of the US workforce).

But I vote no on Robert’s idea.


There are only two ways to have a just society. If you want to have free movement of capital (as we have had since NAFTA and other trade agreements) then you must have free movement of labor across borders. Otherwise you have captive labor pools trapped behind borders, and capital that will move to where it can most exploit the labor force and the environment. If you don’t want to have free movement of labor across your borders, then you should not have free movement of capital either. All goods would have to be produced in the U.S. where labor and environmental conditions could be controlled for justice (worker protection) and environmental quality.

1 Like

Gallup does worldwide polling that provides interesting data on this topic of completely open borders. They interviewed more than half a million people in 152 countries asking them where they would like to live if they could live anywhere. With completely open borders the U.S. would increase its population by about 46% (a gain of around 150 million people). Some countries like United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland would approximately triple in size. As expected rich countries would gain people while poor countries would lose. Countries at war would lose much of their population, stable countries at peace (at least within their borders) would gain people. Interestingly, 90% of people worldwide would prefer to stay right where they are. The Gallup report was just released last month and is at https://news.gallup.com/poll/245270/newest-potential-net-migration-index-shows-gains-losses.aspx

I think increased immigration tends to help build a more diverse and innovative society. Less secure borders tend to create more fearful/reactionary/racist populations. I vote for the former and not the latter.

To borrow from JFK … Those who make legal immigration impossible make illegal immigration inevitable.


Borders are semipermeable: they let some things in and keep others out… Open the border, and there’s no border–for better or for worse.

Current border arrangements are plutarchic, market-driven, and psychopathic. What is called “free trade” mostly lets capital pass but imprisons and harasses labor.

  • Drugs, slaves, and arms cross by arrangement with American black ops and associates–the CIA and at least some elected officials. At the same time, the DEA and local enforcement agencies continue to attempt to enforce some version of American law, thereby reducing the competition for the large cartels that can offer the CIA access to foreign governments and carry out violence that would damage public relations (the doubtful should check the works of Douglas Valentine, Robert Parry, and John Perkins).
  • Labor is allowed to cross the border, but not awarded rights as citizens. Whether this takes the form of various sorts of human trafficking or simply immigrants working out the logistics of their livelihoods, this creates a populous underclass of workers at sub-legal wages.
  • The above workers provide goods and services to Americans and to American business at a reduced price, partly subsidized by various governmental agencies, but also largely contributing to such agencies without compensation. They also provide an easy scapegoating target for racists and nationalists and politicians who would appeal to racists and nationalists.

The costs of our border therefore include those of the so-called “war on drugs,” the costs of human trafficking, and the costs of the money from these systems going to bribe our nominal representatives, corrupt our government, and fuel the general war economy. Obviously, we should work towards opening the border.

We cannot practically open the border completely immediately. The myth of plenty around the US is not universally believed, but it retains enough cache to draw far more people than local resources will handle. We will draw people here with an involuntary or unintended implicit promise that we cannot fulfill.

Instead, the US should back off from aggression, and the aggression of the border itself by stages, reducing support for and cooperation with international mafias, reducing military activity abroad, stopping all so-called “economic sanctions” forthwith, and legalizing all so-called “illicit” drugs–all to reduce the thriving black market economy and to drive our politicians and intelligence agencies into the open, before a more fully public scrutiny.

During this process, at the very least, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with tariffs on traded goods, so that “cheap labor”–the abuse or enslavement of some class of persons–can no longer constitute a competitive market advantage. It may also be handy to simply ban import of certain products, since it is so counterproductive to ship the products of relatively simple labor and manufacturing back and forth across the globe.

So, for instance, there is in general little excuse for an economy in which American clothing is generally made in Asia, or in which produce from the southern hemisphere gets abundantly flown to the US or Canada during winter.

96mph curve ball coming your way…I have long advocated that Canada, the U.S. and Mexico join together to become North America with a new capital in the center of the land mass. It is one land mass, we could be just North Americans. We need each other for so many reasons I won’t list them here. But just imagine the power house it could be, one land mass, one people. For me it is kinda a Duh thingy. I’ve had push back, sure, only because it just is too logical for flag waving nationalists.


Open borders’ is identical to no borders and thus to no state. A worthy goal to aspire to.

However, would it also mean mass migrations, as it appears is assumed and would it lead to and then end up with the consequent immiseration of the native-born population as inferred by some comments here?

About one in five potential migrants — or about 147 million adults worldwide — named the USA as their desired future residence. But would they all turn up if the US border controls disappeared?

3.4 million Peurto Ricans have the legal right to live in the USA. A past Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 90 percent of Puerto Ricans were dissatisfied with the way things were going on the island, a figure which we can safely say has risen in recent years. The median household income a year in Puerto Rico is $20,000 against over $60,000 on the mainland United States. In 2014 the number of Puerto Ricans leaving for mainland America was 84,000, (although there was indeed a sharp spike after Hurricane Maria) Not such an influx when the “flood-gates” are wide open.

Immigration and immigration controls are both intrinsic parts of the capitalist system. As such, effective opposition to immigration controls ultimately means challenging the very foundations of capitalism itself.

The First International stated that:
“The poor have no country, in all lands they suffer from the same evils, and they therefore realise that the barriers put up by the powers that be the more thoroughly to enslave the people must fall.”

Another worthy goal to achieve.


The fact is that countries across the developed world are going through a demographic shift where there exists a population decline with a rise in the dependent elderly population that requires the numbers of working age people to increase which immigration can only provide.

Let me ask you, in turn, how many extra senior citizens are you prepared to house, clothe and feed? How many elderly and infirm are you intending to house in your home?

I think the US would increase more than fifty percent with open borders. I’ve been in China teaching a long time and everyone learns English in school. I haven’t taken a poll, but everyone of my students at least has wanted to visit. Often to move there.
The news of South America is that the US is trying to coup Nicaragua, Cuba,and Venezuela using the far right there along with the wealthy, causing these recent caravans from the south. That could cause waves of poor equal to the immigration from the wars of the Middle East. Some other countries in South America are already struggling with far right governments.

I disagree majorly with your poll.
If I could choose between massive immigration and no war or coups, I choose no war and no coups.

Many immigrants are not happy after they arrive but cannot afford to return home. Certainly the masses that possibly would come would not be afforded the support that they needed and deserved.

I understand your fear. We are facing mass migration from climate change to say nothing of extreme economic pressures as illustrated by other posters here in a vivid manner, but at the end of the day these people are not different from you, me or any other human born on the wrong side of a artificial line and the point is that the wall is will not protect us, it will simply cause more deaths. The choice is violence or cooperative effort on a world wide basis. Humanity can either pull together or disappear from this planet. It is time to grow up.

1 Like

You are certainly correct that the U.S. foreign policy with its purposeful destabilization of other countries is one of the prime creators of the mass migration of refugees.

I’m not sure what the disagreement is with the poll. This is merely a survey of what people say about where they’d like to live. Gallup also does polling about how happy immigrants are after they arrive as part of their World Happiness Report. They find that three factors explain the happiness levels of immigrants: 1) happiness levels of the country they came from, 2) happiness levels of the country they migrate to, and 3) levels of immigrant acceptance in the country they go to. The latest report on that topic is at http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2018/

What about open borders?

just imagine for a moment if humanity were to abandon national borders… any one of us could travel to any spot on earth we’d like to visit without having to show our “papers” at checkpoints as we move from one scenic spot to the next… we could meet and befriend people living in a variety of regions, savor their cuisine and enjoy their arts, crafts music and dance… we would need no official diplomats meeting behind closed doors because we’d all be diplomats and with no hidden agenda… just think of the savings in precious resources, munitions manufacturing and destruction from war… so, what’s stopping us?

unwarranted fear, mistrust and paranoia keeps us from experiencing life to its fullest… mistrust keeps us from understanding that all of us have the same basic needs and desires… yet we allow all manner of petty differences, religious beliefs, dress codes, skin tone and cultural differences to keep us from peace on earth.

from the results of a gallup poll posted by dpearl, “With completely open borders the U.S. would increase its population by about 46% (a gain of around 150 million people). Some countries like United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland would approximately triple in size.” of course, that poll is based on how people perceive our current national conditions… had we developed as a borderless world-wide society these countries would not exist… those arriving on the americas would have set up communities here and never given a thought to genocide…

i live less than ten miles from the rio grand river… i go to mexico six or so times a year… i just walk in to enjoy shopping, dining, dancing and entertainment i choose… the people are very nice… when i first came south, the people of mexico also came here to shop, work the vegetable farms and such… we had a vibrant cross-border economy. however, the u.s. government grew more mistrustful in time… easy as pie to enter mexico, but every year we’ve been held up longer and questioned as we returned home… “what is your nationality?” “why did you come to mexico?” what did you purchase? and my favorite, “where are you going from here,” as if that is any of the attendant’s business! i looked one guy in the eye and said, “i’m heading home… do you have plans after work?”

unfortunately fear can be a powerful and unreasoning emotion… it’s hard to calm a panicked person down and until more humans get a handle on run-away emotions we’ll continue on this path to self-annihilation!

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace


The problem is that not every nation has the same rules. For example, would you want to follow the rules established by China? Or Zimbabwe? or Saudi Arabia?

If there were one common set of rules, borders would not be necessary. That, however does not exist. “imagining no countries” implies that there are no differences in customs, and how people choose to live. I believe it is called a pipe dream.

I think it is an interesting poll and it is an important reinforcement of the fact that many people prefer to stay where they know and where a lot of their family is at least if it is a reasonable place to live. This speaks to the idiocy of much of our foreign policy and short shortsightedness on foreign aid.

My problem with the poll is two fold:

  1. It isn’t up for discussion for all countries moving to open borders, only one country at a time. I’d be more interested in knowing how many people want to come here if we are the only country to allow unlimited immigration.

  2. You can only use this information for so much because as the immigration starts to happen, feelings will change - there can be negative feedback when the country can’t absorb the change or positive feedback if people who come are doing great and contact friends and family to come also even though they didn’t poll as wanting to come at first.

This poll while interesting, I don’t see how it changes anyone’s opinions - not mine, I want limited merit based immigration with no lottery. Canada has a pretty high amount (https://www.immigroup.com/news/immigration-united-states-america-vs-canada) - about 250k per year (0.7% relative to their population of 37 million). US has about a million per year (0.3% relative to 330 million). To a certain extent, I’m willing to have more immigration if our population isn’t going up but even at our current TFR = 1.8, it will take some time to start the downward trend (and unfortunately immigrants from the South and many other places come in with a high TFR mindset). I’m not sure I want any more immigration than we have now, but I wouldn’t suggest we more than halve it or something drastic. I’m fine to stay limited with adjustments made as to fairness.

you can always tell what class someone’s in on this kind of issue. People like Koehler don’t have labor competition from waves of migrants–although I suppose that might be arranged. Open borders would have to be one of those things that would need to result from a global agreement on human movement. Otherwise, like the EU, it’s just an excuse to keep wages low.


When Friedman said that he assumed brown people come to the US to be leaches of the welfare system. This is factually incorrect. The leaches are Americans, not immigrants. The West Virginia White Trash, the Chicago Food Stamps Queens, the Blue Collar Trash on Disability, etc. are all full-blooded Americans.

Yawn. If you have generous welfare benefits and no borders, people will come for the benefits. The fact that there are people born here who likewise take advantage of benefits doesn’t affect the argument.