I would have never thought that another blog post regarding flawed immigration policies would be necessary since writing my last one regarding Donald Trump’s plan to “Make America Great Again!”  But, here I am.  And, although most would expect the post to be about another callous Republican, it now regards a more adored candidate: Bernie Sanders.

Trump and Sanders have similar opinions regarding various issues, albeit their opposite personalities.  Whether it be in their hatred for George W. Bush, opposition towards free trade, or love for single-payer health care, the two often see eye to eye.  However, when one candidate is so nationally hated for his xenophobia and the other is nationally adored by people of my generation, how is it that one could say they have slightly similar views on immigration?

The answer is simple: whereas Trump seems to hate immigrants, Sanders possesses the same nationalism which prohibits him from supporting an influx of immigrants.

Specifically, Sanders dismisses the seemingly radical concept of open borders as a type of a right-wing conspiracy (what?).

When asked about the possibility in a recent interview with Vox News, Sanders said the following:

Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.

First, this type of author-attacking argument already delegitimizes the candidates argument against opening the United States’ borders.  Contrary to Sanders and his pseudo-intellectual followers’ opinions, not everything the Koch Brothers advocate for is inherently evil.  In fact, the wealthy siblings and the wealth-demonizer share similar views on social issues, from legalizing gay marriage and pot, to ending wars.  Thus, Sanders’ argument that Koch Brothers support automatically makes something malign only harms his own candidacy.  But regardless, his statement should still be taken with more than just a grain of salt, because the proposal of opening borders seems very radical–even for a man like Sanders.

So, the question can be asked: How radical is an idea like open borders?  Is it solely a Koch Brothers right-wing conspiracy, or is there any merit to such an idea?

In an answer to these questions written by Richard Eskow and promoted on Bernie’s website, he says that open borders is not a solution, it’s a gimmick.  Similarly, Sanders and most of his supporters would say there is no merit to such a laughable and absurd proposal.  The question is, why?


First, Sanders–or his mouthpiece Eskow–makes an economic argument.

Specifically, he uses the excuse of labor exploitation for denying entry to those who come from overseas.  There are three primary arguments to be had against this claim.

First, Sanders assumes those immigrating to the U.S. would misunderstand what their wages would be if and when they came.  Clearly, those who come from places which they need to flee, whether it Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, understand and acknowledge the benefits (or detriments) of their new home in the United States.  Sanders finds open borders to be indefensible because of the exploitation that would occur in the United States; yet, he ignores the crucial fact that these immigrants are coming to the United States consensually.

Second, eliminating borders worldwide would not exploit immigrants, it would increase their wages.  In his report, economist Michael Clemens explains the increases in wages that workers would see if they immigrated to the United States. Whether it be Nigeria’s 15-fold increase or Mexico’s doubling of income, the evidence showing workers’ increases in wages should not be ignored.

Third, open borders would mean more than just higher wages for those who need them; it would mean economic prosperity for the entire world.  The Center for Global Development finds that lifting labor barriers could increase global GDP from anywhere between 50% and 150%.  If evidence suggests that global GDP is positively affected by eliminating borders, then its implementation is worth more than Bernie’s flippant skepticism.

But not only does evidence suggest that opening borders would theoretically improve the world economy, countries have empirically proven immigration creates economic prosperity.  In the 1990s, Israel’s massive influx of immigrants from Russia led to a 9% increase in wages for the current Israeli workers. The evidence is clear: opening borders would make lives better, whether it be for those in poverty or elsewhere.


Next, in a section laughably titled “Close To Slavery,” Sanders appeals to humanity and compares the current treatment of the foreign workers who want to live in the United States as exactly that: close to slavery.

First, he disregards the fact that the article discusses the status quo of our immigration system.  Open borders is a radical change and significant overhaul of the status quo, not an advocacy for its continuation.  (As well, the report they cite literally says that in the 1800s, the U.S. opened borders and fueled economic growth worldwide)

Further, he ignores an even simpler fact: often times, these immigrants have no other choice than to leave their home country. In light of the recent Syrian refugee crisis, the international community has become increasingly aware that many people are forced to leave their home country. For those, what is Sanders’ solution?  His solution is none, but his answer is simple: deny them entry for the sake of saving their wages.  However, again, he ignores the fact that these refugees need a place to live.

Sanders recognizes we should take in some refugees in order to help those who need help most, but his lackluster view on the crisis raises an important question: at what point do we stop looking out for those who need help more than us?  Even his argument of labor exploitation can be rendered meaningless when we understand United States wages would still be substantially higher than the wages in their home country.  Whether it be refugees fleeing oppression or immigrants simply seeking a better life, the evidence is undeniable: those who leave their home country look for–and thankfully find–a better life in the United States.  For example, a Haitian coming to the United States would make 2200% more here than in Haiti.  Thus, according to Sanders’ own standards, the United States is morally obligated to accept as many immigrants as humanly possible, for the sake of allowing them to improve their lives.  At what point does the American public, like Sanders, value the lives of Americans over those lives of foreigners?


Next, Sanders ostensibly strengthens his case through the protection of American workers.

“It would make everybody in America poorer—you’re doing away with the concept of a nation state…

“What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

“You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today?  … You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?”

Two things:

First of all, Sanders now confirms–in writing–exactly what I contended earlier.  That being, that his nationalistic agenda protects American workers at the expense of refugees who need our help most.  For someone so obsessed with creating an “equal playing field” among the American wealthy and the 99%, he disregards those making less than our nation’s poorest.  It’s truly a shame such a demagogue as Bernie Sanders can still by idolized for rejecting policies that directly coalign with his seemingly altruistic ideology.

Second, Sanders is literally, unambiguously, irrefutably 100% wrong.  In an explanation from the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, it becomes clear:

“Although many are concerned that immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, the most recent economic evidence suggests that, on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans. Based on a survey of the academic literature, economists do not tend to find that immigrants cause any sizable decrease in wages and employment of U.S.-born citizens (Card 2005), and instead may raise wages and lower prices in the aggregate (Ottaviano and Peri 2008; Ottaviano and Peri 2010; Cortes 2008). One reason for this effect is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead, many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. For example, low-skilled immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, and craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes—thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers. Another way in which immigrants help U.S. workers is that businesses adjust to new immigrants by opening stores, restaurants, or production facilities to take advantage of the added supply of workers; more workers translate into more business.

Because of these factors, economists have found that immigrants slightly raise the average wages of all U.S.-born workers.

So, while Bernie Sanders says that “it would make everybody in America poorer,” actual economists argue that immigrants improve the United States economy.  Of course, open borders would massively increase the amount of people coming to the United States, and thus affect it in ways difficult to predict.  Even the most generous estimates in Bernie’s favor show him to be wrong.  According to the Washington Post:

“But what about workers in rich countries? Wouldn’t their wages fall due to the influx of migrants? In the short-term, yes. Keenan estimates that real wages in rich countries would fall by about 20 percent if everyone moved immediately. But once capital adjusts between countries to account for the new situation, the wage decline goes away and workers in rich countries do just as well as they were doing before.”

Even if open borders temporarily decrease real wages in the United States, those effects would diminish over time.  And even if those decreases never went away, it would simply be the redistribution of wealth among those all around the world.  Remember that the unsubstantiated “$2 or $3 wages” that Sanders vilifies would still be significantly higher than wages in other countries.  American protectionism and nationalistic agendas that solely look out for United States citizens should be seen as inhumane, as they ignore those who need the most help around the world.



Whether it be economically or morally, the defense for open borders can be summed up in one main argument: that those overseas deserve the same opportunities as those in the United States.  We should work towards a world that doesn’t penalize individuals for seeking a better life. Instead, we allow for universal human rights and the unification of the world’s workers. A global perspective demands we look at humans as humans, not as Americans, Mexicans, Syrians, or anyone else.  American lives do not matter more than foreigners’ lives, and although Mr. Sanders hates the statement, “All lives matter.”


Connor Rothschild

Hi! My name is Connor Rothschild. I’m an 18-year-old currently studying Economics and Social Policy Analysis at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I’m passionate about impacting people through policy change, usually via the human-centered design process. You can catch me drinking 6 cups of coffee in a given day, reading The Economist between those cups, and playing with my dog Lucy.

Thanks for visiting!

Connor Rothschild

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