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THBT: The US government should grant entry to the majority of individuals who wish to immigrate to America


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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THBT: The US government should grant entry to the majority of individuals who wish to immigrate to America.

The framework below, including definitions, is agreed on by both sides as part of the decision to participate in this debate.

BoP is shared equally. Pro argues that a system in which the government grants entry to the majority of those who wish to enter America is preferable to the status quo. Con defends the status quo as preferable to Pro’s proposal.

America means “the United States.”
Grant means “allow.”
Immigrate means “come to live permanently in a foreign country.”
Majority means “more than half.”
Should means “ought to.”

Round 1
An unjust law can be identified by its infliction of structural violence. As such, in order to be justified, or preferable to inaction, a government restriction must meet the following criteria:
    (a) Such a law must not unjustly harm a person or group of people.
    (b) The net effect of this restriction must be positive.

Voters should use these criteria for two reasons. First, human rights are fundamental to any moral system and should be protected. Second, a government policy that fails to provide for the common good no longer has a justification to infringe on liberty. I will argue that a restriction on the majority of would-be immigrants fails to meet either criterion, though if it fails to meet even one of them, it is unjust.

My Case
I will use the following Modus Ponens to affirm the resolution: 
  • P1: If a law does not meet (a) and (b), it should not be passed.
  • P2: Denying entry the majority of those who wish to enter the United States does not meet (a) and (b).
  • C1: Therefore, the US government should grant entry to the majority of individuals who wish to immigrate to America.

1. Human Rights:
Citizens vs. Noncitizens
  • P1: If there exists no morally significant difference between two groups of people, both groups ought to be afforded the same rights.
  • P2: There exists no morally significant difference between citizens and noncitizens.
  • C1: Hence, citizens and noncitizens ought to be afforded the same rights.
P1 is self-evident. P2 is a bit more controversial, but it’s not too difficult to establish. Clearly, a person’s moral worth is not determined by their place of birth. And the distinction between citizens and noncitizens is a legal distinction, not a moral one. Saying that different rights ought to be afforded to citizens and noncitizens is essentially saying, “The government classifies Group A as having more rights than Group B, hence the government ought to classify Group A as having more rights than Group B.” It’s begging the question.

Black men in America were not granted citizenship until 1868, yet they were still morally equal to white men and had as much of a moral right to use public spaces as white men did. Despite not being classified as citizens, they had the same moral rights as citizens.

Marketplace Thought Experiment
Michael Huemer offers us this thought experiment:
Marvin is in desperate need of food. Perhaps someone has stolen his food, or perhaps a natural disaster destroyed his crops; whatever the reason, Marvin is in danger of starvation. Fortunately, he has a plan to remedy the problem: he will walk to the local marketplace, where he will buy bread. Assume that in the absence of outside interference, this plan would succeed: the marketplace is open, and there are people there who are willing to trade food to Marvin in exchange for something he has. Another individual, Sam, is aware of all this and is watching Marvin. For some reason, Sam decides to detain Marvin on his way to the marketplace, forcibly preventing him from reaching it. As a result, Marvin returns home empty-handed, where he dies of starvation.
I think it’s clear that Sam’s actions here are clearly unjust and morally comparable to murder. We would furthermore say that Marvin has an inherent human right to trade with a willing seller, unhindered by a third party such as Sam. Yet this scenario would seem to be an accurate reflection of America’s current immigration policy. The role of Marvin is played by would-be immigrants who wish to be employed in the US and who many in the US would be willing to hire. The role of Sam is played by the US government.

As I stated earlier, there is no morally significant difference between citizens and noncitizens. But suppose you reject that premise and believe that the government ought to prioritize the needs of citizens over the needs of noncitizens, similarly to the way we prioritize our children over strangers. Consider then Huemer’s revised scenario:
As before, Marvin plans to walk to the local marketplace to obtain life-sustaining food. Due to his economic circumstances, Marvin will have to buy the cheapest bread available at the market. Sam’s daughter, however, also plans to go to the market, slightly later in the day, to buy some of this same bread. This bread is often in short supply, so that the vendor may run out after Marvin’s purchase. Sam’s daughter could buy more expensive bread, but she would prefer not to. Knowing all this, Sam fears that if Marvin is allowed to go to the market, his daughter will be forced to pay a slightly higher price for bread than she would like. To prevent this from happening, he accosts Marvin on the road and physically restrains him from traveling to the market. Is Sam’s action permissible?
It’s clear then that Sam’s actions, along with those of the US government, cannot be justified by invoking a moral responsibility to family or to citizens, respectively. Sam has a moral responsibility to his daughter that exceeds any government’s responsibility to its citizens. Yet this responsibility does not justify his actions toward Marvin.

But, as I pointed out earlier, there is no morally significant difference between citizens and noncitizens. Hence there is no reason for the US to prioritize citizens over noncitizens in the first place.

2. Benefits to Immigrants:
Immigration confers many benefits onto those who enter the US. In denying entry to would-be immigrants, the US government is directly harming them. I will discuss economic effects as well, but it’s clear that the effect on immigrants makes my proposal a net positive.

Economic Opportunities
Net gains per worker from highly loosened immigration policies would be tens of thousands of dollars per year, just in terms of increased income. Use of public services, which we will discuss later, are a net benefit—they cost the government money, but they are beneficial to the immigrant using them. And due to economies of scale, the more people that use a public service, the cheaper that public service becomes per person since some costs are fixed. As there is no morally significant difference between citizens and noncitizens, this is a net positive. 

Increase in Life Expectancy
Most would-be immigrants come from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Due to poor economic conditions, each of these countries has an average life expectancy about 7 years lower than that of the United States. Hence, allowing an immigrant into the US will on average raise their life expectancy, and the life expectancy of their children, by about 7 years. Immigration actually boosts average US life expectancy, so the benefit is likely even greater than the figure I just gave.

3. Effect on Economy:
For the sake of argument, I will discuss the effect of immigration on the economy strictly from the perspective of US citizens. Immigrants are often poor when they enter the US, largely because they come from places with less opportunities. But immigrants don’t stay poor, because they seek employment and rapidly begin contributing to the economy.

Marginal Benefit
An analysis found that the efficiency of migrant workers generally does not depend on which migrants are selected. The net fiscal cost of admitting one unskilled immigrant, when accounting for all long-term effects, is only -$13,000, the calculated difference in the cost of services they use and what they pay in taxes. This may seem like a net negative, but we must also account for the value of goods and services produced by each immigrant over their lifetime. The contribution to GDP by an average US citizen is $70,249 per year. Even if each unskilled immigrant only produces a tenth of that amount (and average immigrant salaries are much higher than 1/10 of the average citizen’s salary), then an average unskilled immigrant adds $7,025 to GDP each year, or $140,500 over the course of 20 years. Essentially, the average unskilled immigrant contributes far more value in goods and services than they receive from the government. Furthermore, immigration increases the value produced by native workers.

The effect of wages from open borders would be small and would not be a net gain or net loss regardless. If wages go down, workers make less, but goods and services become cheaper to produce. And immigrants are 80% more likely to start a business than those born in the US—in the long term, this will drive wages back up (although again, a wage increase or decrease is not really “good” or “bad” in terms of net effect.)

4. Ownership of Public Spaces:
Three Scenarios
By a public space (as opposed to private property), I mean a place like a park or a road that we generally agree citizens should be allowed to access. There are essentially three views regarding the ownership of and moral right to control public spaces in America:
    (A) These spaces and opportunities are owned by American citizens, and the moral right to access these spaces is based on the laws that they pass collectively.
    (B) American citizens have the moral right, as individuals, to use these spaces.
    (C) Citizens and noncitizens have the moral right, as individuals, to use these spaces.

This view holds that the American public has a moral right to pass whatever law they want regarding public spaces, via the government. It’s essentially a combination of might makes right and tyranny of the majority. Under this view, a large majority would be morally justified in banning a minority from using public spaces, as we saw with Jim Crow laws.

As I pointed out earlier, there’s no morally significant distinction between citizens and noncitizens, just as there’s no morally significant distinction between different races. So if citizens have a moral right to use public spaces and seek employment in America, then the same must be true of noncitizens.

Hence, we should abide by the view that citizens and noncitizens alike have the moral right to use public spaces in America.

Majority - More than half. 

I shall aim to prove that the US should not grant entry to the majority based on the following three reasons. 

  • There are currently too many restrictions inhibiting the entry of immigrants. 
  • Consequences of entry might cause severe, irreparable damage. Especially with the attempt to accommodate such a high number.
  • There is a need for immigration laws. 


  • Pro mentions that we should allow entry. Should implies ought which implies can. 
Which then raises the question, even if the US bears the burden of moral responsibility to regard the lives of immigrants as equal to their own citizens? How can it be done safely? 

If moral necessity is a certainty, will the strength of the US’s economy stand on principle? 

The issue isn’t a lack or difference of morals, but a matter of pragmatism. The US can’t allow entry to this amount. Not without compromising the integrity of life and livelihood. 

The US certainly values the lives of its neighbors, as it was through immigrant labor that built this country. But to maintain this function systemically, it is only feasible to do the logical thing.

Difficulty Status

Most immigrants would prefer to enter the United States legally, but there are several dilemmas. 
  • Millions of immigrants apply every year. 
  • With nearly 50,000 visas available, it is simply illogical to expect the US government to account for more than 500,000 individuals.

Nonetheless, despite the broken immigration system, several politicians did attempt to address it but with no success. 
  • Bush tried to reform the immigration system, but was likewise stopped by republicans AND democrats. 
  • Obama’s own policies (despite having good intentions) were separating families and therefore fired back on. 

Needs for Immigration Laws

The US needs to vet out certain people, in case some of the immigrants pose a threat to the lives of their own people. 
  • By allowing entry to the majority of immigrants, it would be impossible to monitor those who are involved in the drug trade, terrorism, or sex trafficking. 
  • “The U.S. Department of State estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year.” 1
  • • 77 percent of immigrant victims from Latin America and the Caribbean were trafficked in labor situations.” 2
  •  Most pay thousands to get to the United States, and the cartels reap the benefits while also bolstering their power in the region.
  • "Criminal organizations control the border,” so they control who and what crosses the border, said Gary Hale, drug policy fellow at the U.S. Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston. “And that becomes a lucrative moneymaker, a revenue generator for these cartels.” 3 
  • As of November 2022, there are currently six million Americans that are unemployed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • Granting accessibility to more than 500,000 people would only be worsening the problem of unemployment for American civilian life. 
Pro argues that equality is important and we shouldn’t prioritize one life over the other. Yet, Pro is contradicting himself because his exact model is playing favoritism with immigrant lives, but neglecting the lives of the natives. 

I’ll explain.:

  • The Government Assistance is set up to guarantee immigrants with legal access will be placed into new jobs. 
  • With newer jobs being filled, there is less of a demand for more employees which leads to a heavier supply of unemployed americans. 
America will then become a place of prosperity for the foreigners, but a place of perpetual suffering for its native citizens. 

This is a recipe for economic disaster.

Round 2
Con does not dispute my criteria for what constitutes an unjust law. As such, voters should agree with what I stated in my opening. If a restriction on the majority of would-be immigrants (a) unjustly harms anyone or (b) fails to have a positive net effect, it is a bad policy.

Arguments 1-4:
Con does not dispute much of what I have said here. Where they do disagree, they attack my arguments indirectly as part of their constructive. So rather than reiterate what I have already said, I will focus on responding to Con’s arguments.

5. “Morality/Ethics”:
Con claims that granting entry to the majority of would-be immigrants would be unsafe and compromise the integrity of livelihood. At this point, these are essentially just unsubstantiated assertions, especially since I have shown the marginal effect of each immigrant to be positive. Con gives defenses of these claims later on, so I will focus on addressing those arguments.

6. “Difficulty Status”:
“Millions of immigrants apply every year.”
Most of the cost and effort associated with visa applications is in reviewing the skills of applicants to see which ones pass the threshold for entry. It would be less costly to simply let in anyone who isn’t wanted for some crime. In the past 20 years, the government has spent $333 billion on border security. If millions of people want to enter the United States, it’s more expensive to keep them out than to let them in. And despite Con’s concern about “accounting for more than 500,000 individuals,” the government doesn’t need to keep constant tabs on every immigrant who is let into the country. Immigrants mostly just want to be left alone.

“several politicians did attempt to address [immigration]”
Con argues that it would be difficult for a single political figure, such as the president, to implement the policy I propose. That may be so, but it is irrelevant to whether the government as a whole should grant entry to the majority of individuals who wish to immigrate to America. Whether a policy is likely to be implemented is a completely different question than whether it is the right thing to do.

7. “Needs for Immigration Laws”:
“Criminal organizations control the border”
The current prevalence of human trafficking and cartels actually supports my point, since they are both a result of America’s restrictive immigration policy. The source Con provided says “the large majority of those unauthorized in the country today would have preferred to enter lawfully if they could have.” So if immigrants can enter the country legally, the black market for entry into the US is eliminated. Furthermore, the US border patrol can focus on a much narrower set of criminals—those trafficking others or committing violent crimes. This number will also be greatly reduced, since migrants now have an easier legal path to immigration. Furthermore, immigrants commit less violent crime than natives, and areas with more immigrants have similar or lower crime rates than the rest of the country.

“Government Assistance”
This is largely tangential to the resolution, but these programs actually favor citizens, not noncitizens. Citizens have much easier access to welfare programs than noncitizens. Even if these programs did favor noncitizens, that would not be a justification for denying noncitizens entry to the United States—as I argued in my opening, they have as much of a moral right to access public spaces as citizens.

“problem of unemployment”
Citizens are granted entry to the United States, so granting immigrants entry is simply recognizing that immigrants have that same right, not favoritism. Companies shouldn’t be hiring an employee because they are a citizen, but because they are the best person for the job. As I said before, more employees in the workforce is a net gain for the economy, since more goods and services are produced, and the efficiency of native workers is improved.

When a buyer and a seller exchange goods and services, the resulting benefit to each party is known as surplus. This graph shows the effect of an increased labor supply. When the supply of labor increases (S -> S1), total surplus increases (∆FE1B > ∆FEA).

Small businesses in particular will benefit. If a native employee now wants to improve their lot and start a business, they’ll have an easier time finding people to work for them. And immigrants are 80% more likely to start a business than those born in the US, which will offer new opportunities for employment. Increased demand has a similar effect on total surplus.
Firstly, it is a mistake to assume that quantity = quality. 

The current problem surrounding unemployment isn’t a lack of jobs, but selective hiring & under-qualification. 

With the amount of immigrants joining the country, these jobs get filled and now there are no longer any more jobs. The last thing the US needs is more businesses. Over-regulating the nation will just cause competition to grow unstable and cause a destructive economy, as resources are misallocated. 

More people doesn’t guarantee better service either. 

Rebuttal 1 - Equality
“This is largely tangential to the resolution, but these programs actually favor citizens, not noncitizens. Citizens have much easier access to welfare programs than noncitizens. Even if these programs did favor noncitizens, that would not be a justification for denying noncitizens entry to the United States—as I argued in my opening, they have as much of a moral right to access public spaces as citizens.”

Incorrect. These policies have directly hurt citizens and in-fact, this is a contradiction. There is a problem with Pro’s formula. 
  1. Pro is advocating for equality. 
  2. Pro assumes that even if his model does devalue the lives of citizens, while favoring non-citizens that we should still use it anyway. 
Not only is this not equality, this is just a reversal of whose lives matter. In essence, picking and choosing who gets rights and who doesn’t. 

“Second, the decline in work among the native-born over the last 14 years of high immigration is consistent with research showing that immigration reduces employment for natives.
Third, the trends since 2000 challenge the argument that immigration on balance increases job opportunities for natives. Over 17 million immigrants arrived in the country in the last 14 years, yet native employment has deteriorated significantly.
Among the findings:

The total number of working-age (16 to 65) immigrants (legal and illegal) holding a job increased 5.7 million from the first quarter of 2000 to the first quarter of 2014, while declining 127,000 for natives.” 

Statistically, the reason many immigrants are fleeing their home is because of unemployment and poverty. The quote above shows unemployment and poverty would happen to americans if we enabled the majority of immigrants’ access. 

Pro’s model disproportionately favors immigrants over Americans but calls for equality. You cannot have both. 

There is no logical reason to allow entry to such a ridiculous amount of people. 

Round 3
Recall that the government is taking action by denying entry to noncitizens, similar to the action taken by Sam in preventing Marvin from entering the marketplace. If this action (a) unjustly harms anyone or (b) fails to achieve a positive net effect, it is unjustified. Con has not challenged these criteria, given alternate criteria, or given us any reason to prioritize the interests of citizens over noncitizens. Therefore, conclusions from this debate should be relatively straightforward. I’ll largely be repeating sources and figures that I provided earlier, since many of them haven’t been addressed.

1. Does Denying Entry to Noncitizens Unjustly Harm Anyone?
Con does not dispute that noncitizens have as much of a right to use public spaces and seek employment as citizens. Recall that most would-be immigrants live in countries with life expectancies seven years lower than those in the US. Hence, the US government is harming them and their children by denying them entry to America. Because noncitizens have the same rights as citizens, and because shortening an individual’s life expectancy is a violation of human rights, denying entry to the majority of would-be immigrants is unjustly harming them.

2. What is the Net Effect of Denying Entry to the Majority of Immigrants?
Con focuses solely on employment and does not consider the net effect of an increased labor supply, which is positive. Con’s source does not grant the conclusions he would like to draw from it. Correlation does not imply causation. There’s no reason to believe that jobs going to noncitizens would have gone to citizens—we’d expect an increased labor supply to result in more jobs since more employees are available. More in-depth analysis requires economists to study multiple time periods and control for other factors. These studies find that immigrants increase productivity of native workers and lower costs for products. Immigrants reduce wages by a small amount in industries where immigrants are employed but increase wages for natives overall due to complements in production—if more farmers are employed, for example, more mechanics are needed to repair tractors. Recall that each immigrant will contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to GDP, and that lower labor costs are beneficial to businesses and consumers.

3. Which Position is More Egalitarian?
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” -Franklin Leonard

This debate deals with whether noncitizens should be granted entry to the United States. American citizens are already granted entry to America, so if equality is something we ought to value, then noncitizens should also be granted entry to America. Citizens have the right to apply for jobs in the United States, so the same right should be afforded to noncitizens. Competing with noncitizens for jobs is inconvenient, but it is egalitarian—preventing noncitizens from applying for jobs is giving US citizens an unfair advantage.

Because current immigration restrictions are unjustified, the US government ought to grant entry to the majority of individuals who wish to immigrate to America. Hence, the resolution is affirmed.
The U.S. does not have a duty/obligation to preserve the lives of other people. It’s only priority is its own citizens. 

Pro hasn’t given a solid reason why the US must prioritize the lives of immigrants vs the lives of its own civilians. 

The US did not create the circumstances the foreigners are in, so it has no responsibility for their situation through inaction. 

As demonstrated above, the US cannot afford to neglect its own citizens. Lest it falls by its own hand.