America opens the Borders. Then what?

Pick your fantasy:

*Donald Trump, waking up one morning with a sudden, deeply-held belief in the power of “opposite day”, decides that he wants to ban borders and allow the free movement of peoples to and from the US of A, excepting terrorists and other bad guys and girls.

The GOP, of course, loves the idea because it came from Trump and we since now live in a world where a man can openly lie to Congress and open his Senate campaign on the same day so what the fuck does the law matter, and so all ICE and border agents are reassigned to guard America’s burgeoning marijuana fields or process the new incomers and outgoers and give them “Have a Nice Day!” stickers or something.*

… or…

*A Democrat gets elected and decides to outdo Donald Trump and become a caricature of a Left-Wing villain. Her first idea? Open borders, excepting terrorists and other bad guys and girls.

The Dems, of course, fall in love with the idea because they all hate America and wish that all white people would die, and so all ICE and border agents are reassigned to guard America’s burgeoning marijuana fields or process the new incomers and outgoers and give them “Have a Nice Day!” stickers or something.*

So… what happens? We’re still trading under the same rules - customs, taxes, drug and smuggling laws, all that still applies to goods and materials. But people? Nah, they can just come and go as they please.

I assume we’ll probably still have to have entry points to staunch the smuggling of drugs, guns, etc… and, of course, Mexico and Canada won’t be thrilled with the idea of the US saying “want to go to leave? We’re not gonna stop you…”

Anyway, don’t want to lay too many conditions on this, so, here it is, the question:

For whatever you think is meant by “open borders”, what do you think will happen if the USA instituted an open borders policy for the free movement of people?

Crime – especially the assault rate – shoots through the roof. Not because the immigrants commit crimes, but because there’s a certain demographic that would love to take immigration enforcement into their own hands.

The biggest problem with open boarders is the social safety net. People can come into the area covered by the net to receive “free” services while working and living outside the net so as not to have to pay for it. This is the prime reason that single payer health care can’t work on a state level people will move out to avoid taxes and move in to take advantage of the service until they need the service and move back.

“Luckily” the US doesn’t have huge safety nets so this is less of a problem here. There would have to be enforcement of section 8 housing, schools and other forms of assistance so that non citizens wouldn’t be able to use them but that should be able to be covered by the current funding on emigration enforcement. If single payer health car or UBI were established we would have to create more robust ways on ensuring citizenship to keep the free loaders out or to earn their way into the system but today that isn’t much of an issue.

Also I would expect homelessness to raise and wages to be decreased starting at the bottom of the payscale but eventually lower wages would effect the professional class too. There would probably be a construction boom and large swell in the economy once those changes were digested though. We would also have an increase in the prisoj population since more people will cause more crime. Long term it would be a boon for the country.


What would these vigilantes be enforcing? In the OP’s scenario, the borders are officially open; swimming across the Rio Grande (or Lake of the Woods) is completely legal.

There would be a continuous stream of millions of poor people around the world flying into the US.

Is it only US, or is it reciprocal? If it’s the later the short term the US has a huge influx of immigrants. Medium term, a substantial amount more back to their own countries after a spell and there is significant movement of US citizens immigrating to the “shit hole” countries. So probably balances out long term.
The EU experience suggests that.

Lots and lots of shantytowns.

Given that the US had open borders for most of its existence (until the KKK lobbied to end it), I doubt there would be any big problems. All you’d have to do is set up something like they had at Ellis Island to weed out those who might need social services. Also, restrict public assistance to citizens.

It worked for my grandparents, so there’s no reason it won’t work now.


An analogous question would be: What if the only wealthy man in a town full of poor folks flung all the doors to his mansion wide open one day, and left them that way. The results would be about the same.

But would it? It was that way for the first 100 years. Did we get robbed?

Why so dubious? You doubt it? How many poor 3rd-world nation citizens do you think can get a visa to visit the US today?

I think the juxtaposition of a $4/day earning “3rd-world” farmer buying a plane ticket is what earned the :dubious:

Me, I thought you were joking.

Houses are at best poor analogies for countries.


So why don’t we have tremendous amounts of that now?

The world in your grandparents’ time was vastly different than the world today. For one the world didn’t have almost 8 billion people. Two, the US didn’t have the social service we have today. Three, the US didn’t have the judiciary that wouldn’t care about whether or not a occupant of the nation was a citizen or not.

You know, the OP does ask an interesting hypothetical and it would actually be a good idea to test it for a decade and see if the left actually was happy with the de-facto open border stance. Sometimes, it does make sense to give people what they ask for.

Ask the Indians.

Right. How much do coyotes charge the poor people coming up from the south? A lot more than a plane ticket costs. You know why they don’t just fly here? Can’t get on the plane, because they don’t have a visa.

Answering the OP in the mode of a question asked with legitimate intentions…

a) People begin flocking to the US for the same reason that they were flocking here when the restrictions existed – a better life in one or another sense of the word

b-1) Equilibrium is achieved by the US, realizing that it would be better to improve the world as a whole than to be inundated by zillions of immigrants, finally using its powers for good. Instead of propping up dictatorships who are favored by elements in the US for their cooperation in exploiting resources and workers, the US begins propping up genuinely democratic movements. Instead of using the UN as an enforcement mechanism for perpetuating the status quo, the US begins changing it to become a worldwide representative democracy. The US ceases to offer a spectacularly better set of rights and freedoms, safeties, and opportunities than are available elsewhere as a consequence of this, and immigration slows to a balanced trickle going in multiple directions.


b-2) Equilibrium is instead achieved by the thinning of resources in the US and the struggles over increasingly scarce commodities, plus the increased violence exported here by frustrated people elsewhere, where things continue to be unfair unequal and short on opportunities. Eventually the level of misery evens out and people have less and less reason to view the US as a haven from the things they’re trying to get away from.
Any questions?

I don’t know. How much?

I really like this thought experiment.

I suppose the first reaction would be a mass migration of people to the US. I wonder how documentation would be handled? Assuming that anyone is allowed in that can demonstrate their identity and are then given American citizenship and the documents associated with that, you get an influx of people - mostly consisting of the poor who are fleeing poverty/persecution/whatever.

This would likely lead to a series of of humanitarian crises as social services attempt to catch up to the influx. You’d see homelessness, criminality, poverty, etc. climb.

But, given that everyone becomes a legal citizen and pays income taxes, I would expect the economy to grow. You’d need more housing, you’d have more customers for everything and you should see tax revenue rise as you have more taxpayers. You’d also likely need some sort of ‘New Deal’ style infrastructure movement to accept millions of new people across the nation. You’d also see minorities skyrocket as I assume most of the immigrants would come from minority groups. I wonder how the ‘melting pot’ notion would survive if you had millions of folks from different cultures come the US.

There would be significant upheaval and I don’t think the ‘new’ US would resemble the old one.

If I had to guess, I think it’d be more like India or China than, say, Norway. Lots of different cultures mashed together with a significant number of folks near the poverty level, but with a population so large that you’d have hundreds of millions of middle-class people and plenty of billionaires. I think the US could manage the influx, but it would be a very different country.