Trump should close the border to people, but not to commerce

American civilization, indeed Western civilization, faces an existential challenge much greater than Russian militarism, President Xi’s autocratic capitalism and election tampering. Some 750 million people worldwide would like to migrate — mostly to America and Western Europe.

China and Southeast Asia have accomplished great economic progress but poor protection of human rights and too few opportunities to escape poverty remain endemic.


In Latin America, the non-oil Middle East and Africa conditions are even worse: Failing economies, rampant violence, religious fundamentalism and gang rule are manufacturing state entropy.

Some 165 million adults — and in particular a good share of Latin Americans — want to come to America.


During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the expense and physical difficulties of picking up and leaving made an open immigration policy not particularly threatening to America. The European origins of most immigrants — other than the Chinese who came to work on the railroads — made assimilation easy.

Radical liberals who have now captured the Democratic Party, mainstream media and university faculties refuse to admit it, but European ideals about the value of the individual and the efficacy of free markets and democracy made America possible — in particular, our prosperity and political freedoms. If immigration is not to dilute these, America must acculturate new arrivals to those values or risk an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tyranny that lowers conditions in places like Chicago to those in Caracas.

Overall, immigrants bring much needed STEM skills, and entrepreneurs and make America richer — something academic economists rant like the chorus in a Soviet opera. But what conservatives on campuses are not permitted to even whisper is that immigration also lowers the real wages of native workers in less skilled occupations. For example, wages in Iowa meat packing plants have stagnated at $16 an hour for four decades.

Milton Friedman observed, we can’t have open borders and the modern welfare state — simply half of immigrants are poorly educated and qualify for means tested entitlements. Absorbing 4 or 5 million poor folks each year would bankrupt state budgets.

Rewards for investing and innovating make capitalism run, but those beget inequality. Our social compact to keep the engine going is a robust social safety net — we can debate how much but not whether it is needed.

Illegal entrants at the southern border — most declaring asylum and many toting children — jumped to about 100,000 in March. And the word is out — Congress and federal courts have tied President Trump’s hands, and he must let them in or close the border entirely. If he doesn’t, millions will follow and absolutely overwhelm the social safety net, deprive native Americans of reasonable economic security and inspire rampant disaffection with democracy and capitalism.

Like all societies, America depends on schools to teach children its values and the efficacy of our political and economic arrangements. Unfortunately, liberal authoritarianism endemic to America’s universities denigrates the character and values of white Europeans who established our republic and flat out teaches socialism is good and free markets are bad. And the government owes everyone not just a helping hand to become productive but an income for life if they don’t care to exert themselves to acquire a useful skill or to work at all.

Those universities with their obsessions are training our teachers to dismiss our culture as exploitive. Too many immigrants and children of recent arrivals leave high school these days identifying more with their country of origin than when they started their education.


Democrats see electoral advantage in championing open borders, de facto naturalization and voting rights for those who enter America illegally. Those are the surest ways to turn working class America into a hungry and angry mob — conveniently aligned with cynical liberal critics of free speech, free enterprise and constitutional democracy.

Business leaders tell us terrible tales about the commercial consequences that will follow if Mr. Trump closes the southern border and disrupts supply chains in autos and other industries.

Cowed by the media speech police, CEOs neglect to relate one simple truth: The president can close the border to the movement of people but continue to permit the flow of commercial vehicles carrying goods and air travel for business. That would keep goods and services flowing but quell the hungry hoard.

Until such time as the Democrats in Congress and liberal judges stop impeding reasonable immigration enforcement, closing the border is the only reasonable answer.

Peter Morici(Twitter: @pmorici1) is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.