Two Sides To One Line – Social Security And Border Insecurity


Immigration control in the U.S. has long been a hate-hate relationship and as the tumultuous year of 2018 came to a close, the controversy continues, as funding is withheld for the current administration’s demands of a physical border wall. Whether made of cement or steel slats, there are two sides to one wall. While the return on investment is null, the idea outdated, and the cure worse than the disease, the question remains, if the spectrum consists of a wall or no wall – is there a way to sooth both extremes?

To weed out any bias in the previous analysis of a new border wall’s legitimacy in “Workers Without Borders”, it’s constructive to use historical data to illustrate why in today’s times for open borders for the U.S. are destructive. The liberty to migrate in and out of the U.S. has for most of its history been loosely managed with little to no governance. Before 1914, the United States had completely free immigration, anybody with the means to reach the shores (or borders) of the U.S. was considered an immigrant. During that time, it was difficult to find a contrarian to the free movement of immigrants into the country. It was revered as the best catalyst for economic mobility and growth, both for those leaving their native countries, and those in the U.S., who were ultimately the beneficiaries of additional resources.

Today, the sentiment of the crowd’s pitch grows louder in opposition to such a system of immigration. Past rhetoric has reached an inflection point where the inverse mentality reigns. Its reckoned those coming nowadays are leaving developing nations. Developing countries where conditions are improving drastically, technological advancements leap-frogging those of the U.S., and where the resident populace is, unfortunately, wary of job opportunities themselves. The fear of a giant influx of immigrants drives those already struggling for subsistence in the U.S. to resort to vote, and voice support for propositions like a border wall. But now the question is ripe for posing – why the inconsistency? Why was free immigration a good thing before 1914 and a bad thing today?

Although poignant, it is necessary to acknowledge that not all free-immigration means immigration to jobs. In part, the flows of migrants can be tethered to welfare. If you have a welfare state where every resident is promised a certain minimum level of income or subsistence, regardless of whether they produce it or not, then the incentives to not work inevitably skew the results. Consider the following, prior to 1914 everybody benefitted. The people who came benefitted because, nobody would come unless they would’ve done better here than they would elsewhere, and the new immigrants provided additional resources and possibilities for the people already in the U.S. The result was a mutually beneficial relationship. On the other hand, if one arrives under circumstances where they are entitled to a prorated share of a pool of finite resources, then the effect of that example of free immigration would mean a reduction in benefits to a uniform level. Granted this is an extreme example, however, it is that perception leading groups to adopt what would first seem like an inconsistent approach. Over time, it is clear that with a reasonable enough swell in those utilizing social security, ceteris paribus, the taxable incomes of a working age-population are no longer enough to evade a zero-sum payout.

In 1935 the official Social Security Act was passed in the U.S., a bill that included direct relief, otherwise known as cash, food stamps, subsidized housing, amendments to unemployment insurance, and so on. Applying the immediate practical case of illegal Mexican immigration, we understand that Mexican immigration over the border is a good thing for illegal immigrants, and it’s a good thing for businesses in the United States. However, it is only a good thing because it is illegal. Paradoxically, if you make it legal the benefits theoretically disappear, as long as it’s illegal those arriving do not qualify for welfare, or social security, or any other of the myriad of benefits. As long as they don’t qualify they automatically migrate to jobs, they take jobs that most residents of the U.S. are unwilling to take, they provide employers with cheap labor they couldn’t otherwise get, and they themselves are also better off.

This argument illustrates how interconnected the various aspects of freedom really are, when it comes to the ideas being put forth for managing immigration by current the administration in the U.S., the undertaking requires a multivariate approach. Poor governance as we can see can make socially advantageous acts illegal, and therefore leads to the undermining of a welfare state in general. Thus, the immigration enforcers must beckon the question whether establishing an amendable mandate of migrant acceptances per annum is better for the citizens of the U.S. than allowing existing illegal inflows to continue. Albeit impossible to completely eliminate any illegal immigration, it cannot be the main culprit for justifying a $5bln USD tab for a structure that’s more a monument than a deterrent.