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Open borders is the new prison abolitionism


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: Open borders is the new prison abolitionism

  • Why rooting out rogue prosecutors isn’t enough

  • Here are the criminal justice issues that Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon should debate

  • White ex-police officer found guilty of murder for killing Black teen

  • Another white officer who killed a Black man is now training officers

  • California eliminates cash bail

  • Rod Rosenstein espouses ’90s-era drug war beliefs

In the Spotlight

Open borders is the new prison abolitionism

In recent months, Republicans have started calling Democrats the party of “open borders.” White House aide Stephen Miller has called Democratic opposition to expanding immigrant prison camps for kids “part of their crusade for open borders.” President Trump is no different. “The Democrats are for open borders, which means crime,” he recently opined. “It’s not a question of, like, what do you think it means. Open borders means crime.” Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. And while Democrats have deported record numbers of immigrants on their watch, some are turning to the idea of open borders, discussing it with seriousness and specificity. [Will Wilkinson / The Economist]

Certain arguments that were once thought of as too radical to print in mainstream sources or to avow on the campaign trail have gained acceptance on both the right and the left. On the left, the idea of abolishing ICE has gone from fringe to almost obligatory, and even prison abolitionism has gained traction. So too has the idea of open borders, as Americans watch the harm wrought by immigration enforcement. Some have called freedom of movement a basic human right. The family separation crisis and immigration enforcement generally has pushed many to look for new solutions. See also our 6/28/18 edition.

A recent opinion piece in The Economist discusses the EU version of open borders, and explains that it is not “all or nothing.” Will Wilkinson writes, “Legal entry and residency can be open to citizens of some countries but not to others. The French are free to waltz into Spain, but Moroccans aren’t.” Furthermore, some openness can coexist with overall restrictiveness. “A border that is entirely open to the citizens of a few nearby countries can be, on the whole, less porous than one than that is open to anyone anywhere who ticks the right boxes. Immigration policy can’t shut down streams of human traffic but should strive instead to “respect and regulate inevitable migration flows.” An open border between Mexico and America, he argues, could work, bringing labor migration within the rule of law, reducing exploitation of laborers by employers and human smugglers, and narrowing the gap in living standards that, more than anything, draws people from Mexico into the U.S. [Will Wilkinson / The Economist]

And in a recent column for USA Today, economist Jeffrey Miron argued that the “solution to America’s immigration problems is open borders, under which the United States imposes no immigration restrictions at all. If the U.S. adopts this policy, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.” This course of action will make all immigration legal, freeing the government from the task of untangling thorny issues of “asylum, economic hardship, family reunification, family separation, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and so on,” saving the money the U.S. currently spends on immigration prevention, enforcement, adjudication, detention, and deportations. A 2013 report estimated that immigration enforcement cost more than $18 billion annually, a number that has most likely risen since. It will lead to better economic outcomes for Americans because of free movement of labor, especially skilled labor, and lower prices. Without the fear of never being able to return, much of the immigration would be temporary, as often happens in the EU, and has happened in years past in the U.S. [Jeffrey Miron / USA Today]

Economist Michael Clemens, who works at an anti-poverty think tank, says that there are “trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk” right now that no one is picking up. The policy that could make the world twice as rich as it is now: open borders. “Labor is the world’s most valuable commodity—yet thanks to strict immigration regulation, most of it goes to waste,” argue Bryan Caplan and Vipul Naik in “A radical case for open borders.” Mexican laborers who migrate to the United States can expect to earn 150 percent more. Unskilled Nigerians make 1,000 percent more. Making people stay in countries that cannot make good use of their labor “is as economically senseless as making farmers plant in Antarctica,” they argue. And the noneconomic benefits are plentiful: an end to suffering both in the native country and as immigration detainees in the United States. Open borders does not mean “no borders” or “the abolition of the nation-state.” On the contrary, “the reason why migration is so attractive is that some countries are well-run and others, abysmally so,” according to The Economist. This would not change, but the experience of those individuals would change, and drastically. [The Economist]

Some argue that returning to the U.S. immigration policy of 1790-1875, under which virtually anybody in the world could immigrate, would diminish America’s national sovereignty because the U.S. could no longer exercise “control” over borders. But Cato Institute analyst Alex Nowrasteh writes: “U.S. immigration laws are not primarily designed or intended to keep out foreign armies, spies, or insurgents. The main effect of our immigration laws is to keep out willing foreign workers from selling their labor to willing American purchasers. Such economic controls do not aid in the maintenance of national sovereignty and relaxing or removing them would not infringe upon the government’s national sovereignty any more than a policy of unilateral free trade would.” Indeed, he points out, the U.S. maintained its sovereignty during the period between 1790 and 1875 despite fighting the war of 1812, the Mexican-American war, and the Civil War. [Alex Nowrasteh / Cato Institute]

“Democrats are now synonymous with utter lawlessness,” proclaims one far-right outlet. “They want no borders, no prisons and ultimately no police.” This is not true, but it is closer to being true than it was a few months ago.

Stories From The Appeal

Jeffrey Deskovic with his mother, Linda McGarr, shortly after his release from prison.
[Courtesy of the Innocence Project]

Why Rooting Out Rogue Prosecutors Isn’t Enough. Experts say New York’s Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct is an important first step, but the problem isn’t just misconduct—it’s the way prosecutors wield their discretion every day. [Maura Ewing]

Here Are the Criminal Justice Issues That Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon Should Debate. From policing to parole, this election could be pivotal for reform. [Emma Whitford]

Stories From Around the Country

White ex-police officer found guilty of murder for killing Black teen: Roy Oliver was found guilty of murder yesterday for shooting Jordan Edwards, an unarmed Black teenager. He could face up to life in prison. Oliver testified that he was defending his partner when he fired into a car that was leaving a party outside  Dallas. Within one second of seeing his partner yelling into the car, Oliver shot five rounds inside, killing 15-year-old Jordan, a freshman honor roll student. Although murder convictions for officer shootings are extremely rare, Oliver is the second former officer in Dallas County to be found guilty of murder this year. “For an officer to be convicted of murder resulting from an on-duty shooting, the facts of the incident have to be so bizarre that there is no rational explanation for the officer’s actions,” said Philip Stinson, a professor who tracks police misconduct. “I think that shooting into a car full of teenagers as they slowly drive down the street away from the officer fits that pattern.” [Eva Ruth Moravec / Washington Post]

Another white officer who killed a Black man is now training officers: In Oklahoma, a police officer who was not convicted for fatally shooting an unarmed man two years ago is now teaching officers how to handle the aftermath of police shootings. Betty Shelby—who now works as a deputy in a nearby department—taught a course called “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident.” A state website says the four-hour course exposes officers to “many of the legal, financial, physical, and emotional challenges which may result from” police shootings and similar events. Shelby said last May that a main lesson she teaches officers is how to handle the “Ferguson effect,” a phenomenon that has been used to refer to a belief that police officers have become fearful to do their jobs, though Shelby has argued that it’s “when a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion.” [P.R. Lockhart / Vox]

California eliminates cash bail: Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed sweeping legislation to eliminate cash bail in the state. The law will take effect in October 2019, and goes further than any other state in the country in removing money from the decision of whether to detain someone pretrial. California will use “risk assessments” to determine which individuals pose a public safety risk or a risk of failure to appear, and instead of money bail, impose nonmonetary conditions of release when deemed necessary. According to the Sacramento Bee, “‘High-risk’ individuals would remain in custody until their arraignment, as would anyone who has committed certain sex crimes or violent felonies, is arrested for driving under the influence for the third time in less than 10 years, is already under supervision by the courts or has violated any conditions of pretrial release in the previous five years.” Bail agents are decrying the bill because their jobs are in jeopardy, and some criminal justice advocates worry that the new system gives too much discretion to judges and prosecutors, and could lead to increased detention. [Alexei Koseff / Sacramento Bee]

Rod Rosenstein espouses ’90s-era drug war beliefs: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom many liberals see as an ally when it comes to the Russia investigation, revealed wrongheaded and retrograde ideas about the drug war in a New York Times opinion column this week. In criticizing safe injection sites, he argues that “[c]ities and counties should join us and fight drug abuse, not subsidize it.” Rosenstein laments the downward trend of drug prosecutions and lower sentences despite overwhelming data showing that the drug war has been a failure. He celebrates the Trump administration’s work to “reverse those trends” with increased drug prosecutions. He plays into misplaced fears of “drug-addled, glassy-eyed people strewn about.” Most remarkably, Rosenstein threatens any jurisdiction that is considering opening a safe-injection site: “Because federal law clearly prohibits injection sites, cities and counties should expect the Department of Justice to meet the opening of any injection site with swift and aggressive action.” [Rod Rosenstein / New York Times]

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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