Milton Friedman on illegal immigration

Opponents of immigration think of Milton Friedman as a fellow traveler because he believed open borders were incompatible with the welfare state, which they interpret to mean Friedman was opposed to immigration. They may be surprised to learn he said the following:

Friedman: Now, that Mexican immigration, over the border, is a good thing. It’s a good thing for the illegal immigrants. It’s a good thing for the United States. It’s a good thing for the citizens of the country. But, it’s only good so long as its illegal.

In sharp contrast to those who insist they only oppose illegal immigration, Friedman was a rare bird who fully supported illegal immigration. It was only legal immigration that gave him pause.

I am not quoting Friedman here as a celebrity endorsement for my position, as a sort of argument from authority. I’m merely pointing out that his position on immigration was not what most people think it was.

As a matter of fact, Friedman was not an authority on immigration. He wrote about it very sparsely and did not think very much about keyhole solutions to the problem he identified, such as simply denying welfare to immigrants.

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