Somin: Keeping Out Hitler: Can Immigration Restrictions be Justified by the Need to Exclude Individuals who Might Cause Extraordinary Harm?

Good thought exercise with reasonable conclusions:

Opponents of immigration restrictions – myself included – often cite the examples of immigrants who make extraordinary contributions to society. For example, immigrants contribute disproportionately to major entrepreneurial and scientific innovations, such as the development of the first two successful Covid vaccines approved by the FDA.  The immigrants in question probably would not have been able to make these contributions if they were confined to their countries of origin. Even if only a tiny fraction of immigrants achieve such feats, migration restrictions cumulatively forestall a substantial number of such accomplishments, thereby causing great harm, that goes beyond the losses incurred by keeping out immigrants who “only” make ordinary economic and social contributions.

There is an inexhaustible list of other scenarios we can come up with where extraordinary individuals cause great harm. But each of them should be put through the same three-part analysis before it can be used to justify immigration restrictions. And if you can’t think of even one real-world example where this kind of disaster actually happened – out of hundreds of millions of immigrants over the last two centuries – that’s a pretty strong sign it’s highly unlikely to be a real issue. By contrast, there are hundreds, probably even thousands, of examples where individual immigrants made decisive contributions to some massively beneficial innovation.

Source: Keeping Out Hitler: Can Immigration Restrictions be Justified by the Need to Exclude Individuals who Might Cause Extraordinary Harm?