Perhaps 10 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. Their fate is among the most polarizing, seemingly intractable issues in American politics.
Proponents of a substantial amnesty often make humanitarian arguments, highlighting the most affecting challenges faced by families “living in the shadows.” That makes it easy conclude that the debate is best understood as pitting globalists who emphasize the needs of the least well-off against nationalists who insist that the nation must prioritize what’s best for its own citizens.
That fault line certainly runs through the immigration debate. But it can be misleading. Imagine that the welfare of undocumented immigrants counts for nothing at all—that their fate should turn entirely on what makes U.S. citizens best off. Given that constraint, there’s still a strong case that an amnesty is the best policy.