In Defense of Immigration from “Sh*thole Countries”


by Thomas L. Knapp

“Why are we having all these people from shi*hole countries come here?” US president Donald Trump allegedly asked during an Oval Office meeting, further musing that the US should try to strike a new balance with fewer immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean and more from, say, Norway.

Well, of course, he shouldn’t have put it THAT way, if he did (he denies it). Between the language and the demographics in his supposed example, he’s handed his opponents the opportunity for a doubly delicious round of public moral preening — look how vulgar, and how racist, Donald Trump is!

Maybe they’re right. But they’re missing much bigger points. Whatever his phraseology, and regardless of any racial differences between the populations of the countries he chooses as examples, he got the whole matter backward in two important ways.

First and foremost, neither Donald Trump nor Congress should be choosing who comes to America. That’s the market’s job, not the government’s job, and certainly not the federal government’s job. Prospective employers and prospective employees don’t need politicians to tell them whether or not they can get together. They can figure that out for themselves. If it’s government largess that’s the problem, well, end the welfare state already instead of complaining endlessly about who uses it (besides which, immigrants pay more per capita in taxes and consume less per capita in welfare benefits than native-born Americans ).

Secondly, as sociologist and essayist Jacques Delacroix points out,  the incentives for immigration run in the opposite direction from that Trump’s comment assumes:

Immigrants from wealthy states like Norway (which has a higher per capita GDP and a more robust welfare state than the US) are more likely to be from the bottom of the barrel — the people who can’t or won’t  make out well for themselves in an economy even better than ours, but have enough money to get on a plane and take their laziness and complaining elsewhere.

Immigrants from poor states like Haiti, Somalia, and — Delacroix’s example — India are more likely to be the cream of the crop, those ambitious enough to leave everything they know behind and start over in search of success, in some cases, even risking starvation in the desert or shark-infested waters on inner tubes for a minimum wage opportunity.

Again: The market’s got this, if the politicians will just  butt out and knock off their disgusting, anti-American, authoritarian control freakery.

Thomas Knapp -- Photo Credit Avens O'Brien

Photo by Avens O’Brien

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

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2 Responses to In Defense of Immigration from “Sh*thole Countries”

  1. Thomas L. Knapp January 31, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Mr. van Leeuwen,

    You and immigrants obviously have a lot in common — both of you want to run their lives.

  2. Anthony van Leeuwen January 15, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    The author is out of his mind if he thinks that who comes here is a matter of the market place. The market place would simply import cheap labor to work in businesses undercutting American workers.

    America needs a wall built on the southern border for two reasons: (1) prevent people from coming to this country illegally (including criminals who are escaping law enforcement south of the border); and (2) prevent drugs from coming accross the border. The money spend to accomplish this will be paid for by lower welfare and unemployment costs, etc.

    Also, our Congress needs to change the law so that people who come here have skills with which they can support themselves and their families. Second, they need to have the willingness to adopt our customs and values and not to force our citizens to adopt theirs.

    We also need to do away with chain migration and immigration lotteries and every person and family that immigrate are based upon merit.


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