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Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  122 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A conservative columnist makes an eye-opening case for why immigration improves the lives of Americans and is important for the future of the country.

Separating fact from myth in today’s heated immigration debate, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board contends that foreign workers play a vital role in keeping America prosperous; that maintaining an open-bor
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Gotham (first published 2008)
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Huh, I was expecting to find myself disagreeing with the book but ended up agreeing with most of it. This has to be the best free-market case I’ve seen for open immigration into the United States. On top of that Riley doesn’t use identity politics or scary rhetoric to make his case for open immigration. Very eloquent case overall.

That being said, my only complaint is that a few of the academic papers he cites have been challenged by other academics. The immigration debate among scholars is very
Bojan Tunguz
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The thinking on the immigration, both in the US and even more so in other countries, is dominated by emotional arguments. In the light of that it is truly refreshing to come across a book like "Let Them In" where a principled free-market conservative ideas are promoted. In an era when there is an increasing interconnection and interdependence of world economies on each other, it becomes ever more untenable to insist on free exchange of goods and services, while preventing the free flow of people ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I was intrigued by a conservative making a case for open borders. I have read and respected other books by Jason Riley and was curious what this would hold. I found it to be reasoned and challenging, which is refreshing, given that "discussion" on this topic tends to be ruled by emotional one-liners intended to shut down debate. I would recommend it to anyone interested in thinking rationally about our immigration policies and problems. ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Riley builds a strong case here. It's a bit of a rough start, but he gets a solid flow by the 3rd chapter. I really wish it had been written post-2016 though.

He argues for a "liberal" policy*, using "conservative"-type evidence. The following is my addition to his argument.

I spent 12 months closely observing illegal immigrants in California. I've seen all of his points proven. For the most part, illegal immigrants are law-abiding. Most violence and abuse from them are perpetrated from a minori
Jan 23, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this book probably a year later than I should have. I heard a podcast from Riley at a CATO event and loved it. His hour podcast was energetic and full of potent historical examples of immigration stories demonstrating that Hispanic immigrants face the same criticism that many other immigrants have faced since our nation's founding. Riley uses mainly History and Economics to make a case for a free market approach to immigration.

He makes six arguments. They are: Population, Economics, Welf
Joe Robles
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
This book seeks to dispel the myths that many on the right are perpetuating about immigration. What gives this author some credibility is that he's fairly conservative himself. He's anti-union, anti-government regulations, anti-tax, etc. but he makes a great case for why his belief that the arguments against immigrants, especially illegal ones, aren't based on anything other than belief.

Immigrants don't take jobs from Americans, in fact, Americans probably shouldn't be doing those jobs anyway. F
Nov 24, 2008 rated it liked it
This is what I learned.. Notes are for my benefit as much as anyone. I agree that the first chapter was a disaster, but I hung in there and learned a lot.

Ben Franklin was among the first in a long line of immigrant-bashers to claim they were a drag on the economy, brought disease and crime and were depleting the core values of the nation. They said this about Germans, Irish, Eastern Europeans, Italians, Asians and now Latinos. They were/are all wrong.

Immigrants, including illegal immigrants ar
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am pro open borders on a fairness basis, I would like to see how well some of the people who rail against immigrants would do without their advantageous accident of birth! But even from a chauvinistic pro-USA viewpoint it is hard to argue with the economic value that all immigrants provide. Firstly they self-select as risk takers, that by itself is a powerful argument as risk takers create value for all of us. Secondly, value they create for us is value they do not create for "not us" thereby ...more
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Rarely have I agreed with a book's conclusion ( a more open immigration policy), while so strongly disagreeing with the author's reasons for that conclusion. Jason Riley takes a very strong business position for advocating for a more open immigration policy. He argues that immigrants provide low skilled labor that is needed in certain sectors, and seeks to show how immigrants are not taking away jobs or causing a drain on the nation's social sector. In the process he argues against unions of any ...more
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: society
I thought this was excellent. The author is a WSJ reporter. He went through each of the most common arguments against immigration and refuted them. The facts presented were exhaustive, and I learned much more than I ever expected to. In fact, he sold me on the idea. :-)
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it
The data he shared was interesting and I agreed with some of the things he said, but some of his personal commentary turned me off. However, this book would provide some good ammunition next time you're talking to a so-called fiscal conservative who claims that immigration is ruining our economy. ...more
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great exposition of ways in which immigration has helped, and not hindered, progress in America.
Rashid Yasin
Feb 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
I wanted to read a book on open borders. This is not a book on open borders. This is a Reagan Republican screed about how the GOP should not be so punitive on Latino immigration as a tactical electoral move to win more latino votes as well as because a hard-working, low-paid labor force is good for the economy, and that can be achieved with more open immigration on the southern border. As a bonus, it also contains a healthy dose of anti-black racism and the quote: "Keep the immigrants. Deport th ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
I picked up this book at the library because I wanted to see the author’s argument for why we should have open borders (I personally do not support open borders). In general, the book powerfully argues that immigration represents a net gain for America, and that it contributes greatly to America’s economic growth. However, I had quite a few problems with it.

First, the author does not cite sources for much of the statistics he mentions in the book. He includes a small bibliography at the end of h
Ethan W
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I wanted to see for myself why Trump's big border wall fiasco was a terrible idea, besides the fact that it's simply a physical wall with many gaps. The book proved through five main arguments not only why the idea of a border wall is wrong, but how it came to be over the past few decades of political messaging, which had some interesting history surrounding Bush and the republican party during that time period.

Being an issue given ample consideration during most e
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Riley makes a nearly airtight case that open immigration policies benefit the country in terms of improving economic efficiency. He isn’t as convincing when he brushes aside other potential concerns, but shows these should not be as worrisome as much current anti-illegal immigration rhetoric would suggest.
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Well. This is a much-needed book. The author, a journalist (it shows, unfortunately) on the WSJ editorial board, does a reasonably good job of presenting the facts, but tends to have a rather cutesy, my-isn't-that-a-clever-turn-of-phrase tone that I did not love. I just wanted good, solid reasoning with the facts to back it up; there was some of this, but it could have been tighter, and annotated. Still, a good effort. Unfortunately nowhere near a strong enough book to sway the position of the i ...more
Steev Hise
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: immigration activists
Shelves: border
First of all I should note that the author is a Wall Street Journal reporter and editorialist.

Riley starts out talking about how many weird alliances have formed amongst the anti-immigrant crowd, but it seems to me after starting this book that there's equally weird alliances on the other side. I myself am pro-immigration on a humanitarian basis. Riley's position comes from an economic basis, as one would expect from the WSJ. Everything is seen through the lens of benefit or harm to the free-ma
John Anderson
Jan 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Looking at other reviews, I was happy to see recent one's by Erin F. B. and Drick Boyd that pretty much summarize my thoughts on this book. But to expand on their comments, one of the most difficult things to stomach while reading this, was Riley's casual acceptance of conservative ideology, particularly, since at least on my copy, no where on the cover or in the book's description or blurbs does it mention this conservative stance (although it becomes quickly apparent in the first chapter).

Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: every voter
Recommended to SB by: new acquistions shelf at the library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Evan Clark
As of early 2015, this book is badly in need of an update. While the author's reasoning remains notable, this was written before the financial collapse of 2007-2008, so many of the numbers quoted are no longer correct. Further, the argument of his opening chapter, that of changing demographics vs environmental stewardship, is easily the weakest of all those presented. Riley goes to great pains to discredit the heads of several environmental/populace control-aligned groups, stating that they are ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Although he makes some interesting points, the author has a decidedly heated and opinionated tone which, combined with lots of statistics which weren't properly referenced (he had a short bibliography at the end, but no endnotes or footnotes), kept me from being totally convinced. Which is funny, considering I am definitely not of the opinion that illegal immigrants are evil. Still, it was interesting to hear the "free-market" point of view. Too bad he couldn't do better with his statistic citat ...more
totally an interesting read that i'm not quite sure how i feel about. riley is a free market conservative basically arguing that immigrants (and by immigrants he means mainly poor brown people from latin america) fuel our free market economy and thus our border policy should reflect that. riley loves reagan a lot and quotes him often as an example of someone to look up to for his views on immigration. hmmm. ...more
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
The author presents several well-reasoned arguments as to why immigration is good for us, and several more as to why the opposition to immigration is mostly specious. He misses the boat a few times when he tries to attack the liberal bias against immigration--it's there, but it's much more powerful in the labor realm than in the environmental world. And that's also a harder argument to make. ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Will by: 166
Mostly devoted to trenchantly and lucidly debunking the case against the "threat" of illegal immigration.
Being myself rather absolutist on "This is AMERICA! We don't keep people out!", it appeals to me greatly. But towards the end he tends to fall into namecalling ("kooks", etc) Really, Mr. Riley, I thought we left that to THEM
Paul Kimbrough
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immigrant reform

Very well written. Very well referenced and documented. Changed my viewpoint of what I have always thought. MUST READ BOOK. Thank you for your very spiteful book.
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly researched book on immigration. The writer, a conservative from the WSJ, makes a convincing case for keep our borders open and reforming our immigration policy.
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent ammunition for anyone who supports immigration as a gut feeling but doesn't have the statistics to go with their feelings. Knock down all the naysayers with real data! ...more
This is excellent. Granted, I am center left on this issue, but this book is writen by a conservative who does an excellent job of addressing the issues and misconceptions
Orlando Cardoso
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a strong, fair take on an important topic. It's a great read for anyone interested in forming an educated opinion on the immigration debate. ...more
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Jason L. Riley (born July 8, 1971) is an American journalist, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. He is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and frequently appears at the Journal Editorial Report, other Fox News programs and occasionally on C-SPAN.

News & Interviews

“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
35 likes · 7 comments
“Reagan understood that immigrants are coming here to work, not live on the dole. He also grasped that natives and immigrants don’t compete with one another for jobs in a zero-sum labor market and that our policy makers would do better to focus less on protecting U.S. workers from immigrant competition and more on expanding the economic pie. In his November 1979 speech announcing his candidacy for president, Reagan called for free labor flows throughout North America. Reagan knew that immigration, like free trade, which he also supported, benefits everyone in the long run.” 0 likes
“It’s true that in 1986 Reagan signed the Immigration Control and Reform Act, which included employer sanctions and more border security, but he also insisted on a provision for legalizing immigrants already in the United States. Which is to say, he supported “amnesty.” In his signing statement, he said, “We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” 0 likes
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