Mass migration raised the labor force of the United States and Australia by one-third, and reduced the labor force in Europe by about one-eighth.

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Between 1880 and 1910, Argentina received the equivalent of about 20 percent of its population per decade; the United States between 5 and 10 percent per decade; and Canada between 5 and 15 percent per decade.

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As John Torpey writes in his history of border control, during the nineteenth century “passports fell away throughout Western Europe, useless papers to a world in prosperous motion.”4 Advocating for passports was seen as a defense of outmoded systems of feudalism—where people were tied to the land they tilled—and mercantilism—in which the wealth of a nation was measured by its stock

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Although some countries introduced tentative measures to slow migration in the early twentieth century, the advent of World War I marked the end of the “liberal interlude” of free cross-border movement—at first temporarily, and then permanently. Leading up to the war, European states reinstituted passports and border controls as national security measures

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Approximately 30 million people were displaced by World War II—in addition to the millions executed, gassed, and starved by the Nazi regime or killed in combat—and 11 million of these were outside of their country of origin at the end of the war.80 The Nazi regime had (often forcibly) recruited about 7.5 million foreign workers (including 1.8 million prisoners of war) to replace the 11 million Germans conscripted for military service; a quarter of its industrial production was carried out by foreign labor in conditions comparable to slavery.

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The number of refugees increased dramatically over the second half of the century. In 1975, the UNHCR recognized 2.4 million refugees in the world. This number increased to 10.5 million in 1985 and to 14.9 million in 1990, finally peaking at 18.2 million in 1993. While the number of refugees dropped to 12.1 million in 2000, it has risen again to 15.1 million in 2009. Most of the world’s refugees originate from areas of civil conflict, such as the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Eritrea.

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) suggests that more than 25 percent of non-EU nationals residing in the EU arrived through such channels—a 50 percent expansion of IOM estimates in the 1990s.

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In 2000, less than 0.1 percent of the EU’s population moved to another EU country.

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In 2005, the number of new Polish workers in the UK alone (162,495) constituted more than 40 percent of all foreign labor inflows.

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Since 1948, immigration has accounted for half of Israel’s population growth.

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The World Bank estimates that increasing migration equal to 3 percent of the workforce in developed countries between 2005 and 2025 would generate global gains of $356 billion.6 Other models suggest that with a 5 percent increase in migration, 80 percent of the gains would accrue to developing countries.7 Completely opening borders, some economists predict, would produce gains as high as $39 trillion for the world economy over 25 years.

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“the measured impact of immigration on the wage of native workers fluctuates widely from study to study (and sometimes even within the same study) but seems to cluster around zero.”

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firms like Google, Intel, PayPal, eBay, and Yahoo. More than a quarter of all global patent applications from the United States are filed by migrants, although they are only about 12 percent of the population.

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More than 70 percent of university graduates from Guyana and Jamaica move to developed countries, and other countries have similarly high percentages of their graduates leaving: Morocco (65 percent), Tunisia (64 percent), Gambia (60 percent), Ghana (26 percent), Sierra Leone (25 percent), Iran (25 percent), Korea (15 percent), Mexico (13 percent), and the Philippines (10 percent).

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While some policy analysts have proposed to boost trade, foreign direct investment, and aid to the least developed countries in order to slow migration, such policies are more likely to increase migration in the short to medium term.

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In other words, the same cities that are rapidly growing are also sending a growing supply of international migrants.

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Educational attainment and the propensity to migrate are closely correlated.

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Few would question whether an individual should be allowed to migrate from Oxford to Manchester, or from Halifax to Vancouver. At a global level, then, on what grounds do we defend rigid restrictions on international mobility?

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Free migration may not be immediately achievable, but it is a goal toward which we should strive. And we have an obligation to open our borders much more fully than we do now. The current restrictions on immigration in Western democracies—even in the most open ones like Canada and the United States—are not justifiable. Like feudal barriers to mobility, they protect unjust privilege.

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It may be impractical to immediately resurrect open borders, but intermediate steps can be taken to improve the management of migration. If migration is seen by the public as more of an opportunity than a threat, and if local and national governments develop their capacity to harness the benefits (and minimize the costs) generated by higher levels of migration, it will be more practical and widely acceptable to gradually reduce barriers to mobility.

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