I am a long-time opponent of open borders. I want American immigration laws enforced and strengthened. However, I also believe it is important to respect those who disagree with me and understand their arguments. For that reason I read this book. The authors do make some good points in the book, such as the need for reducing the power of corporations in the U.S.
The authors argue that a complete open-borders policy would be best for the United States and for workers in general. Surprisingly, the book is mostly about the history of union organizing in the American Southwest rather than about illegal immigration as such. Indeed, the authors seem to be anxious to muddy the waters as much as possible. They talk a lot about long-ago jailed union organizers and long-dead victims of racist violence; they want to present deportation of illegal aliens as no different from past discredited violence. The authors argue that current opposition to illegal immigration is nothing more than racism. I don't find this convincing. If opposition to illegal immigration is racism, why is it that Mexico has its own problems with illegal immigrants from other Latin American countries?
The authors are clearly big supporters of unions and see unions as the solution to labor problems in the U.S. and around the world. I am a union member myself, and I simply cannot agree with them. Unions have their uses. In the end, however, no union can change the fact that labor conditions are ultimately determined by the supply of workers and the demand for specific skills. If plenty of workers are available who can do the work for less, working conditions will not improve. The authors are very concerned about not only illegal immigrants, but also the plight of all Hispanic workers. The authors don't seem to understand that Hispanics legally in the U.S. are the ones with the most to lose from illegal immigration. The illegals compete directly with them for jobs. If the authors really want to benefit Hispanic workers, they should be advocating the elimination of farm subsidies and other policies that favor big farms over small farms. Rather than paying union dues, they should pool their money to buy land.
The authors argue that immigration benefits the U.S. economy. There are two problems with this argument. First, whether or not immigration benefits the U.S. economy is a completely separate question from whether or not illegal immigration benefits the U.S. economy. The authors present no evidence at all that illegal immigration benefits the U.S. economy. Second, it is necessary to look at the whole question of how economic activity is measured. The most commonly used measure is the GDP, which essentially counts up dollars spent. GDP has been a controversial statistic since its beginning. At best, it can be considered as a rough estimate of business activity. Immigration does tend to increase GDP, at least slightly, because more people buy more housing, more food, etc. GDP is NOT a measure of prosperity of a nation, of sustainable development, or of quality of life, and in many ways is highly misleading. For more on this, see Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, and a Plan to Stop them All. The U.S. simply does not have room to take everyone who would like to come here.
The authors argue that high immigration is necessary to the stability of the U.S. economy, including the Social Security program. This is incorrect. It is true that the present-day Social Security system essentially operates as a giant Ponzi scheme. However, bringing in more new workers can't fix this system. The U.S. economy is already having trouble finding jobs for all workers. If new workers can't find good-paying jobs, they can't pay for anyone else's retirement. And when the new workers eventually retire, who is going to pay for their retirement? Are we going to bring in yet another wave of new workers? Where are the jobs going to come from for them? The authors don't mention peak oil, but they should. The U.S. economy in the next few decades is likely to experience serious problems as we adjust to lower supplies of fossil fuels. The U.S. government is going to be plenty busy trying to take care of its own citizens. For more on this, see Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World.
One of the biggest changes in a post-peak oil society will be a much larger proportion of the U.S. population engaged in agriculture. Mexican-Americans have a historic opportunity here, because they have agricultural knowledge and experience in a time when that will be more precious than gold. So far they don't seem to realize that.