Open Borders, Not the Wall, Would Be the True Immorality

By Tom Gilson Published on May 4, 2019

Some moral decisions are simple and absolute: Don’t murder innocents, don’t steal, don’t take sexual advantage of anyone at all, don’t traffic in human slavery, for example. Some moral decisions require weighing costs and alternatives. Is it morally better to help one’s neighbor next door or ten people across the globe? That answer isn’t so automatic. Some people seem to think the border wall falls into the simple and absolute moral category. This is strange; all the other simple absolutes have been known since ancient days.

How this new moral question achieved that status is hard to fathom. But Nancy Pelosi pronounces categorically, “a wall is an immorality; it’s not who we are as a nation.” More than once the pope has said it’s “not Christian” to keep out migrants. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”

Forty-one faith leaders have signed a declaration that the wall would “cause harm to human beings, all of whom possess God-given rights and are equal to us in the eyes of God.” That’s not quite an absolute moral statement about border walls, but it comes mighty close.

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Pelosi, the pope, and the faith leaders all have a valid moral purpose in mind. (I sincerely doubt this is Pelosi’s only consideration, but for present purposes we can at least pretend it is.) That purpose boils down to this: a nation as gifted as ours has the obligation to share with others that are less blessed. Hence, no wall. Right?


Let’s start with the obvious: There is no necessary logical progression from, “We should share with others,” to, “We should let anyone in who wants to come in.” That’s what logicians call a non sequitur, Latin for, “it just doesn’t follow.”

Maintaining Our Strength to Share

But the rest is just as obvious. Let us suppose America in all our strength gave the highest possible priority to our moral obligation to share our wealth. How can we best achieve that, for the good of others? Whatever answer you give, it must include this: We have got to maintain our strength, for that is what empowers us to share.

Consider a simple analogy. Suppose a business owner decided giving his employees the highest possible wages, right now, was the most moral thing he could do. Here’s one easy way to accomplish that: quit spending money on equipment maintenance and replacement. Direct all those funds to payroll and price subsidies instead. Wouldn’t the workers love him for it? Only until they saw how their jobs were being eaten away from under them. 

No nation can keep giving freely of itself if it gives away its giving self.

Business owners know they cannot sustain payroll without sustaining the capital that supports the business. By “capital,” I mean the business’s entire assets; from real estate, to buildings, to equipment and software, to the workforce with all its experience and commitment, to the goodwill it enjoys among customers and community. All this must be built and maintained in order to keep the workers employed.

It is no favor to give a lot for a very short time, in place of giving a bit less for a much, much longer time. That kind of “moral” decision is only made in foolishness, and always with immoral results.

Open Borders Would Be the Real Immorality

Likewise no nation can keep giving freely of itself if it gives away its giving self.

That’s not to say that a border wall is automatically the right answer. (There is no simple, absolute answer here.) A wall could be an instrument of selfishness, if a country were inclined to be that way. But to borrow Pelosi’s phrase, that is not who we are as a nation — a statement which happens to be true in this context at least. We give. One could argue whether we give enough, but still we are the world’s most generous nation.

And we need to sustain that ability to give. Forget all the failed experiments with equating morality with “equality;” they all end up destroying wealth and creating misery. We need to sustain our strength so we can keep sharing our wealth. It is the only moral thing to do. Meanwhile we must fulfill that promise of sharing — also the only moral thing to do.

If wide-open borders threaten the integrity of America’s identity, economy, culture and safety — which is what typically happens with wide-open borders — then they also threaten America’s ability to sustain its ability to share with the world. And that makes open borders, not a wall, the real immorality.


Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.

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