Two Perspectives on the Mass Immigration Conversation

Does the United States need to overhaul the current immigration system? On both sides of the conversation, the answer is yes. In February of 2020, the Institute for Humane Studies facilitated a debate on mass immigration at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan.  

Arguing for more restrictive immigration policies was Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for National Review.

Sometimes when we discuss immigration, the terms are set in a flat-footed way, as being a question of whether we’re for immigration or against immigration — the phrasing ‘mass immigration’ helps to focus our minds on the question of quantity.

– Ramesh Ponnuru
Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for National Review

On the other side of the debate was Nick Gillespie, editor-at-large for Reason magazine.

Nick Gillespie, Editor-at-large for Reason magazine

If you want to look around America and you see the places where things are thriving, you will find a lot of immigrants there. This is not a coincidence. Immigrants go to places with a lot of economic activity and then they help fuel it a little bit further.

– Nick Gillespie

While Ponnuru argued that slow assimilation is better for the success of immigration in the United States, Gillespie countered that mass immigration is necessary with an aging country. Immigrants, Gillespie said, tend to be young, motivated to work hard and commit fewer crimes than citizens.   

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With their differences, they agreed that rhetoric demeaning immigrants should not be tolerated and that, ultimately, the country’s system for mass immigration was due to be reevaluated and transformed.

At the end of the conversation, they examined each other’s main points and answered audience questions.

This event was part of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation Debate Series, which gathers speakers across the ideological spectrum together to debate on important contemporary issues. These programs give students and the wider campus community a unique opportunity to explore core concepts within the classical liberal tradition. IHS thanks the Intercollegiate Studies InstituteJack Miller CenterAmerican University Political Theory Institute, and the Matthew J. Ryan Center at Villanova University for their collaboration on this series of events.     

For more information on IHS, our Campus-Wide Event support, faculty programs, or funding opportunities, visit

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