Summary of Immigrants


Immigrants book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Trying to stop illegal immigration is a multibillion-dollar undertaking involving armed patrols, fences, helicopters, video surveillance and gun-toting civilian vigilantes. Journalist and economist Philippe Legrain finds that blockade effort inhumane and economically misguided. In this scrupulously researched treatise, he makes the case that immigrants are seldom job-stealing, wage-suppressing, welfare-scrounging invaders. Instead, studies reveal that less-fettered immigration boosts host nations’ employment and wages. Pointing to such successful immigrants as Google’s Sergey Brin and novelist Junot Díaz, Legrain argues that foreigners’ fresh perspectives stimulate a society’s creativity and innovation. His argument is clear and passionate. Legrain mixes a truckload of statistics with interviews with individual immigrants who relate their harrowing and heartening stories. The drawback is that the book dates from 2006 (it was shortlisted for the 2007 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award), so it doesn’t address crucial current events such as the 2015 refugee crisis. While always politically neutral, getAbstract suggests Legrain’s eye-opening, contrarian view to policy makers, employers, NGOs, students and all citizens.

About the Author

Senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics European Institute, economist Philippe Legrain writes for the Financial Times, The Guardian and Foreign Policy. From 2011 to 2014 he served as economic adviser and head of a team providing President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, with strategic policy advice. He is the founder of OPEN: the Open Political Economy Network, a platform for progress on openness issues.


Doom or Boom?

Conventional wisdom presents immigration as a major threat to rich countries. Books on the subject feature fear-mongering titles like Immigration’s Unarmed Invasion, Unwelcome Strangers and Fighting Immigration Anarchy. According to pundit Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West, immigrants are “a foreign enemy...inside the gates.” Harvard economist George Borjas’s Heaven’s Door warns that immigrants come to steal the jobs of native workers. In Alien Nation, financial journalist Peter Brimelow calls immigration an “unprecedented demographic mutation” threatening America’s national identity. Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicts in Who Are We? that Mexican immigration will split the US into two separate cultures, one Hispanic and the other Anglo-Protestant.

As a result of such views, rich countries like the US tightly restrict legal access. Unfortunately, this clampdown produced a boom in illegal immigration. Somewhere between 300,000 and a million illegal immigrants make it into the US each year. Europe absorbs about 800,000 annually. To stanch the flow, rich countries spend billions...

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