Opening the Floodgates

Why America Needs to Rethink its Borders and Immigration Laws

304 pages

December, 2009

ISBN: 9780814743096



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Part of the Critical America series


Kevin R. Johnson is Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicano/a Studies at the University of California Davis. His books include Mixed Race America and the Law: A Reader (NYU Press, 2002) and The “Huddled Masses” Myth: Immigration and Civil Rights.

All books by Kevin R. Johnson

Seeking to re-imagine the meaning and significance of the international border, Opening the Floodgates makes a case for eliminating the border as a legal construct that impedes the movement of people into this country.

Open migration policies deserve fuller analysis, as evidenced by President Barack Obama’s pledge to make immigration reform a priority. Kevin R. Johnson offers an alternative vision of how U.S. borders might be reconfigured, grounded in moral, economic, and policy arguments for open borders. Importantly, liberalizing migration through an open borders policy would recognize that the enforcement of closed borders cannot stifle the strong, perhaps irresistible, economic, social, and political pressures that fuel international migration.

Controversially, Johnson suggests that open borders are entirely consistent with efforts to prevent terrorism that have dominated immigration enforcement since the events of September 11, 2001. More liberal migration, he suggests, would allow for full attention to be paid to the true dangers to public safety and national security.


  • “No book could be more timely than Opening the Floodgates. . . . [Johnson] makes a convincing argument for the policy of open borders, if not with the world, then within North America. . . . This book encourages a broader discussion that is currently circulating in American politics, one that looks to the foundations of immigration policy and imagines a major overhaul.”

    Law and Politics Book Review

  • “A highly readable argument for more permeable borders. . . Johnson offers a comprehensive case for more open borders, responds to a few important criticisms effectively, and presents some thoughtful arguments along the way.”


  • “Finally, an unflinching response to immigration alarmists! This brilliant, challenging book outlines an immigration proposal based on the reality that migration flows are not regulated by border enforcement but by social, economic, and political pressures.”

    —Mary Romero, author of Maid in the USA