Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy is a nonfiction book by American economist and Harvard Kennedy School professor George J. Borjas. The thesis of the book is that the immigration policy during the late 1990s and early 2000s—the book was published in 2001 after the Clinton administration and during the then-new administration of George W. Bush—created a larger economic gap between the poorest U.S. citizens and the already-wealthy elite.
The other major theme in the book is the examination of the negative and positive effects of the American immigration policy and how the former is more significant than the latter. For example, Borjas argues that the new immigrants need more public assistance from the government than the working-class Americans they are competing with in the job market. This means that the new immigrants actually cost the government, via taxpayers, more money than the amount of revenue they help bring into the American economy. Another example Borjas uses is the fact that the new immigrants lower the salaries of already-low income jobs. This is because American companies and business owners pay foreign immigrants significantly less than what they pay lower-class Americans for the same job positions. This business practice is unfair to both immigrants and lower-class American citizens because the overall wages in that particular sector decreases for everyone.
Another prominent theme in the book is the ethnic segmentation created by immigrants. Newly-arrived immigrants from Latin America and Asia tend to stick to their own communities, which are oftentimes impoverished. This creates an incubation chamber of poverty where the cycle of economic depravity is perpetuated.
The other major theme of the book is Borjas' proposition for a new immigration policy that is fair to both American citizens and immigrants from other countries. For instance, he argues that immigration to the United States should be limited to half a million people per year and that the United States should encourage highly-skilled immigrants over low-skilled ones so that the new immigrants could fulfill vacant jobs in booming industries that need high-skilled workers, such as the tech industry and engineering.