Should the U.S. Shut Its Borders? Coulter Weighs In

U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass | Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Some of the biggest names in politics and alternative media clashed in a debate at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas on Thursday evening. 

“Should the United States Shut Its Borders?” was the question under consideration. Ann Coulter argued in the affirmative, and Nick Gillespie in opposition. The event was organized by The Free Press, an internet-based media company headquartered in California. Its founder, Bari Weiss, served as the moderator. 

Weiss, who gained international prominence fighting for greater freedom of speech at The New York Times, was the first to take to the stage and was met with rapturous applause. She introduced a balanced framing of the debate, including an overview of arguments for increased and decreased immigration.

Before the debate started, Weiss polled the audience on the debate topic. The poll indicated that 71% of the spectators favored shutting the border, and 29% opposed it. 

Coulter, a syndicated columnist, lawyer, and media pundit, was the first to speak.

She raised cultural concerns in her opening remarks: “[Unlawful migrants] are coming from failed cultures to come to a successful culture. … [It is like] taking an expensive wine and pouring vinegar in it and calling it the same.”

She then gave an overview of what a better immigration system would look like.

“We should choose people who are better than us; let’s pick people who are good-looking, taller, smarter than us –– get our average up.”

Coulter concluded her opening remarks by noting that only about a third of households headed by a native-born American are on welfare compared to over half of households headed by a foreign-born person. She condemned “Ted Kennedy’s 1965 immigration act” for “opening up –– and preferring –– immigration from the third world” and “the toughest cases.” 

Gillespie, a journalist and former editor at Reason magazine, opened with a quip, “As a Libertarian, most of you are probably expecting me to talk about economics and drugs, and you would be right.”

On that point, he compared shutting the border to prohibition because, in his view, the current border laws are a sweeping but failed policy. Gillespie also criticized prior generations’ immigration policies because they did not allow Jews to immigrate to the United States despite the ongoing Holocaust in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.  

Coulter’s debate partner was Sohrab Ahmari, the founder and editor of Compact. He opened with a series of quotes opposing immigration that he intentionally misattributed to figures like Coulter and Steve Bannon before correcting himself and announcing that these statements came from left-leaning intellectual and political figures, including former Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Ahmari quoted heavily from Jordan’s report on immigration, including her remarks while introducing the report: “The Commission finds no national interest in continuing to import lesser skilled and unskilled workers to compete in the most vulnerable parts of our labor force.”

He described the suppression of working-class wages as “corporate arbitrage” and the alleged propensity of “today’s gentry (people of high social status)” to “[wrap] their seeking of luxury (nannies, housekeepers, etc.) in the shroud of humanitarianism.” 

Cenk Uygur, a political commentator and media host, spoke last. He claimed that all Americans descend from immigrants, even American Indians, whom he noted migrated from Central Asia. He pointed out that the passengers on the Mayflower were also “undocumented,” and we would endanger ourselves like the Ming Dynasty ‘if we shut ourselves off from the world.” Uygur also argued that unlawful migrants “do the jobs Americans won’t do.” 

Weiss then asked the debaters a series of questions, ranging from concerns about wage suppression to whether nostalgia distorts comparisons of prior generations of immigrants to current generations. Detecting a gap in the discussion, Weiss asked whether the porousness of the southern border is a legitimate national security concern. This provoked the most lively exchange of the evening. 

“No one has crossed the border and committed an act of terror against us,” Uygur declared.

His comment provoked an uproar in the audience, although what was being said by the various objectors could not be immediately determined. Ahmari did not find Uygur’s argument convincing.

“It only takes one,” he said, before adding, “[If an immigrant crosses the border and commits an act of terror] you will see [the American people suddenly favor] genuinely ugly solutions.” 

Coulter responded, saying, “9/11 was committed by illegals … [as was the] San Bernadino [shooting], [the] Pulse Night Club [shooting], the Boston Bombers, the Times Square bomb[ing], the World Trade Center bombing.”

Uygur raised the point that those terrorists were “non-border crossers.”

“Who cares?” Coulter said. “It is worse that they came here legally [and overstayed their visas in some cases, or became citizens].” 

When the debate concluded, Weiss thanked the many staff members and the Foundation For Individual Rights and Expression for helping to put the event together.

Then, a second poll was conducted. The results indicated that some audience members’ viewpoints had changed over the course of the evening. This time, the poll showed that 66% of the audience supported closing the border, and 34% opposed it. 

This debate occurred just hours after the City of Dallas opened up an immigration conference, known as the Welcoming Interactive, to the press. At this event, speakers compared Texas’s laws forbidding unlawful border crossing to the Nuremberg Codes and talked about parts of America’s foundations that need to be “destroyed.” High-profile names, including former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and former Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki, attended this conference as speakers.

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