Slavery, Immigration, and Economies

The following analysis pertains to illegal immigration, slavery, and the impact both have on economies: Historian William D. Philips Jr. is a history professor at the University of Minnesota. He wrote a chapter in Serfdom and Slavery: Studies in Legal Bondage titled Continuity and Change in Western Slavery: Ancient to Modern Times. Philips pointed out that the Roman elites experienced a shortage of labor and attempted to solve it by putting slaves to work on their estates, which had been acquired through Roman expansion during the third, second, and first centuries BC.[1] It appears slavery may have caused economic problems for members of the lower classes. For example, after centuries of expansion and enslaving the conquered, Roman peasants or the poor experienced little opportunity for employment. Further, most peasants who owned farms could not compete with the large presumably more efficient agriculture enterprises owned by the elite. Thus, many of the poor were forced to leave Italy in search of other opportunities.[2]

       Is this any semblance to what may occur in the U.S. regarding illegal immigration? In other words, if the politicians who advocate for abolishing security at the border and allow a massive flood of immigrants to enter the country, will it have the same social-economic repercussions on the U.S. as slavery had on Roman society?

       In ancient Rome the peasants would have been comparable to the modern lower classes in the U.S., perhaps the working class or even at the lower spectrum of the middle class. However, the lower classes are not the only ones that will be impacted. Universities have pledged scholarships to illegal immigrants based solely on their citizenship status: If these potential students who are illegally here in the Unites States desire a college degree, they receive a scholarship to pay for tuition. For example, Southern New Hampshire University has pledged 20 million in scholarships to illegal immigrants living in the U.S.[3] Immigrates who obtain free college degrees would be qualified to move into more lucrative career fields having a deeper impact on the U.S. citizen’s social-economic status.

       Ronald Reagan once remarked “this is the last place on earth to make a stand.”[4] Reagan’s prophetic words appear to be relevant today. If certain radical politicians get their way regarding border security, and the U.S. economy is decimated by cheap labor that evolves by spreading into the higher skilled sector through free education, where will displaced U.S. citizens go?  This analysis is not suggesting that the general public has the time (or interest) to study ancient slavery and make comparisons, but the results from the 2016 presidential election indicate that the working to middle classes in the U.S. recognized a threat (Trump ran on border security).

[1]  “William D. Philips Jr., “Continuity and Change in Western Slavery: Ancient to Modern Times,” in Serfdom and Slavery: Studies in Legal Bondage, ed. L.M. Bush (New York: Pearson Education Inc., 1996), 73-74.

[2] Ibid., 74.

[3] The Associated Press, “$20 million in scholarships offered to DACA students,” WTOP, March 1, 2018,

[4] Arcturus aReaganDesignee, “Reagan-America is the Last Stand on Earth,” June 26, 2010, Video,

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