Wouldn’t a true Free Market Approach to Illegal Immigration be to just open up the borders and laissez faire? In an ideal world, perhaps. But we’re dealing with reality.
This country was founded by immigrants. Part of what makes this country great is the diversity of thought and culture brought here by immigrants from all parts of the world over many generations. People who come to this country seeking freedom, and the opportunity to work hard and educate their children and provide a better life for those who come after them, often have a greater appreciation of this country and what it stands for than many people who were born and raised here.
But there are other people who come here who, like many Americans, would rather get a free ride. They see America, not as the land of opportunity, but as the land of entitlement. This has nothing to do with where they’re from; it has everything to do with individual character. Unfortunately, there are a great many such people in the world. If we were to open up our borders, without first fixing the existing issues with our entitlement programs, it would only serve to further inflate the ever-growing subsidized class that never rises up to become productive members of society but, instead, exacts a constant and perpetual toll on the rest of us.
Anybody who has a child born in this country is automatically eligible to collect welfare, food stamps, and HUD rental housing assistance, whether the parents are here legally or not. If we grant them citizenship, they’re immediately eligible for food stamps and HUD assistance, whether they have children or not.
If people want to come here and work, and there’s work for them to do, we should make it possible to do that legally. But, when people want to come here just to sidle up to the trough, that’s not right. We need to wean our own citizens off the trough, not encourage more people to come an’ get it while the gettin’ is good. We can’t solve all the poverty in the world by opening wide our doors and hollering “Come and get it!” That’s not a free market solution.
Another problem with aliens who don’t come here to work is crime. From 2001-2004 (the latest period for which the GAO has statistics), ~27% of inmates in federal prisons were aliens, the majority of them from Mexico. The number of aliens incarcerated rose 15% over the four year period. The cost to the federal government (i.e., taxpayers) was over $5.8 billion. And this does not include the costs to state and local governments for aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local jails.
My first impulse is always to prefer a free market solution, because that aligns with my fundamental principles. But there are situations in which particular circumstances may make a complete free market solution impractical or impossible. This is one of those situations. I believe the closest we can get today is a guest worker program. That will allow those who want to come here to work to participate in the free market, while keeping out the ones who just want to suck on the system or prey on our citizens.