Illegal Immigration: A Supply Side Solution

To arrive at a sound solution to a problem, we need to analyze its root causes. Addressing the causes of a problem ultimately eliminates (or significantly reduces) the problem; addressing the effects is a never-ending battle. As long as the underlying causes remain, the problem will keep reasserting itself, circumventing whatever solutions are implemented.

The border fence addresses the effects of the illegal immigration problem, but not the root cause. To stop illegal immigration, we need to understand why it exists. What is it that attracts illegal aliens to the U.S.? The majority are here for one of the following reasons.

  1. Jobs.
  2. Potential for citizenship.
  3. Entitlements.
  4. Criminal activities.
  5. They’re already here; why leave?

Once the causes have been ascertained, the path to a solution becomes clear. Don’t attract them, and they won’t come.

  1. Jobs. A guest worker program that provides temporary permits for seasonal workers. This not only benefits the guest workers by providing the jobs they seek, but also benefits our economy (see A Free Market Approach to Illegal Immigration), because labor laws, unions, and entitlement programs have undermined the viability of the agricultural labor market for citizens.
  2. Citizenship. No anchor babies. No amnesty. All applicants for citizenship must go through the legal immigration process. No shortcuts or special treatment for those who thumb their noses at it. If anything, illegal entry into the country should disqualify the perpetrator from eligibility for citizenship in the future. We cannot discourage illegal behavior by rewarding it.  
  3. Entitlements. No public assistance to non-citizens (even if they have children). Require proof of citizenship for school enrollment. When an illegal alien turns up in an emergency room, treat them, and then deport them. It would be inhumane to turn them away without treatment, but the fact that a lawbreaker may be ill is no reason to suspend the law.
  4. Crime. Immediate deportation on completion of prison sentence. Capital punishment for capital offenses. Repeat offenders, who have been previously deported, should serve additional time to discourage them from coming back again. (All prisoners who are capable of working should be required to work for their keep in prison.)  
  5. Happenstance. Opportunistic deportation of others. Deport them if and when they come to the attention of the government, for whatever reason.

To eliminate illegal immigration, remove the reasons people come here illegally, and make the consequences outweigh the rewards. It’s cheaper and more effective than a fence. A fence is a “band-aid” solution. If we address the underlying problem, the expensive band-aid won’t be necessary.

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Land of Opportunity or Land of Entitlement?

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.

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Published in: on January 2, 2008 at 11:59 pm  Comments (10)  
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