Yesterday, my son asked me what I thought about the immigration plan now being debated in the US Congress. I really didn’t know what to say to him because I have been too busy getting reacquainted with being employed and getting settled into my new job to pay attention. But I do have some high level opinions that I shared with him.
On the topic of immigration, I stick very closely to neo/classical-liberal roots. I prefer open borders; but I also realize the political complications that arise from that particular point of view concerning the existence of the welfare state. In fact, I agree with those who believe immigration should be controlled just on the basis that open borders would strain welfare programs; it is an unacceptable outcome. Some part of me believes that if immigration and the welfare state are pitted against one another, the welfare state should be the one to go or be dramatically curtailed to programs that can be administered on a citizenship basis, at least at the Federal level.
Putting on my Federalist hat, it would be better for the Federal Government to relinquish control of welfare programs and allow individual States to solve the problem by tailoring the programs to the specific needs of their populations. They can and will solve the problems from competing interests if the tax base that supports the programs is localized. As I said before, we likely won’t have a desirable outcome if we expect politicians in the Beltway to deal with it because neither side wants to give up what they could possibly gain politically from doing immigration reform in their own, one-size-fits-all way – and so no matter what they come up with, the problems created by an irrational immigration system and largely open welfare programs will continue.
For a recap, both immigration and the design of the welfare state need to be overhauled in order to achieve a solution that is workable and financially practical for everyone.
As far as immigration is concerned, I want to have something like an Elis Island in each part of border geography (north, south, east, and west) where people who want to come here can go to undergo basic screening for criminal history, immunizations, etc… and if they check out, they can proceed to enter. There should be no quotas, no requirements for job sponsorship, no expiration dates of visas, or any bureaucratic overhead except for the basic things already mentioned. All of existing bureaucracy surrounding immigration to the US serve only a fallacious protectionist point of view (see Bastiat on protectionism) and are more harmful than helpful.
In addition to the wisdom of Bastiat, the problems created by our irrational immigration system come from basic errors in logic. Just as the era of Prohibition proved, we cannot achieve a desirable solution to a perceived problem just by passing a ban. It is likely the case that the more we attempt to enforce our collective will on a particular issue of human behavior through legislation and enforcement of bans, the more of the undesirable behavior we get that manifests itself in ways that are much worse than if we had chosen to cope with the original problem as best we can.
There is indeed a considerable human cost to irrationality and the current levels of violence and lawlessness on some parts of the border are proof of that.