More on Immigration

Jeff at Caerdroia has an interesting post on immigration.

OK, but we have these laws about immigration, and as a matter of curiosity, I’d like to think about how we could enforce them, to prevent the aforementioned terrorists from getting and staying here. And here’s where the bad thinking comes in. Most people I’ve been able to find recommend that we go after the employers, or that we build a wall on the border, or some other magic bullet method. Here’s something that I’ve learned about magic bullets in my life: there aren’t any. Perfection simply isn’t attainable except in very, very limited areas for very, very limited times. Try going to the store to get something, and see how many times such a simple trip goes wrong due to a flat, or the store being out of stock, or forgetting your credit card.

I think Jeff raises a very good point here (I can’t tell you how many times I go to the store and forget to buy one of the items I wanted to buy…and this is something simple, not big and messy like illegal immigration). If you put a wall on the southern border then the people wanting to come here will look for another way to get in. Granted, the cost of coming to the U.S. has gone up, and as a result fewer people will attemtp to make the trip. But will it be zero? I doubt it…and we have a much, much bigger border with Canada.

Jeff continues,

The only kind of defense that works is a defense in depth: it is necessary to put so many different layers between your core and that which you want to stop, with different characteristics (both strengths and weaknesses) in each layer, that one of the layers will catch any given attack or effort. If we want to stop illegal immigration, we need to do all of these:

  • Make legal immigration easier for non-criminals and non-terrorists (or terrorist supporters). This includes such efforts as guest worker programs, as well as dramatic reductions in the wait times and paperwork necessary to come here.
  • Patrol the borders much more vigorously, land and sea.
  • Make deportation of non-citizens who do not have legal documents illegal unless they make a valid claim for asylum.
  • Make that deportation fast.
  • Make deportation ironclad: do not release illegals from custody until they are in their destination country.
    Heavily fine any employers who hire illegal immigrants.
  • To catch such employers, offer a conditional amnesty: the first illegal immigrant who turns in a particular employer, provided they are otherwise eligible to be here (ie: would not be kept out if they applied legally to immigrate), gets citizenship short-circuited, while the rest of the illegals that work there are deported.
  • Do not give automatic citizenship to children born in the US: only if their parents are here legally should they be given citizenship.
  • Require proof of legal residence before issuing any government identification or providing any government services.
  • Hold liable, and fine, anyone who knowingly aids an illegal immigrant in remaining in the country.

Looks pretty good to me. I’ve noted before the economic arguments for limiting illegal immigration is pretty lame.1 But at the same time there is indeed a serious issue with regards to national security. The idea of making legal immigration simpler and easier will also mean we’ll have fewer people slipping into the country unbeknowst to our law enforcement/national security agencies. If immigrants are comming at designated entry points they can in theory be screened.2

Will Jeff’s proposal cost more? Sure it will. But maybe we should spend our limited government resources on that than another give-away for the elderly (e.g. the Medicare Prescription Drug Budgetary Blackhole). Anyhow, I suggest reading all of Jeff’s post, as well as Mark’s post.
1Here is another reason that the arguments are lame. Many of the anti-illegal immigration folks say it is only illegal immigration they oppose. Well if we had legal immigration that let in numbers similar to what we see with illegal immigration we’d get the same outcome economically speaking. This economic outcome is what many of the anti-illegal immigrant people argue against. Hence, while they claim they like legal immigration what they really mean is they like very little legal immigration and zero illegal immigration, or more simply they are anti-immigration.
2And screened not just for national security risks, but more mundane crimes and disease as well.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, National Security, , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly!

  2. denise says:

    “Make deportation of non-citizens who do not have legal documents illegal unless they make a valid claim for asylum.”

    Huh? Is there a double negative in there or something?

  3. “Well if we had legal immigration that let in numbers similar to what we see with illegal immigration we’d get the same outcome economically speaking.”

    Actually, that’s almost but not quite true. If every illegal immigrant suddenly became legal, it would mean that most of them would now have legal recourse to correct the less-than-minimum wages that they make. They’d also have to pay their share of taxes, which are often unpaid. So the net economic effect would be substantially different than zero, but I’m not prepared with numbers to argue how dramatic it would be. Somehow, I don’t think it would be particularly horrible.

  4. Jeff Medcalf says:

    denise, I’ll assume you’re asking an honest question (it’s hard to tell tone from text), rather than joking around. If you’re just joking around, cool.

    Anyway, you could rewrite this as: “Make deportation of [people of a particular immigration status] illegal unless they make a valid claim for asylum.”

    No double negative there. Double negatives refer to a negated negation, such as “not not happy”, though actual usage is generally more subtle than that. This is semantically different from “not unhappy”. The first means “happy”, and the second means “not unhappy”.

  5. Ol' BC says:

    The problem is politics. Since so many illegals are Latinos and that vote is important to both parties, don’t expect any solution to the problem any time soon.

  6. DC Loser says:

    Throughout the history of this republic there has always been anti-immigrant sentiments. First there were fears about the Irish, then the Chinese and then Jews, Italians, etc. Nothing’s changed.

  7. McGehee says:

    Nothing’s changed, except all those other imigrants were LEGAL!

    Gawd, DCL, did you get up on the stupid side of bed this morning, or what?

  8. We already admit 800,000+ legal immigrants per year. Seeing as there are several billion people who’d like to come here, raising that level to 2 million would have absolutely no effect on the supply of potential illegal immigrants. You’d have to raise it to many many millions to have any impact whatsoever.

    Then, you’d face the prospect of “informal” family reunification from all those millions upon millions of legal immigrants who want to bring in their relatives.

    The problem with most guest worker programs is that couples come and they have children. Those children are then U.S. citizens, and the Sally Struthers side of things would swing into action to try to keep them here instead of going home after three years or whatever.

    Then, there’s that little matter of Mexico and their “Lost Territories”, what we call the U.S. southwest. 58% of Mexicans think the U.S. southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico.

    Now, our corrupt, traitorous politicians are allowing those Lost Territories to be resettled.

    Mexico also has more consulates in the U.S. than any other country and they have about as much control over our immigration policies as the American public.

    Mexican consuls visit small towns in the U.S. passing out Matricula Consular cards to their citizens who are in our country illegally.

    The FBI said those cards are a security risk.

    The Bush administration fought to allow banks to accept those cards.

    Under the Bush administration, the FDIC is working with the Mexican consulate in Chicago to give home loans to illegal aliens.

    Like they say in the movies, the calls are coming from inside your house.

  9. DC Loser says:

    Hey McGehee, what’s getting you all worked up lately?

    I guess it must be news to the natives in the 1600s that they could actually have deported all those illegal aliens.

  10. spencer says:

    But the original post was on security and how would changing the laws help this. All the 9/11 terrorist were here legally.

  11. VONBLUVENS says:

    Get the real scoop on illegal immigration

  12. I’d suggest removing the last link.

    All the 9/11 terrorist were here legally.

    Obviously, that doesn’t mean that all future terrorists will try to enter legally.

    As detailed in the 9/11 Com. staff report, terrorists are quite informed on our immigration system and have used it to their advantage.

    The 9/11 hijackers had strange visa apps which were pushed through due to our policies with Saudi Arabia. I believe the person who headed that dep’t has been promoted.

    The hijackers also fraudulently obtained VA driver’s licenses. There’s a long article detailing exactly how they did that.