Monday, January 02, 2006

More on immigration

As a follow up on the last post, I do applaud the efforts of people who work to make sure that people who would otherwise die in the desert are saved.

Now, let me address the whole topic of immigration in some more detail:

First of all, I am not advocating that we ignore illegal immigration. And some bills right now in front of Congress, notably the McCain bill, propose realistic solutions. I have long maintained that as long as businesspeople were not given any more than a slap on the wrist for hiring illegal workers (like the $11 million that Wal-Mart agreed last year to 'donate' to programs discouraging illegal immigration in order to settle a court case), there would be a supply of jobs, and people would come (according to free market principals, in which they have labor to 'sell,') and most bills (finally) are starting to address that.

The hang up though has to do with immigration quotas and the people who are already here. The 10-20 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States (no one is sure of the number) is the accumulated total going back until 1923 (the year, as Isaac Asimov once wrote, that Emma Lazarus' 'golden door' slammed shut) of the differences between the legal immigration quota (what Congress wished for) and the actual number of immigrants (what the laws of supply and demand in the labor market dictated). Bills like the Cornyn bill do nothing to address this, and by requiring that all of them go back to where they came from and apply legally, become laughable (does anyone really think that any of them at all will follow that law?)-- but it makes good 'tough-sounding' political rhetoric in an election year. And the fact is, that ultimately we need them here. The number of working illegals in America is several times the unemployment rate. Even with my wife still being unemployed, I can see that booting all illegals (or even half of them) out of the country would cause severe economic disruption. Additionally, we heard last year about all the problems with Social Security. Illegal immigrants don't generally pay Social Security taxes (since their employers don't readily admit that they exist in the first place), but their demographic-- overwhelmingly young, with large families, would-- if they were given some type of legal status (which would involve starting payroll taxes), go a long way towards solving the projected problems with Social Security.

Beyond that, the best plan for controlling the flow of immigration is one where the economy itself determines the number of immigrants. Suppose we did the following: 1) implemented severe penalties for employers (including jail time) who knowingly or by intentional negligence hired persons who were not legally eligible to work in the United States. 2) Allow people who are not U.S. citizens to buy a work permit as often as they needed to, for say $1000 up front (after which, as long as they passed background checks designed to look for terrorists) they could enter the country and find a job. Each year, they could pay $250 to reauthorize their work permit (no limit on how many years) and their employer would have to go to a website and verify that this was done. Under this kind of system, once the job market was full, it would not be profitable for more foreigners to pay just to come here and be unemployed, but until then, they would pay (since it would be foolish for someone to risk going to prison when as many workers as needed would be available).


Beth said...


On your idea about immigration...which is good, there needs to be a slight adjustment, imho.

You know as well as I that many immigrants that come do not have any money. So $1,000 may as well be $10,000. Perhaps there needs to be some type of deduction once they are working.

I know it complicates the whole system but at least they would be working and contributing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article, Eli, and the one below it. (Why do so many in the other party want people to die? Sounds hypocrital to me, and not very Christian-like. Have they never heard of the "big ten" and the sermon on the mount?)

Putting up a wall or fence sounds so old Berlinish.

I like the idea of making those who hire illegals accountable. (How many illegals?) Is the second suggestion really workable?

Eli Blake said...

Lizzy and Barb:

In fact, these people presently pay up to $2,000 (a serious investment by themselves and their families) to 'coyotes,' who guide groups across the border. So I believe that $1,000 is workable, but perhaps it might be possible to structure it as a deduction from wages (if this became legal, there would be no reason why employers in the United States couldn't actively recruit in Mexico, in which case this would be discussed, along with the matter of transportation-- instead of the dangerous and expensive journey, as long as a work permit was paid, they could show it at the border and drive to their jobs.

EAPrez said...

Easy way to stop the flow of illegal workers would be to fine the hell out of those who hire them. That's not going to happen while the Repubs are in power because big business wants cheap labor. Cheap, unorganized labor that operates in the shadows. They say the illegals do the work that no other American's want -- no, actually they just do the grunge work for less than what Americans want and drive down everyones wages.

Eli Blake said...


A big fine is a good idea, prison is a better one.