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Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty’

I’ve been peppered with all sorts of questions about immigration this week. Many of them deal with the Heritage Foundation study, including the “dynamic scoring” issue and Jason Richwine’s resignation.

I’m also getting asked about other aspects of this debate, ranging from the desirability of a border fence to what I think about skills-based immigration vs. family-reunification immigration.

The short answer to just about every question is that I don’t know. I’ve never studied the issue and I’m not knowledgeable enough to give competent answers. As I remarked in my one interview on the subject, I like immigration but want people coming to America for opportunity rather than welfare.

Not exactly bold stuff, I realize. Heck, everyone from John McCain to Jeff Sessions presumably would be willing to publicly endorse those sentiments.

But I don’t want to dodge the issue completely, and one reader posed a question that got me thinking. She asked me to name the strongest arguments for and against amnesty.

I won’t pretend that these are the strongest arguments, but I will tell you the arguments that I find most compelling.

The most compelling argument for amnesty is that it’s a recognition of reality. Simply stated, the illegals are already here, any kids born in the US already are citizens, and there’s no practical way of getting any of them to leave. What’s the point of pretending otherwise?

I realize that’s a very practical argument, which distinguishes me from some fellow libertarians who make the moral case that people shouldn’t be constrained by government-imposed borders. But that argument doesn’t sweep me off my feet since it implies that everybody in the world has a right to come to the United States.

The most compelling argument against amnesty is that it will make America more statist. I’m not an expert on voting patterns, but I think it’s safe to assume that immigrants will have below-average incomes for the foreseeable future and that they generally will be likely – once they get voting rights – to support politicians who want to make America more like Europe. I’m 99.99 percent confident that this thought has crossed Chuck Schumer’s mind.

Once again, I realize I’m making a practical argument. And you can probably tell that my real concern is with redistributionism and majoritarianism, not immigration. But the bottom line is still the same. We desperately need to scale back the welfare state and I fear amnesty will make that an even bigger challenge.

But to close an a humorous note, perhaps this concern about amnesty can be allayed if we can encourage this type of emigration.

And since we’re sharing some humor, here’s a funny video about Americans sneaking into Peru.

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A reader from overseas wonders about my views on immigration, particularly amnesty.

I confess that this is one of those issues where I’m conflicted.

On the general topic of immigration, I think the United States has benefited in the past – and can benefit in the future – from newcomers. And I express that position in this interview for Fox Business News.

But the real issue, which isn’t addressed in the interview, is magnitude. I assume almost nobody wants zero immigration. On the other hand, I also assume that very few people favor totally open borders.

So where do we draw the line? I think we should welcome lots of immigration, particularly people with skills, education, and money. This is the approach that is used to varying degrees by nations such as Australia, Canada, and Switzerland, and I wrote favorably about a similar proposal by Congressman Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado.

And I think substantial numbers of low-skilled people who want to work also should be welcome, but I don’t think everybody in the world who wants to come to America should have that right. I haven’t met more than a tiny handful of folks who disagree with Walter Williams’ assertion that, “not…everyone on the planet had a right to live in the U.S.”

Particularly since politicians have redistribution systems that can lure people into a life of dependency. Which is presumably why Milton Friedman warned, to the dismay of some other libertarians, “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.”

Even the Wall Street Journal, which is a leading voice for both increased immigration and amnesty for existing illegals, also is concerned that a growing welfare state could attract immigrants for the wrong reasons.

Speaking of amnesty, I suppose I should answer the question of how I would deal with people who are in the country illegally? And my response probably depends whether I answer with my heart or my head.

My heart tells me to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Every illegal I’ve met seems to be a good person. And I know if I lived someplace like Mexico, Somalia, or Honduras, I almost certainly would want to improve my family’s position by getting to America, legally or illegally.

On the other hand, I believe in the rule of law and I’m a bit uncomfortable rewarding those who jumped the line at the expense of those who followed the rules.

And to be perfectly honest, I also worry about the political implications of any policy that increases the number of people who – on net – will vote for redistribution. I could do without the partisan implications, but this Chuck Asay cartoon captures my concerns.

Immigration Cartoon

I also think that people respond to incentives. Another round of amnesty almost surely will encourage further illegal immigration. Putting myself in the position of a poor person in the developing world, I would logically conclude that it would just be a matter of time, so I would sneak across the border in order to take advantage of that future amnesty.

That doesn’t strike me as a good approach. Far better to figure out how to genuinely reform the system.

By the way, a senior staffer on Capitol Hill floated to me the idea of a new status that enables illegals to stay in the country, but bars them from citizenship unless they get in line and follow the rules. I’m definitely not familiar with the fault lines on these issues, but perhaps that could be a good compromise.

And it goes without saying that I want the strictest possible limits on access to welfare programs and other government handouts for immigrants, regardless of their status.

So, like everybody else, I want border security and some form of legalization as part of a new system that brings people to America for the right reason. See, I’m the epitome of reasonableness.

P.S. If you want to enjoy some immigration-related humor, we have a video about Americans migrating to Peru and a story about American leftists escaping to Canada.

P.P.S. On the issue of birthright citizenship, I’ve shared some interesting analysis from Will Wilkinson and George Will.

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I have mixed feelings about the right response to illegal immigration. I donĀ“t favor amnesty because of my respect for the rule of law and because it would encourage more illegal immigration. On the other hand, I certainly do not want law enforcement resources diverted to hassling people who are in America solely in search of a better life based on hard and honest work. Walter Williams has a good column on the issue which concludes with a call for more legal immigration:

I believe most people, even my open-borders libertarian friends, would not say that everyone on the planet had a right to live in the U.S. That being the case suggests there will be conditions that a person must meet to live in the U.S. …most Americans would recoil at the suggestion that somebody other than Americans should be allowed to set the conditions for people to live in the U.S. …Probably, the overwhelming majority of Mexican illegal immigrants are hardworking, honest and otherwise law-abiding members of the communities in which they reside. It would surely be a heart-wrenching scenario for such a person to be stopped for a driving infraction, have his illegal immigrant status discovered and face deportation proceedings. Regardless of the hardship suffered, being in the U.S. without authorization is a crime. …Various estimates put the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. between 10 and 20 million. One argument says we can’t round up and deport all those people. That argument differs little from one that says since we can’t catch every burglar, we should grant burglars amnesty. Catching and imprisoning some burglars sends a message to would-be burglars that there might be a price to pay. Similarly, imprisoning some illegal immigrants and then deporting them after their sentences were served would send a signal to others who are here illegally or who are contemplating illegal entry that there’s a price to pay. …Start strict enforcement of immigration law, as Arizona has begun. Strictly enforce border security. Most importantly, modernize and streamline our cumbersome immigration laws so that people can more easily migrate to our country.

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