Skip to comments.Immigration: A Better Way
Posted on 12/01/2003 11:28:35 PM PST by farmfriend
Immigration: A Better Way
By Arnold Kling
"I have met wealthy elites, academics and journalists from Mexico City who privately laugh that they are exporting their Indians and Mestizos, their unwanted, into the United States. Their smile disappears when I reply that we instead figure what they suppose to be riffraff are the real cream of Mexican society...who in fact are superior people to those who oppress them at home."
-- Victor Davis Hanson, Mexifornia, p. 31
Hanson's book is passionate, hot-headed, disjointed, and self-contradictory -- much like our immigration policy. In this essay, I do not propose a way to make immigration policy perfect. However, I have some suggestions to make it better.
I have two issues on which I feel strongly. One is that this country must continue to be a haven for the oppressed. The other is that we should not rely on unenforceable laws.
My ancestors were driven from Europe by ethnic violence. Today, there is ethnic violence in Africa and elsewhere. If victims in those countries can escape, and they choose to come to America to make a new life, then I feel that they should have such an opportunity.
People who come to this country to escape oppression should desire assimilation. They should embrace our language, our values, and our democratic principles. We should not go out of the way to make it easy to speak a foreign language in the United States, or to remain in a separate culture within the United States. People should be sufficiently grateful to be living here that they adapt to our ways. In the process, the United States can absorb elements of other cultures, without breaking into separate tribes.
My other big issue is to get rid of what I have called legamorons, meaning any law that could not stand up under widespread enforcement. As it stands, our immigration laws are not going to be enforced. Keeping them on the books is hypocritical and only serves to keep us in a state of denial and evasion over the fact that we need to re-think immigration policy.
The immigrants that I want in this country are people who would be tortured or killed if they remained in their native lands. Simply wanting to improve your economic opportunities does not entitle you to become a U.S. citizen, in my way of thinking.
However, there is nothing wrong with someone wanting to improve their economic lot in life. I think that we can accommodate guest workers on a win-win basis.
What I propose is that we have a guest worker program with the following characteristics.
1) Anyone who is not a terror suspect or criminal is eligible.
2) All guest workers must register with a private employment agency. That employment agency must provide health care coverage and ensure that all necessary regulations are followed and taxes are paid. Private employment agencies that engage in tax evasion or other regulatory violations will be prosecuted.
3) Taxes will include a payroll tax of about 20 to 25 percent, which will be collected by the employment agency and remitted to the government. This will cover contributions to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds (even though guest workers will not be eligible for benefits under those programs), as well as cost of providing government services at the Federal, State, and Local levels.
4) Families of guest workers will not be eligible for health care or education, unless they purchase insurance coverage for the former or tuition for the latter.
5) Households and businesses must hire workers who are either U.S. citizens or legal guest workers, meaning that they are registered with private employment agencies. Hiring a non-citizen "under the table" will be a violation of the law.
The key to the guest worker proposal is the last point. If the households and businesses that hire illegal immigrants do so in order to save the cost of paying taxes, and they will not pay the taxes even when an employment agency handles all of the paperwork for them, then what we have is more than an immigration problem -- we have a tax rebellion. It may take some education and persuasion to overcome this tax rebellion, but we need to face that issue if we are going to have a sensible immigration policy.
A formal guest worker program would have two effects on the cost of a foreigner working in the United States. Those costs would be increased by the taxes collected and the fees paid to employment agencies. Other costs would go down. These would include the cost of evading border patrols to enter the country, the cost of living underground, and the cost of having only a limited set of employers willing to hire illegal immigrants.
Tariffs vs. Quotas
In economic terms, replacing a law against foreign workers with a guest worker program in which guest workers are taxed is the equivalent of replacing a quota with a tariff. A quota system restricts supply by putting up regulatory barriers. A tariff system restricts supply by raising the price. Tariffs are generally more efficient than quotas.
Just as laws against recreational drugs create business opportunities for criminal enterprises, laws against immigrant workers create business opportunities for criminals who traffic in illegal workers. They also create profit opportunities for households and businesses willing to exploit the foreign workers. Quotas always create such narrow groups of beneficiaries.
For citizens competing against illegal immigrants for jobs, the playing field might be more level with a tariff (guest workers paying taxes) than with a quota (laws that deter some foreign workers but not all). Today, citizens subsidize immigrant workers by paying taxes for government services that benefit the immigrant. With a guest worker program, immigrant workers would pay their fair share.
The tax rate for guest workers would provide a means with which to fine tune the competition between domestic and foreign workers. If we believe that foreign workers are driving domestic wages too low, we can raise the tax on foreign workers. On the other hand, if the economy is at full employment and we want continued expansion without inflationary pressure, we could lower the tax on foreign workers.
The Enemy of the Good
There is a saying that "the best is the enemy of the good." The truth in that saying is that people will let a problem fester while fighting over what is the ideal solution.
A guest worker program with taxes is probably no one's ideal solution to the immigration issue. However, until the ideal solution lands in our laps, my contention is that it would make things better
How is that possible? Simple. Every time you hire someone you have to check their papers. In the case of a US citizen, it must be a passport. In the case of a foriegner, it must be a greencard plus a federally issued id. In both cases a social security card must also be presented. To eliminate fraud, you require the employer to call into the Department of Homeland Security to verify that the passport or greencard is valid, and you must call into the social security office to make sure the SS card is valid. If the passport, greencard, and/or social security card do not check out against the federal databases, the would-be employee is placed under immediate arrest, charged with document fraud and immigration law violations if he turns out to be an illegal. Failure to cross-check a prospective employee's papers should land an employer 10 years in Federal Prison.
Oh, and another thing. We should not simply deport illegals when we find them. We should make them suffer for their violation of our laws. I say make them do a couple years of hard labor in Federal Prison, and then ship them back to where they came from. I'd prefer to drive them to the border, have them caned or flogged, and then deported, but we've become too squeemish as a nation for such a common-sense solution.
This system will require all citizens to have passports, and some Freepers won't like that. I say tough. You cannot have effective homeland security with 50 different forms of identification floating around. The lack of a standard ID makes forgery by terrorists, invaders, and crooks far too easy. We must rely on passports, which should become the national standard ID to get a job, open a bank account, get on a plane, etc. When you have one standard, it is much easier to minimize forgery and therefore much easier to crack down on crooks, terrorists, and invaders.
Whooo boy, that statement will bring out the Free Trade Cult foaming at the mouth.
"Guest Worker" programs are an abject failure. They simply invite more illegal immigration (gotta bring the wifey and kids up, ya know?). Employers will hire guest workers over citizens because guest workers can't vote to change their conditions.
In modern America, court mandated political redistricting based on ethnicity uses the Census of illegals and guest workers to gerrymander districts that guarantee someone of like ethnicity to be voted into office (unless you have a Caucasian ethnicity such as Polish, German, Italian, etc, which apparently count for nothing).
So the presence of Guest Workers and their (usually) illegal families skew the politics of the country and strip citizens of their civil rights in the form of proportionate representation (why else would the Sanchez sisters be in the Congress of the United States?).
Guest worker programs are a bad, bad idea that benefit only one group: employers who don't want to play the game by the rules.
No more "Guest Worker" programs, ever. America for Americans.
Just the other day, Mr. Ridge signed a consent order allowing 26,000 illegals denied amnesty under the 1986 amnesty to apply for, and become, citizens of the United States. The excuse was that their applications had been "unfairly" denied.
Just think: they will never have to plead guilty to the numerous Federal felonies that they committed over the years (in this particular case, crossing into and out of the country repeatedly when they were told to stay put), document fraud, employment violations, etc etc. A laundry list of crimes for which not only will they never have a record of, or be punished for, but in fact will be rewarded with citizenship in the most powerful and richest country on Earth!
Suffer for the violation of the laws, instead of just deportation? Not only are they not deported, they are given rights and privileges over every American: they have the right to commit crimes and not even have to plead guilty to them, even when the Federal government knows explicitly that they committed the crimes!!
Which means that...once they are citizens, they can become Police Officers, join the Military and get their very own machine gun, fly airplanes with thousands of pounds of jet fuel on board and hundreds of people, you get the drift. No records. No asterisk next to their names. Nothing. Clean as the driven snow.
Think about the "justice" of that.
I see. I was not aware that a US citizen was required to get a passport. Hell, I worked for over 15 years without one, until my job required international travel.
So now we will have passports for our internal commerce. Just like the late and unlamented USSR.
This system will require all citizens to have passports, and some Freepers won't like that. I say tough. You cannot have effective homeland security with 50 different forms of identification floating around.
He who would trade his freedom for security deserves neither.
Your proposal would kill the 10th Amendment for good. Maybe we should repeal a few of those other inconvenient amendments, too.
4th Amendment? Hey, you can't have effective homeland security if people can expect to be left alone without probable cause.
2nd Amendment, Hey, you can't have effective homeland security if the serfs--er, citizens--might be able to employ lethal force against the guardians of the revolutionary vanguard--er, "Committee of State Security."
1st Amendment? You can't have effective homeland security if you allow people to criticize their government undermines the public's trust in their leaders and guardians.
5th Amendment? You can't have effective homeland security if the guardians of of public virtue can't force the serfs to testify to their crimes against the people, or if the serfs can actually demand that they be paid for their property when the needs of the state demand that they forfeit same.
Guilt by association. Most free countries require passports as a standard form of ID.
He who would trade his freedom for security deserves neither.
What freedom am I trading?
Your proposal would kill the 10th Amendment for good.
Nonsense. Immigration enforcement is a Federal jurisdiction, and therefore requiring Federal IDs as verification of lawful immigration status falls within Congress's powers under the elastic clause, strictly constructed. The same logic applies for requiring a Federal ID for a bank account.
Requiring a Federal ID to get on an interstate flight falls within Congressional power under the interstate commerce clause, even as it was strictly constructed before 1937.
Please use quotation marks around the word "free" in that case.
What freedom am I trading?
If I am not actually engaged in interstate commerce, why do I need a federally-mandated form of identification to go about my business?
If you're taking an interstate flight, you are definitely engaging in interstate commerce. Even for intrastate flights, you are using the interstate air traffic control system, and therefore subject to federal regulation under the same clause.
Requiring a Federal ID to open a bank account or take a job is necessary to enforce Federal immigration law, under which one must be a citizen or legal alien to engage in such transactions. Therefore Congress has the power to require Federal IDs for such transactions under the elastic clause. The same clause gives Congress the power to enact the current Federal law that requires some government ID to open an account, though it is the enforcement of Federal tax law that is the aim in this case.
Again I ask you, what freedom are you giving up by having to show a passport to get a job?
The only people who would not tolerate requiring passports for employment are libertarian nutjobs who make up 0.001% of the population.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.