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Beltway Confidential

Tough issues around immigration

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Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Immigration,Jobs,Border Security,Analysis,Libertarian Populism

I’ve mostly avoided taking a position on immigration legislation this summer. The main reason: I’ve got lots of views on immigration, but I’m not sure they add up to a coherent policy. But because Nick Gillespie called me “pro-immigration” in his article today, I feel like I should fess up to my views on the matter. And again, these views may contradict one another — at least they clash with one another.

Our government should generally let people enter this country: First, I’m libertarian, especially on the federal level. It’s generally wrong for government to infringe on people’s freedom, including their freedom of movement, including across borders. I think the obligation to let people into the country is heightened when they are poor people seeking more promising work.

Our government should not actively try to increase the labor supply: Business typically lobbies for more immigration because they want more labor. Especially in the low-skilled realm, this lobbying amounts to a desire for lower wages. I don’t think lowering wages is a legitimate role of government. Also policy to drive down working-class wages clashes with my populist sentiments.

Guest-worker programs are inherently exploitative: I’ve written about this a few times (here, here, and here). When a worker is allowed in the country solely to work a job, his employer is armed with the power of deportation. Also, I don’t like the idea of letting companies pay for labor by using a public resource: a green card.

Two-tier citizenship undermines societal cohesion: Many immigration proposals involve excluding some immigrants from privileges we provide to current citizens. This strikes me as unfair and dangerous, socially.

We should keep out murderers and terrorists: I’d rather police terrorism by figuring out who’s trying to come into our country than by spying on everyone who’s here. This will, unfortunately, create a bottleneck at the border.

Big spending on border control technology will probably be corporate welfare: Of course it will, and so it will be wasteful.

Assimilation is important: If an immigrant wants to stick around, she ought to become an American. That means pursuing citizenship, giving up her old citizenship, and learning English.

We can’t deport all 11 million illegals: Come on.

Illegal immigrants are, per se, lawbreakers, but not necessarily in a morally significant way: Entering the awesomest country in the world is a good desire to have. Our immigration system is screwed up. Breaking the law is generally bad, but sometimes caring for your family requires you to break screwed-up laws.

There we go. In case you cared.

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