Seven Principles Of Free Market Immigration Reform

by David Bier on April 15, 2013

in Features, Immigration, International

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 1.      Immigration laws should value human beings. America should welcome newcomers so long as they pose no threat to the health or safety of Americans. Human beings truly are the ultimate resource. Only human inventiveness and creativity make the world a vibrant and prosperous place. The history of the United States itself refutes the fallacy that greater numbers of people only degrade wages, destroy the environment, and consume resources. In a free society, people serve others through voluntary exchanges and associations, creating wealth and making everybody better off.

 2.      Immigration reform should reflect market realities. Just as alcohol prohibition spawned a black market in alcohol, immigration restrictions have spawned a black market in labor. The government issues just 10,000 green cards for workers who lack higher education, special skills, or family connections. This arbitrary cap — along with other restrictions on temporary visas — pushes otherwise law-abiding workers toward illegal channels for entry. Creating an orderly and accessible pathway for entry should be a central component of reform.

The 1986 reforms, while well-intentioned, failed because they stressed enforcement but created no legal avenue for workers to enter. Today, less than 10 percent of U.S. visas are based on employment, and the process is so difficult that most businesses cannot afford to spend the resources to attempt to recruit foreign workers, particularly when they might be rejected. The current process presupposes that America needs no new workers and requires businesses to overcome that presumption. This guilty-until-proven innocent system is incompatible with free markets and limited government. The market — employees and employers who contract together — should determine the supply of labor, not government bureaucrats.

 3.      The rule of law should be upheld. Failure to protect the nation’s borders and enforce the law is incompatible with any concept of the rule of law. Immigration law serves an important purpose. It protects this country against criminal, national security, or health threats from abroad. But immigration enforcement should force potential immigrants to avail themselves of viable legal alternatives for entry, not simply push them out or drive them into the underground economy. At the same time, the inability to enforce the law empowers the president to enforce it selectively, which undermines the rule of law. Reform should both end the black market in labor and not sanction future law-breaking.

 4.      Laws should be reformed to encourage legal immigration and discourage the illegal kind. The legal status quo is untenable. Today, more than 11 million immigrants reside in the U.S. illegally, and hundreds of thousands of immigrants cross the border each year without authorization. The current system has encouraged document fraud and identity theft. As the economy recovers and demand for labor increases, stronger enforcement will exacerbate these problems if Congress fails to pursue reform. Worse, the system forces out millions of productive peaceful people — from engineers to farmhands — who could contribute to America’s success.

 5.      Laws should not deputize citizens as enforcers. Enforcement of immigration law is a responsibility of the federal government, not of private citizens. Regulations that conscript employers to police their workforce or that increase government surveillance of legal workers — whether through a national ID or intrusive databases like the proposed E-Verify system — are incompatible with the principles of limited government and free markets. Such laws greatly increase government power, burden Americans with the cost of immigration enforcement, and are based on the faulty assumption that illegal immigration can simply be stopped by stricter enforcement.

 6.      Laws should create sustainable systems, not just one time exceptions. Other than extraordinary situations, Congress should make general laws that are sustainable into the future, not make a series of ad hoc fixes or amnesties. One such extraordinary situation is creating a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their families. Otherwise, Congress should open a legal pathway that allows people to live and work in the U.S. without fear, whether they currently want to come or are already here. The only sustainable system is one that creates a viable alternative to illegal residence for all immigrants, both present and future.

 7.      Laws should respect families. The law should never be used to separate parents from their U.S. citizen children. The same principle should apply to undocumented children and spouses of American citizens. Strong immigrant families strengthen communities, providing alternatives to publicly funded welfare programs. The law already limits the number of family members that can enter through legal channels. Congress should not restrict this avenue any further.

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