Nick Gillespie's article ("Beyond the Family Way," June), suggested a change in immigration preferences from family members of current residents to foreigners with money, skills, or both. The key point he missed, however, is that the "immigration problem" is only a problem in a welfare state.
As demand for welfare benefits increases, the state's costs soar. Most taxpayers view immigrants as net tax consumers, and thus want to keep them out. Mr. Gillespie's visa auction plan seeks only to improve the chances that legal immigrants will pay more than they receive from the welfare state. Regrettably, his plan implicitly accepts the faulty premise that individual immigrants cause the high cost of the welfare state.
Richard W. Stevens
Mr. Gillespie suggests immigration policies that may be considered improvements over our present ones. However, it is my understanding that for a small sum, it is possible for anyone knowing the right people to obtain a Social Security card. For a larger sum, it is possible to obtain a valid birth certificate that may then be used to obtain a passport which can be sent anywhere in the world, allowing the recipient to enter this country "legally."
It is worth noting as well that children born of illegal immigrants in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens. And, regarding the U.S.-Mexican border, even if a wall were built, anyone could simply come by boat and land almost anywhere on the coast. Doesn't all this make any immigration policy a farce?
Mary R. Hoover
The hands of government and lobbyist were clearly visible to me in 1978 when I made it through the Immigration and Naturalization Service maze and emigrated from the United Kingdom--even before discovering REASON. INS publications made it plain that the U.S. government permitted some to enter, but not others: Specifically, "it has been determined that there is no need" for people with skills on a long list of menial jobs (presumably, ones not well-unionized).
The huge flow of immigrants in the 19th century, which generated almost all U.S. prosperity, came not so much because of a favorable immigration policy, but because of the absence of an immigration policy. It was just taken for granted that if people wanted to come to America, it was no business of the feds to stop them. Now, by proposing a reform of the maze, Gillespie is still granting government the one thing it loves to retain: the power to dispose of peoples' lives, in one way if not in another.
His preferred reform is to charge immigrants an entrance fee, which he supports by pointing to the huge costs borne by 19th-century immigrants when crossing the Atlantic. But the similarity is superficial. That high cost of passage was paid to people--shippers-- who provided a useful service. The proposed "entrance fee" would be paid to parasites who provide no service, but merely stand at the toll gate and collect tributes. I can think of little less comparable to a free international market in labor.
REASON, surely, should not bow to considerations of what may be politically feasible in the short term. Of course, cancelling all restrictions on immigration would encounter vast political opposition. And of course, it's utterly incompatible with the welfare state. Of course, all the government's petty rules on who can hire whom, and what they can be paid, would also have to go overboard. And of course, American labor would have to compete on a level playing field again.
A principled stand on unrestricted immigration would not only conform properly with Emma Lazarus's invitation to the "wretched refuse" of foreign shores, it would sharply remind domestic opinion that America has become something that was never intended--and so hasten the end of the welfare-warfare state.
New London, NH
As a lawyer who has practiced in the area of immigration and visa law for many years, I, too, believe that family immigration amounts to nepotism and that we should seek immigrants with skills that will aid the American economy. But there are realities that need to be faced.
No American government should have the power to say that an American citizen could not bring into this country a spouse, child, or parent. If an American serviceman stationed overseas marries, almost everyone would agree that he is entitled to bring his spouse. The vast majority of family-sponsored immigration is of this type.