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Immigration

Two Cheers for Pete Buttigieg's Proposal for "Place-Based Visas" for Immigrant Workers

The idea has some flaws, but would be a major improvement over the status quo. It also has much in common with a proposal for state-issued visas promoted by two Republican members of Congress in 2017.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Pete Buttigieg (Jeremy Hogan/Polaris/Newscom).

South Bend, Indiana Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg recently put forward a proposal for "placed based visas" for immigrant workers, based in large part on a similar idea advanced by economists Adam Ozimek, Keenan  Fikri, and John Lettieri (Buttigieg refers to them as "community renewal visas"). Matthew Yglesias of Vox has a helpful summary of the plan, and some of its potential advantages:

Many struggling American communities are, among other things, losing people. Meanwhile, many millions more people would like to move to the United States of America than the country is prepared to allow in.

Three economists have called for leveraging the latter into a solution for the former, allowing both communities and immigrants to opt into a special program that would allow communities experiencing population loss to issue temporary visas to skilled foreigners that would allow them to live and work in places that want more workers.

The economists, John Lettieri, Kenan Fikri, and Adam Ozimek, call them "heartland visas" or "place-based visas" in their original policy proposal for the Economic Innovation Group think tank. The idea has spread: South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg's larger plan for rural America included them under the name Community Renewal Visas, and the US Conference of Mayors endorsed the concept in a resolution passed on a bipartisan basis earlier this summer….

Part of the tragedy of the situation is that in global terms, Akron is one of the very best places in the whole world to live. Declining Midwestern cities tend to have bad weather, but so do thriving Northeastern ones. And while the city's median household income of $36,000 is on the low side for the United States, it compares favorably to what you'd find in Poland, Hungary, Greece, Croatia, or Chile — to say nothing of India, Bangladesh, or Vietnam.

Lots of people, in other words, might jump at the chance to move to Akron if they were given the opportunity. And we know from the lottery for H1-B visas that American companies would like to import many more foreign-born workers with technical skills than they are currently allowed to hire.

Instead of giving work permits to skilled workers that tie them to a specific company, as the US does now, a new category of visas would tie them to a specific place.

A certain number of place-based visas would be allocated to a city — Akron, say — that wants to opt into the program. And then foreigners with skills who want to take a chance on Akron can apply for an Akron Visa. If you live in the specified city for a certain period of time — Buttigieg's implementation sets it at three years — you can convert to a regular green card. The lure of the permanent green card, among other things, is supposed to create a strong incentive to comply with the terms of the program.

The theory is that the presence of a pool of skilled workers in a given city would be a lure for companies to start investing there to hire them. This in turn would have a series of related benefits…

A reasonably large share of Akron visa holders would end up moving elsewhere after their initial three-year stint, especially at first. But it's also the case that people have a tendency to stick around a place once they've put some roots down there. And once an immigrant community is established somewhere, its very existence becomes a draw for other people with similar cultural roots.

Place-based visas would be a significant improvement over the current system of H-1B visas that tie immigrant workers to a specific employer.  They would enable workers to switch jobs (so long as they stayed in the same locality). That is good for both economic efficiency (enabling workers to go where they are likely to be more productive) and for avoiding mistreatment of workers by employers. In the H-1B system, workers who leave an abusive employer risk deportation. I also agree with many of the other points Yglesias makes in favor of this proposal.

The main shortcoming of the idea is that, by confining eligible workers to a single community, it severely limits their options. That's a flaw from the standpoint of both liberty and efficiency. In some smaller communities, they might even be limited to just one or a small handful of employers (depending on how many local businesses employ workers with their particular skills). Another limitation of Buttigieg's version of the plan is that it would be restricted to "counties that have lost prime-working-age population over the last 10 years, and smaller cities that are struggling to keep pace economically with larger cities." Other communities should also be allowed to participate.

These are the main reason why the plan deserves only two cheers, instead of three. On the other hand, the prospect of getting a green card within 3 years significantly mitigates these problems, as it makes the location restriction temporary and gives employers some incentive to avoid abusive behavior (lest the most productive workers leave as soon as their three year term is up).

The Buttigieg proposal for place-based visas has much in common with a proposal for state-based visas offered by Republican members of Congress Senator Ron Johnson and Rep. Ken Buck in 2017, which I analyzed here. The big advantage of the Johnson-Buck proposal over Buttigieg's is that a state-based visa gives immigrants far more options than one confined to a single city. On the other hand, their plan—unlike Buttigieg's—would not grant a green card after  three years. So the locational constraint would continue indefinitely. The Johnson-Buck plan provides for three year visas, which can be extended at the option of the state government in question.

There is, potentially, some conflict between giving immigrants a choice and promoting development of depressed communities, as many would prefer to move to areas with more vibrant economies, if given  the option. But immigrants have diverse preferences, and many might well be willing to move to less successful areas, so long as there are jobs available, and the cost of living is relatively low compared to the big cities of the East and West Coast. Even today, a good many immigrants do in fact move to less-affluent parts of the United States, as shown by such examples as the fact that immigrant doctors service many poor rural areas.

Many of the points I made in my assessment of the Johnson-Buck proposal apply to this one, as well:

For the last century or more, immigration policy has been dominated by the federal government. That's an inversion of what most of the Founding Fathers expected. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, objected to the Alien Acts of 1798 in large part because the original meaning of the Constitution did not give Congress any general power to restrict immigration, but rather largely left the issue to the states.

We are unlikely to fully restore the original meaning of the Constitution. But [the Johnson-Buck proposal would move us some degree in that direction]….

If the bill passes, the guest workers admitted by the states would be among the biggest beneficiaries. Many thousands would get freedom and economic opportunity, and escape having to languish in poverty and oppression….  But American citizens also stand to gain, because immigrant workers make major contributions to the American economy. By channeling immigrants into legal employment, this program could also diminish deportations, which come at a high cost to taxpayers….

As with political decentralization on other issues, it could also help mitigate the poisonous partisan conflict created by federal control, where a single, one-size-fits all approach is imposed the entire country. Regional visa programs have worked well in Canada and Australia, two diverse federal democracies with histories and political traditions similar to our own….

Ultimately, decentralization of immigration policy to the state level is not as good as the even more complete decentralization that would occur if these decisions were made by individual workers and employers. Among other things, the latter are in an even better position to judge relevant economic needs than state officials are. But a state-based worker visa program would still be a major improvement over the status quo.

It is worth noting that Jason Kenney, the new United Conservative Party premier of Alberta (Canada's most conservative province) has recently proposed a plan somewhat similar to Buttigieg's in an attempt to attract immigrant workers to rural parts of his province, which currently suffer from declining population.

The above analysis assumes that the Buttigieg plan or the Johnson-Buck proposal would expand the total number of immigrants allowed in the US, without diminishing numbers admitted under other categories. The proposals are in fact currently structured that way. If they are altered to cut immigrant admissions elsewhere, that greatly reduces the good they might do (though it might still be net beneficial if community or state-based visas replace H-1B visas).

My post on the Johnson-Buck plan  describes some of the political obstacles it faces, many of which would also apply to the Buttigieg proposal. Those obstacles likely help account for its failure to get much traction in Congress. But the endorsement of  similar ideas by prominent liberal Democrats might increase the chance of building a bipartisan coalition over time.

It may well be too much to hope for. But perhaps at some point in the future, we could get a bipartisan proposal that combines the best features of both plans, while mitigating their respective downsides.

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80 responses to “Two Cheers for Pete Buttigieg's Proposal for "Place-Based Visas" for Immigrant Workers

  1. If the globalists (Somin and Soros, et al.) were candid they would simply say . . . “Americans will not vote for globalism, we must bring in more immigrates who will.”

    1. If people like you were candid – you would simply say “I hate brown people – keep them away from me” or “I hate America”.

      Both statements would be true.

      1. I don’t hate brown people, but I hate the system of government that inevitably results from brown people, who are genetically less intelligent and less able to care for themselves. Why are white nations obligated to turn themselves brown?

        1. (vomit)

          1. Sorry the truth upsets you, but 85-90 IQ Hispanics vote for big government because they can’t make it any other way.

            1. If you shout “I am a Bigot,” you’ll never con any thinking person.
              (puke)

      2. That whole “you hate brown people” is such a chickenshit cop out. No one hates brown people, except your side, who’ll use these people to get political power while holding them down on the Dem plantation.

        1. RWH is so virulent I wonder if he’s a plant trying to poison the well on honest discussion of the real issues regarding unrestricted immigration not because of economic benefits, or of a love for huddled masses, two reasonable claims, but to grow “your” voter numbers.

    2. I accidentally flagged that comment

    3. Do you know how visas work? They don’t give people the ability to vote.

      1. Tell that to the state of California. We are already wallowing in the mud at the bottom of that particular slippery slope.

      2. No, but their “citizen” children will surely be voting in 18 years, and for Democrats. Tie the visas to sterilization, and I’ll be on board.

    4. Setting aside Mr. WJack’s failure to understand the difference between residents and citizens, what on earth does “globalism” even mean in his statement?

      1. In this case, “globalism” means empowering local communities with some immigration decisions.

  2. I’d just point out that the reason these places have declining population is the lack of opportunity there.

    Of course a combination of a skill and place based visa could cause some some companies to open offices in these cities, since technology allows many jobs to be performed remotely.

  3. If a city can not support its existing population but some other location can deal with the influx why should anything be done to “fix” this situation? This simply sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

    1. Well, I assume that America has sunk costs of hundreds of billions (trillions??) in tons of cities–colleges, highways, sports stadiums, hospitals, etc etc. If we just let a crapload of unsuccessful towns turn into true ghost towns, then that is just lost money. But if this suggestion works, then these can be turned into economically viable communities again. Your approach seems to be, “Well, it will work. But so what. We owe nothing to these cities, they failed on their own, and they (and their residents) should suffer the consequences.”

      That seems to be a fairly selfish approach. One reason why it makes sense for America (writ large) to help out struggling communities is the comfort at knowing that, God forbid, if something untoward happens to me (cough, earthquake, cough), Americans will be equally willing to help out and bring back my area to economic viability.

      1. Equating help following a natural disaster with importing third worlders is a new one. I’m sure the people living in depressed areas are just DYING for that type of “help.”

      2. I’ve never understood the notion of labeling people who want to keep their own property as “selfish” rather than those who want to take other people’s property. Moreover, your argument conflates places and people; if a place turns into a ghost town, it means that their residents aren’t suffering the consequences because there aren’t any residents.

        Just as it doesn’t make sense to pour lots of investment into Kmart just because it is “struggling,” it doesn’t make sense to pour investment into a dying down. It’s not cruelty; it’s common sense. Let the investment be directed somewhere more productive instead of propping up a place that few value.

        1. Ayn Rand would clear that up for you, by pointing out that wanting to keep your own property absolutely IS “selfish”, the problem here being that you’ve been conditioned to think of being selfish as a bad thing, and so don’t want to properly identify the rational and moral pursuit of self-interest as “selfishness”.

  4. Places that are suffering declining population are most often places where taxes are high and services suck (like Baltimore). Recipients of placed-based visas still need to have job before they come here – areas with declining populations also have higher than normal unemployment. More immigrants are not going to fix Baltimore’s problem, Chicago’s problem, or any other place suffering declining population. Lowering taxes, improving services (like education) and adopting business -friendly policies will fix the problem. Not to mention the fact that the real problem is mobility within the US. Baltimore has above average unemployment, Places in the Dakotas low unemployment (shale oil). Before we encourage immigrants, we should do all we can to encourage interstate migration. Bringing immigrants into a city with high unemployment is a recipe for disaster.

    1. Yeah, Employers should do job interviews in Mexico.

    2. I don’t think mobility matters. The US has extremely high internal mobility. Some of these places just suck to live in, whether it’s getting paid little but living somewhere you like or getting paid more and loving somewhere you hate. Sure, either is better than living in Bangladesh, but that’s not a choice most of us face. We should just let dying communities die, as sad as it can be.

  5. How about we tighten up the entire process for H1B visas, so that Americans can actually get the jobs? There is not a shortage of programmers (for example), there is a shortage of programmers willing to work for the wages offered.

    1. That’s a wage issue. Supply and Demand

      1. Sure. And as long as cheap foreign programmers (and other technical workers) can be imported, the wages stay depressed….

        Same as any other trade.

        1. Havent you heard? The labor market is immune from the laws of supply and demand

          1. I love sarcasm, but not where thinking would be better.

        2. If there’s a shortage because the wages are too low, then the wages will increase. I did say Supply and Demand. And wages,

          But thanks for sharing your feelings.

        3. So is there a shortage or not? If the wages are being pushed down then there isn’t a shortage. A shortage would increase wages.

          1. There is not a real shortage, but many companies are claiming a shortage so that they can hire more H1B workers.

  6. It actually sounds like a thoughtful plan.
    As long as the number of permits are limited and the rules carefully tailored to create a maximum net benefit for the Americans in the local community, it would probably help out quite a bit.

    My own suggestion was for companies who wanted to hire H1Bs in high housing cost areas, they would have to relocate at least 2x that amount of gross payroll to below average housing cost areas.

    It would partly mitigate the problem of tech companies bidding up the price of everything in one area. The prosperity would be more spread out in the country instead of concentrated in San Jose, Seattle and a few other places.

  7. Close, but no balloon. NO immigration proposal seeks the obvious. What does the labor market.

    Immigrating college graduates impresses the goobers, But we now have too many! Millions of college graduates work at non-college jobs. Not just humanities majors … plus we’re graduating too many. My wife had to leave the room, to hide her rage when our son’s girlfriend said she was seeking an associate degree in airline reservations, at a community college..

    Wife was 30 years at a major airline, in reservations. They were hiring at that time! When girlfriend she gets that degree, she will be more hirable than a high school grad … NO value to the employer … but subsidized by taxpayers.

    As for reducing immigration. Fine for the uninformed. Buy we’ve had a NEGATIVE replacement birthrate for about a decade. Without immigration, our population would be declining. If that sounds good, you just screwed your own children’s FICA tax rates, to finance YOUR retirement.

    1. This lie is really getting old. Low wage, low skill people cost the government way more than they produce. If you really think $9/hour laborers are going to keep our entitlement programs funded, you’re deluding yourself, as you’re not including the costs they and their low IQ children will place on to society.

      1. You’re bigoted rant has absolutely nothing to do with what I said.
        Plus, I peed my pants laughing, as your sneered that the wages distribution would be any different

        Even if you were correct, you just said NOBODY to offset your damage to your children and grandchildren is better than ANYBODY at even $6 per hour,

        And as for birth rates being a lie … would you believe Breitbart?
        https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/01/13/states-birth-rate-2017/

        Or should I have given you the Fox News Link?
        The Daily Caller link,

        1. I didn’t say that the birth rates is a lie. I said that the idea that third world immigrants were the “solution” to the problem of solvency of our public programs is a lie.

          If Americans aren’t having enough children, the solution is to change policies that cause or encourage that. Not to replace Americans with Hispanics and Muslims.

    2. Negative replacement rate, so what? Automation makes immigration obsolete.
      Social Security will die? Sure, but low wage immigrants is not going to save it. Payments will soon be subject to needs based testing.
      If you really want to solve the negative replacement rate, see what Hungary is doing. That will be more beneficial than continuing to import low IQ migrants.

  8. How utterly convenient. Let’s stick 3rd world immigrants, who’ll most certainly vote democrat, into right leaning states like Texas, Kansas, Nebraska or Indiana. I’m SURE there is no ulterior motive here…

    1. America’s fatal flaw was in the founders not putting their understanding of racial reality into the paper.

      1. I’ve never heard anyone defend slavery. How large is your Klavern? How could you swallow the dumbass lie that the only blacks here were slaves. And why do you despise the Will of Almighty God- given rights?

        Rights are innate, endowed by a Creator, not granted by government. Why not return to the country of your birth?

        Did you enjoy your march in Charlottesville?

        1. I’m not defending slavery.

          1. Not explicitly, but the Confederacy DID put its understanding of racial reality into its founding documents. So for the average person, you are, indeed, defending slavery.

    2. Visas don’t let people vote. Even if they implement it and include a “three years until green card” clause they still can’t vote after three years.

    3. Under this and similar proposals, it would be communities within those “right leaning states” that make the decision on whether or not to try and bring in immigrants.

      So if there is an ulterior motive, it’s held by the local communities who would be doing this.

  9. The left sees the solution to be laws that won’t be enforced, but can be sold on the grounds that they will be enforced.

  10. The plan is dumb, though not because it involves immigrants, but because it involves government subsidization of failing communities, as we’ll certainly splurge on such projects and allocate extra funding for them. They’re not failing because there aren’t enough people around but because of a lack of opportunities or mismanagement. Putting a bunch of people there stresses the local decaying infrastructure until they can pay it back, if that ever happens. The towns can’t afford that and it will drag even more on local productivity, further decreasing wages.

    The market is already showing that they’re bad investments: companies could be marching in and buying everything but currently aren’t. Why should we fund it as a nation?

    1. “The plan is dumb . . . because it involves government subsidization of failing communities”

      Are you contending America should simply abandon its can’t-keep-up rural and southern stretches — and with them the substandard residents of those deplorable communities?

  11. Creating a special class of immigrant restricted as to where they can reside will be easily and successfully challenged in court. They will also successfully petition for voting rights. This plan is an epic lie. Did Shikha come up with this one?

  12. If you put immigrants into failing areas and things don’t improve they’ll move to where the economy is better. How do you keep them from moving?

    1. Well, I think that was addressed: “If you live in the specified city for a certain period of time — Buttigieg’s implementation sets it at three years — you can convert to a regular green card… A reasonably large share of Akron visa holders would end up moving elsewhere after their initial three-year stint, especially at first. But it’s also the case that people have a tendency to stick around a place once they’ve put some roots down there. And once an immigrant community is established somewhere, its very existence becomes a draw for other people with similar cultural roots.”

  13. “If you live in the specified city for a certain period of time — Buttigieg’s implementation sets it at three years …”

    And there it is. The location argument is a fig leaf for open borders. And the writer of this article approves of the fig leaf lie.

  14. Immigrants might be the best hope for many of America’s desolate backwaters, the rural and southern stretches hobbled by dying towns, declining industries, and the depleted human residue that remains after generations of bright flight remove the smart, ambitious young people from a community.

    Immigrants could bring entrepreneurship, optimism, drive, education, effort, tolerance, and marketable skills to communities ravaged by backwardness, addiction, indolence, ignorance, bigotry, economic inadequacy, and dependence.

    Bigotry and insularity trump reason and progress for most of the residents of the desolate communities, however, so the backwater voices reject the immigrants and immigration that could help them.

    The place-based visa seems worthy of consideration.

    1. Better those backwater towns die than turn into some third world shit hole supported by taxpayer dollars.

      1. That argument was advanced by those who opposed Italians, Jews, blacks, Asians, Catholics, gays, the Irish, agnostics, women, eastern Europeans, Muslims, Hispanics, Mormons, other Asians, other Hispanics, and others.

        I expect it to be just as effective today as it was when America was threatened by the cultural onslaughts of linguine, bagels, egg rolls, collard greens, sushi, burritos, hummus, Jameson, lutefisk, pierogis, and the Friday fish fry. This latest batch of bigots seems nothing special.

        1. We no longer live in an industrial age when we need all the labor we can get. When America re-industrializes, automation will do most of the work.
          If those backwater towns are economically viable, they will come back to life. Reminds me of how gentrification restores previously impoverished areas.

          1. ‘This time, it’s different. This time, bigotry is a good idea and will totally win the day for conservatives.’

            Good luck, clingers.

            1. Notice how the “Good Reverend” fall back on name calling and race bating instead of economic arguments?
              Al Sharpton, is that you?

              1. That jab means a lot, coming from the “third world shit hole” (if infected by brown people) guy.

                Try again, you bigoted rube.

                1. Thus you name call, proving my point. I guess your “Rev” tittle is just for show.

  15. Somin: any restrictions on freedom of movement on labor populations are awful and racist.

    Also Somin: hooray for this DNC proposal that more severely limits the freedom of labor populations to move and seek opportunity!

    If there was any doubt that Somin’s posts are simply faux libertarian cover for DNC policy proposals, this article should resolve that doubt.

    1. Reading isn’t your strength, is it? How does a proposal that allows people to migrate here “more severely limit” their freedom to move than a proposal that doesn’t?

      Moreover, the proposal as described doesn’t limit their freedom to move at all; it merely rewards them if they don’t move for a certain period of time.

      1. Reading isn’t your strength, is it? How does a proposal that allows people to migrate here “more severely limit” their freedom to move than a proposal that doesn’t?

        I’d recommend reading the article above the comment section. There is a surprising amount of information contained therein. For example:

        “Instead of giving work permits to skilled workers that tie them to a specific company, as the US does now, a new category of visas would tie them to a specific place.”

        I didn’t say this wouldn’t be a good policy. It might be a good policy. The US has a history of segregating recent immigrants into distinct communities (as do other countries), so maybe we could look at those experiences to see how effective such a policy would be.

        The content of my comment was to point out Prof. Somin’s hypocrisy on this issue. Prof. Somin regularly laments borders as restricting the free flow of labor. This proposal would do no more than slightly change the borders where labor is allowed to move. That would – if you took Prof. Somin’s positions as consistent – be just as bad as the current system of national borders.

        If such an arrangement would ordinarily be objectionable, we might ask “why is this system any different?” As rsteinmetz suggested, these areas do not lack opportunity because of a lack of population, they lack population because they lack opportunity. There’s only one thing you accomplish with a large population: votes. As WJack suggested, this sounds like a case of importing voters to “fix” a “broken” electorate.

        If importing a large group of immigrants into a city is all that is necessary for the city to succeed, why aren’t the same group of people already successful in their home country? I argue that importing a lot of people from a foreign country results in the politics and culture of that country coming with that group.

        See, e.g., anti-Semitic Muslims from anti-Semitic countries electing anti-Semites to Congress.

    2. I think at this point Somin is trolling to get views.

  16. “many millions more people”

    As we all know, leftists want to destroy America, or “fundamentally transform” it, if you will. They have been braying for years in op-eds about how their plan is working and how “demographic change” will give them permanent political power making their agenda inevitable.

    What agenda is that? Well, the progressive utopia of course. Global socialism, communism, gun grabbing, the end of self-government and national sovereignty, the destruction of families, 8 year old transgender boys pole dancing, etc

    1. Leftists wish to destroy America.

      Conservatives attempt to counter with nothing but failed economic proposals, can’t-keep-up communities, race-targeting voter suppression, lousy schools, gay-bashing, prudish authoritarianism, old-timey misogyny, stale superstition, unpopular gun absolutism, and long-discredited xenophobia.

      Where is the hope for America?

      1. I think there is hope for America. Not in either of the political parties as such, but in the sovereign People embracing definitional American values.

        1. You are going to hate the next half-century of American progress as much as you have hated the progress America has made — against your wishes and against the efforts of conservatives — throughout your lifetime.

        2. the sovereign People embracing definitional American values.

          Helluva thing watching you radicalize over the years.

      2. Take way government subsidies, we’ll see America restored to it’s natural state.

        1. Take away an apostrophe and your comment would feature standard English.

          1. Wow, you’re not just a standard socialist Nazi, but a grammar Nazi to boot.

  17. I can’t see giving a cheer for an idea that will only add more confusion to the mayhem that already exists about “what immigration means”.

    The twisted history of citizenship (and the non-citizen workforce) is littered with different approaches to dealing with marriages, death, and divorce whether to bona fide visa holders or “aliens”. Take a trot through the regulations of the early 1900’s, then the 1940’s and 50’s – they’re fascinating.

    The “birthright citizenship” matter needs work, and we need clarity about what “dual” citizenship means; that’s been all over the map.

    The only thing more certain than death and taxes is the expansion of government, given the opportunity – and I think that this visa policy idea would lead to all sorts of untended consequences. The confusion about locales’ role is tortured now.

    The rogue nature of state and local “sanctuary” policies has already deeply frayed the national fabric in ways that remind me of the tensions that led to the Civil War. In the 1800’s the “labor” (and political) interests of the south led states down divergent paths, and to terrible rulings like Dred Scott. When the fractured union rejoined, civil discourse and civil liberties remained damaged for 100 years.

    The idea of apportioning visas to import labor to meet local needs simply doesn’t sit well. Work visas have always had a faint smell of indentured servitude, and the accompanying downsides look like mayhem to me.

    “Right to vote” used to be a fairly forthright concept (citizens vote). As adrift as things are now (residents vote?), I dread the idea of involving states and locales directly in the immigration game.

    1. I think once they become citizens, there can’t be any limits on where they can go. The same would be true of their children born here. Limits would only be possible while they remain foreigners, immigrants or temporary visitors.

  18. This is one of those areas where accepting that personhood is not a binary may lead to more policy options and more possibility for having positive results.

    Full persons have a right to travel and hence can’t be kept from going wherever they want. But if we accept that prospective immigrants have only partial personhood with respect to their rights to enter here, it may make good policy sense, in terms of allowing immigrants in while keeping the peace, if we limit where they can settle, until they become citizens at any rate, to where they are wanted, especially since there can be large geographic differences in levels of acceptance of immigrants.

    I have to confess I’m surprised Professor Somin didn’t reflexively say that any limit on their right to travel would mean they don’t have full equal rights (and I think it does mean that) and hence can’t be contemplated on ideological grounds.

    1. He’s willing to contemplate the proposal because he’s aware that the restrictive element would never be enforced.

  19. Swing and a miss. Immigration is about culture, not economics. We don’t need more unskilled laborers with inevitable automation.

    1. Modern America culture, or that of the white-centric “good old days” that never existed but for which conservatives nonetheless pine?

      1. We will fight for what was, and the dream of what could be.

      2. As white-centric as limited, Constitutional government is, sure. It’s existed for the past 250 years.

  20. Eh.

    Doesn’t sound horrible, but it kind of feels like it falls into a classic peril of supply-side economics.

    “If we import labor, surely someone will build here to employ it”.

    One apparent problem is enforcing the “your visa only lets you work in Backwatersville, OK”, but face it, someone that comes over legally is probably going to follow the rules, so the lack of easy enforcement probably won’t be much of an issue.

    So it’s not the worst idea, and America would survive giving it a try, but the supply-side economics theory smells like a promise waiting to be broken.

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