There Is No Line

If we want immigrants to follow the law, we need better laws.


I became a United States citizen on Friday, September 29, 2017.

If I wanted to put a romantic gloss on my story, I could note how I arrived 22 years earlier via a one-way ticket to Detroit on a student visa with just a small bag of clothes, some philosophy books, and $97 in cash. Or how I lived on $10 a week after the rent and bills were paid. How—in the tradition of all good immigrants!—I buckled down and worked hard and graduated with a Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University in three years. How I beat the odds and secured a tenure-track job my first time on the market and then met the woman who was to become my wife on the first day of faculty orientation.

To make my immigration tale even more compelling, I could throw in some of the challenges that I faced. Like how I ditched my useless, high-priced corporate immigration attorney for a man (an immigrant himself!) who shared an office with a taco stand. The new guy charged me a discount price of $80 after I showed I could identify the Dominican Republic on a map, and then he provided me with perfect visa-renewal paperwork within hours. I could recount the harrowing experience of having my work visa granted literally 15 minutes before teaching my first class at The College of New Jersey.

Like so many others', my story could be held up as an advertisement for the American immigration system. While it may have taken me a long time to become a U.S. citizen, I didn't have to wait much to enter the country legally—that initial student visa took just a couple of months. I worked hard, adhered to the law, and was naturalized only after dutifully waiting in line. Shouldn't everyone have to do this? Isn't it unfair to people like me when others jump the line and enter illegally?

No. Because there is no line.

There is an implication in the line metaphor that the current immigration system operates as it did at the time of Ellis Island: People get off the boat (or the plane or the bus), register with the immigration authorities, and then, after waiting their turn, get approved to live and work in the United States. There are more people coming in now than there were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so the line's longer, but the principle is assumed to be the same.

It is not.

There are vanishingly few paths to being legally able to live and work here. The two main roads to legal immigration are the family-based visa program and the employment-based visa program. The family-based visa program is only freely available to the parents, spouses, or unmarried under-21 children of a U.S. permanent resident or citizen. (Those two classes of people are grouped together under the legal term "U.S. persons.") There are more-limited slots available to siblings, married children, and adult unmarried children. There are no slots for nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, or stepchildren if the marriage creating that relationship occurred after the child was 18.

What if you're not related to a U.S. person? It's still possible for you to legally move to America, but it's unlikely. To qualify for an EB-1 employment-based immigration visa, you usually need a job offer from a U.S. employer. Nobel laureates, Olympic gold medalists, and other rare creatures can qualify for the elusive "persons with extraordinary ability" visa without a job in hand. But for the rest of us mortals, a U.S. employer must have made us an offer of a job. And not just any job.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there are two main types of qualifying workers: "outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally," and "multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the preceding three years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer." Those are high bars to meet. But if you're one of the few with extraordinary qualifications and have an offer from a U.S. employer, you could get the green light to immigrate to the United States.

If you're not a highly skilled worker who's already firmly established at the top of your profession, there's some hope—but not much.

Australians in a "specialty occupation" (kangaroo veterinary science, perhaps?) can apply for an E-3 visa. This allows them to work in the U.S. legally for two years, and they can apply to have it renewed indefinitely.

Not an Australian with specialty knowledge? You won't qualify for a visa that would allow you permanently to immigrate to the United States. (Sorry, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.) But you may be legally able to take a temporary job in America. If you play your cards right—and if you're very, very lucky—you could parlay that into permanent residency.

Under the H-1B visa program, a U.S. employer can file a petition with USCIS to hire a foreigner, temporarily, for a specialty occupation. To qualify for this visa, you will usually need a bachelor's degree (or training that's equivalent to a bachelor's degree) considered necessary to perform the "specialized and complex" job you're being hired to do. No bachelor's degree? No problem—assuming you're a fashion model "of prominence."

Even those who are well-educated or beautiful shouldn't get their hopes up. The number of H-1B visas is capped at 65,000 annually, and USCIS has been getting more than 200,000 valid petitions each year.

If you're lucky enough to receive an H-1B visa, you'll usually have to leave after six years—unless your employer is willing to sponsor you for a green card, which gives you permanent residency in the United States. This is an arduous process. The employer will have to demonstrate to USCIS that there are no American workers who can do your job. It will then have to file an Immigration Petition for Alien Worker form. If all goes well, you can apply for an "adjustment of status" with USCIS. And if that's approved, you'll receive your green card—but don't expect to get it quickly. Depending on which country you're from, this process can take up to a decade.

What about those who are neither well-educated nor beautiful but still want to live and work in America legally, maybe for the local mom-and-pop? They'll likely have to put their dreams of permanent immigration aside.

Under the H-2A visa program, a U.S. employer who meets certain regulatory requirements can file a petition with USCIS to hire a foreigner for temporary agricultural work. These visas are restricted to people from certain countries and are only available if it can be shown that there are not enough Americans "able, willing, qualified, and available" to do the work in question.

Under the H-2B program, some non–field hands can also work here temporarily. Again, these visas are limited to people working for U.S. employers that meet certain regulatory requirements, and they're only available if there are not enough Americans to do the jobs in question. H-2Bs are currently capped at 66,000 annually.

To be clear, H-2s are not immigrant visas—they're only for jobs that last less than a year. If you're a working guy or gal who wants to make a life in the United States, there are few options available to you.

If you're a native of a country that has a low level of emigration to the U.S., you can enter one of President Donald Trump's least favorite contests: the annual Diversity Visa lottery. But the chances of being one of the 50,000 winners are small: 22.4 million people entered in 2017. In theory, you could also be one of the rapidly shrinking number of foreigners—targeted at 18,000 for fiscal year 2020—to be admitted as refugees. But few people become refugees just for the pleasure of working in the United States.

The lived reality of immigration is much less like a line and much more like the forking paths of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Make the right choices (marry an American, get hired by a U.S. firm at the executive level, win a Nobel Prize, secure an H-1B visa and parlay it into a green card) and you can make a life in the United States! But make just one wrong choice (marry a Canadian, fail to achieve tenure, get hired by a foreign company, don't have an employer that will sponsor your green card application), and you're out of luck.

And most people don't have the opportunity to make any of these choices. A low-education, working-age Mexican male—that staple of blue-collar employment in the American Southwest—does not qualify as a permanent immigrant under any of the visa regimes listed above. There is simply no path for many people in the world.

So those who seek better lives for themselves and their children, faced with the impossibility of ever being allowed to legally immigrate, do what you and I might be desperate enough to do under the same circumstances: They cheat. It's not that they want to skip the line and get an unfair head start. It's that there's no line for them to be in. There are no choices they can make to become legal immigrants to the United States.

Many critics of illegal immigration object not to jumping the line but to breaking the law. That's a reasonable point. It's also easy to address: Change the law so that people who wish to move to the United States and live in peace can do so easily and legally.

How could we do this? Simple—just flip the current system. Instead of the default legal position of prohibiting people from moving to the United States, we make admitting people the norm. In other words, we return to the old Ellis Island approach of actually having a line.

This proposal doesn't amount to open borders. There would still be background checks of the sort that I went through when I applied for my green card. And some people, such as violent criminals, could still be barred because of the choices they made in the past. But rather than telling people, "You're not going to be allowed to live here unless you fit into one of these very narrow criteria for entry," we should tell them, "Of course you can live here—unless you fit one of these very narrow criteria for exclusion."

What if the resulting line is too long? That is a practical consideration. One possible solution would be to boost the current staffing level of USCIS, allowing the agency to process applications much more quickly. This need not lead to a net increase in government, since switching the default would mean there would be far fewer illegal immigrants to chase, prosecute, and deport. (Persons who are currently in the country illegally could be granted amnesty, provided they're willing to undergo the same Ellis Island–style procedures as everyone else.)

USCIS is funded largely by application and petition fees. (It currently costs $1,140, plus for most people an $85 biometrics fee, to register to apply for permanent residency in the United States.) There's no reason these fees couldn't be increased, ensuring that the agency wouldn't cost taxpayers a penny. According to an April 2019 study by the RAND Corporation, undocumented immigrants from Central America pay between $6,000 and $10,000 to cross the border in extremely perilous conditions. So there is demonstrated price elasticity upward for a more safe and regulated system.

We know that legalizing the market in alcohol or drugs leads to better, cheaper products, while significantly reducing the abuses (such as violence and fraud) that are associated with black markets. Similarly, legalizing the market in green cards would lead to a better product—legal rather than illegal U.S. residency, with immigrants securing safe passage to start a new life. This product would be cheaper than its current black-market alternative, and the legal market would drastically reduce the demand for human smuggling that is currently being met by criminal organizations.

Existing Americans would reap economic benefits from this increased immigration. In the respected academic literature, the lowest estimate of the "immigration surplus" (the increased wages and incomes of native-born Americans that is a direct result of immigration) is that of George J. Borjas in his 2014 book Immigration Economics. Borjas calculated this surplus at 0.24 percent of GDP. That might not sound like much, but it would have amounted to a whopping $49 billion in 2018.

All of these benefits can come if we muster the courage to rethink and then overhaul our immigration policy. At the moment, America is closed to all but the privileged few (like myself) who satisfy narrow criteria for entry that are unreflective of true supply and demand. A return to an Ellis Island approach to immigration would be a return to people waiting in line to enter America peacefully and then to prosper. I'm willing to tell people to get in line, but only if there's a line for them to get in.

NEXT: Brickbat: Cashless Society

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  1. Akshually,

    We should just let potential immigrants write our immigration laws, you know, to improve compliance.

    1. I like this idea. Can we apply to other areas of law? Tax law could be condensed to ‘send us what you think you should’.

    2. You should note that immigrants seem to have a better knowledge of our immigration laws than the average citizen. So it might make more sense to let them write the laws. Would you want a non driver to write traffic laws? A plumber to write health laws? A doctor to write plumbing laws?

      1. Would you want a non-murderer to write murder laws?
        You’re an idiot.

      2. Cartels have amazing knowledge of our banking laws and drug laws. Lets put then in charge of the FBI.

        1. they’re not?

      3. Tax evaders have a great understanding of tax laws, move them to the IRS.

        Manafort understands foreign lobbying, release him and put him in charge of the corruption units.

        1. Note that in your three cases you suggested that people breaking the law should write them. I am simple saying that a person like the authors of the article has a better knowledge of immigration law than most citizens. They can offer insight into why the law is not working as expected. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

          1. They have knowledge of the laws so they can exploit loopholes and in many cases commit fraud.

            Your argument is juvenile.

            1. And yet, we not only allow but actively encourage knowledgeable participation in the legislative process in pretty much every other area of the law.

              Taken to extremes, it becomes the evil of regulatory capture. But short of that extreme, why is this practice good for everything except, apparently, immigration policy?

              1. Because illegals who have violated US law have show a propensity to not be willing to follow our laws.

                Its why we dont want Russian spies in the USA writing our national security laws.

                1. The suggestion is to give legal immigrants a say in re-writing our immigration laws. You objection based on illegal immigrants is irrelevant.

      4. Would you want a non driver to write traffic laws? A plumber to write health laws? A doctor to write plumbing laws?

        Well, they’re paying the taxes that go to enforce those laws, so – Yes.

        1. After reading all this I just need to spend some quality time with hausfrauensex ladies. This is so complicated

    3. othing has done more to diminish the quality of life for the United States middle class through higher housing (land) costs, greater competition for jobs, lower wages, higher taxes to pay for greater poverty, mortgage fraud, medicare fraud, tax fraud, identity theft, other crime, higher taxes to pay for indigent healthcare (hospital closings), higher taxes for cost of public schools, price of college, degradation of the military, depletion of resources, paving of farms,burden on the taxpayer and overall congestion since 1965 than the INCREASE of POPULATION and change in its nature (more poor, more criminals, e pluribus multum).

      1. Disagree… The willful dismantling of the family structure through the welfare state and feminism (among others) has been more damaging than anything else. Encouraging single Parenthood decreases earning ability, increases crime rates, and increased need for social services and welfare.

      2. While the US needs and welcomes the vitality and optimism of immigrants, we do not need more poor immigrants, on top of the tens of millions already here, who will be a burden to the taxpayers because they will never contribute more into the system than they take out.

        After LBJs 1965 “Immigration & Naturalization Act” changed our immigration policy from 90% European/10% Third World to 90% Third World/10% European, instead of getting the best, brightest, and hardest-working immigrants, we have gotten the opposite.

        This has allowed in tens of millions of poor immigrants and their extended families, almost doubling our population in five decades, overwhelming our schools, hospitals, housing, and social services.

        Worse is that LBJs 1965 “Great Society” qualifies legal immigrants and their extended families to taxpayer-funded social programs – and 70% of all immigrant families (which includes asylees) make “free” use of them.

        Because whatever you reward, you get more of.

  2. There are no choices they can make to become legal immigrants to the United States.

    Other than, you know, getting an education, becoming employable, and qualifying under one of the dozens of student and employment based visa programs by which we admit 1.1 million new people per year and have for half a century. We have plenty of home-grown pig ignorant inbred sister fucking welfare leeches. How about we wait until we’re close to running out before we start inviting every illiterate farm hand from Mexico because you just can’t live unless you can pay half of minimum wage for Julio Enrique Rodriguez Dominguez to swing by once a week to cut your grass and fuck your wife.

    Oh, nice touch leaving out the F1-OPT program too, where foreign students can work at a US employer for up to 3 years (renewable) with both the student and the employer completely exempt from payroll tax.

    1. I don’t care how many people we admit each year. And Mr. Taylor point was that the paths available to immigrate mean you have to be a rocket scientist, marrying a US citizen or a student. But none of that necessarily leads to permanent residency or citizenship.
      Yes we have a problem with welfare but we shouldn’t restrict immigration, we instead should fix the welfare system.

      Your demeanor towards immigrants is quite disgusting and only hurts your argument.

      1. Mr taylor casually brushes aside the majority of visas going to family and diversity. That is a choice Democrats have pushed for in immigration programs. Trump has asked to modify the numbers to allow more education and high skilled workers (but they don’t vote Democrat quite as often).

        So Mr. Taylor’s ire is misplaced. He simply wants paths that would have benefitted him and ignore the fact numbers are limited because of the 2 primary avenues.

      2. As an immigrant myself, I have to say that it is your demeanor towards immigrants that is quite disgusting.

        I came to the US because it was a country with a high standard of living that valued high levels of education and valued skilled employment. You want to turn it into the kind of sh_thole that many immigrants (like myself) tried to get away from.

        1. Exactly what s-hole with vast natural resources, relatively stable government and top quartile freedoms that was ruined by welfare-seeking low-skill immigrants do you come from? France? It’s not a long list. Or even a list.

          1. Many countries are pushing back on unchecked immigration. Germany, britain, the nordic countries.

            1. Those nations also have laws preventing immigrants from working. And often consigned to ghetto neighborhoods by law. That’s a recipe for disaster. Invite a bunch of immigrants in, don’t let them assimilate into the culture, then deny them jobs. Then act surprised when they’re resentful.

              The US does NOT have the European model. We never have. Every immigrants gets to work. No one comes here for the welfare because we don’t provide welfare to non-citizens (seriously, we don’t, it’s a myth). The overwhelming majority come here for the work or education. Europe is the opposite. People emigrate to Europe for the welfare and handouts.

              1. “No one comes here for the welfare because we don’t provide welfare to non-citizens (seriously, we don’t, it’s a myth)”

                Lol. Is this where you narrow the argument down to only direct cash payments through welfare and ignore all other costs or aid? Because that’s the only way what you said is true.

                1. They all home school and pay out of pocket for medical care.

              2. “seriously, we don’t, it’s a myth).”

                Fraud never happens either.
                Brandybuck, your commentary is so idiotic that you should be banned from posting in public.

              3. “No one comes here for the welfare because we don’t provide welfare to non-citizens (seriously, we don’t, it’s a myth). ”

                OK, that’s laughable. We don’t provide welfare to non-citizens we know are non-citizens, but illegal immigrants typically pretend to be citizens, complete with falsified ID.

                And that’s ignoring the various welfare type benefits we DO provide to non-citizens, such as being treated in emergency rooms, education, and various state benefits.

              4. The US does NOT have the European model. We never have. Every immigrants gets to work. No one comes here for the welfare because we don’t provide welfare to non-citizens (seriously, we don’t, it’s a myth). The overwhelming majority come here for the work or education. Europe is the opposite. People emigrate to Europe for the welfare and handouts.

                You either don’t know what you’re talking about or you’re simply lying. In reality, per capita social welfare spending in the US is some of the highest in the world, and legal immigrants certainly receive massive amounts of that social welfare spending. When they have children in the US, that increases even further.

                The value people receive from the US government simply by living in the US is upwards of $20000/year. Anybody who isn’t paying that much in taxes is a drag on American tax payers and net minus for the wealth of the nation.

              5. Research what has been going on in Minnesota with the somalis carrying suitcases full of cash out of the country. Cash obtained through defrauding the welfare based child care system. They are coming explicitly to exploit the system and using it to bring more in.

    2. > We have plenty of home-grown pig ignorant inbred sister fucking welfare leeches.

      And they’re the very ones complaining that someone stole their jerbs.

  3. There are vanishingly few paths to being legally able to live and work here.


    1. There are so “vanishingly few paths” that the US has more than a million legal immigrants per year, and a total of 37 million Americans are immigrants, with another 20 million illegals. That’s how “vanishingly few paths” there are! /sarc

      In reality, the US immigration system is absurdly generous and lax by international standards.

      1. +100

    2. Now you pretend you understand why the economy isn’t zero-sum.

  4. This product would be cheaper than its current black-market alternative

    Sure it would. As we all know, illegal labor is substantially more expensive than legal labor. That’s why employers have such strong incentives to hire illegal labor, since they want to maximize their input costs. If we could just reduce the cost of illegal labor by legalizing the illegal laborer and thereby allowing his employer to pay payroll taxes, health insurance, regulatory compliance, and minimum wage instead of cash under the table with no benefits we could finally allow that pent up economic energy to explode all over the faces of America!

    Fucking Christ.

    1. You’ve never actually had to hire a crew, have you?

  5. More than a million people immigrate to the US legally every year. There are 37 million legal immigrants in the US population. And there are probably another 20 million illegal migrants. The idea that the US needs more legal immigration is an absurdity. What the US should do is cut back on family based immigration and increase skill based immigration.

    1. So what. Are we running out of space?

      1. How cute… you think space is the only limiting factor and not infrastructure. Aren’t you adorable.

        1. Yeah, where would we get the labor to build more infrastructure?

          1. You kind of need infrastructure prior to the need. Guessing you’ve never seen a 10 year highway project.

            1. True fact. I once lived in Phoenix. They had a ten year highway project. The main freeway was torn up most of the time I was there. Always at least two miles somewhere down to just one lane. Then I went back twenty years later. THE SAME FUCKING FREEWAY WAS STILL TORN UP!!!

              Did the fix the freeway in the interim and this was just the next project? Or was it the same old eternal roadwork project? I really don’t know. My guess is the latter. True fact.

              1. I-476 Blue Route in PA for the win – 20 miles, 24 years.

          2. A lot of that infrastructure is medical. Thus the need to import skilled doctors etc.

        2. Space: the *final* frontier.

      2. No, we are running out of money. Every person we add to the US consumes money in infrastructure and government services, but most are not productive enough to pay the necessary taxes to pay for what they consume.

        Even if they did, as long as they are less productive and less educated on average than American citizens, their immigration will make the US a less educated and less wealthy country, because the wealth of a country is measured per capita.

        1. Furthermore there are clearly a plan for non-Americans to be used to usurp our Constitutional Democratic Republic that is barely being held up by Natural Born Americans.

        2. Seriously? Did you get your econ degree from a box of crackerjacks?

          Immigrants pay the same taxes citizens pay. But they don’t get any of the welfare. For reals, immigrants can’t get on welfare. So what we have are most immigrants working and paying taxes. They’re actively contributing to both the economy and the gub’ment coffers.

          It’s not a zero sum game. If it were then children would be more dangerous than immigrants, because kids don’t pay taxes, but still grow up to take your precious jerbs and then learn to drive and take up precious few highway funds and clog out preciously scarce schools and sometimes get sick and crowd our preciously scare clinics.

          Let’s the immigrants in but vasectomies and tied tubes for all citizens!

          1. ” For reals, immigrants can’t get on welfare. ”

            Bless your heart.

            Sure, they’re not *supposed* to be able to…

          2. Your arguments are naive and wrong. Most illegal mmigrants use cash payments or max out exemptions. They do get refunds. They also qualify for many government benefits, you seem fixated on a single narrow benefit. It’s almost like you are arguing dishonestly.

          3. Immigrants pay the same taxes citizens pay.

            They do! Which means that, given the current tax system, if they are in the bottom 60% of the US income distribution, they are net takers. If you add more and more people to the bottom of the US income distribution, the US becomes poorer and poorer.

            But they don’t get any of the welfare. For reals, immigrants can’t get on welfare.

            That’s absolutely false. Immigrants receive numerous benefits for the poor, through many different programs. But that’s a red herring anyway because I wasn’t talking about welfare, I was talking about government spending in general. Immigrants require public spending for administration, schools, infrastructure, emergency services, defense, roads, etc. like everybody else.

            So what we have are most immigrants working and paying taxes. They’re actively contributing to both the economy and the gub’ment coffers.

            Yes, but many of them are not contributing as much as they actually cost.

            Furthermore, even if they break even in terms of government spending, any immigrant that contributes less to the US GDP than the per capita average makes the US poorer on average.

            In order to be of economic benefit to the US, an immigrant needs to at least pay as much in taxes as the average American costs in government spending (about $20000/year) and they need to contribute as much to the US GDP as the per capita GDP ($60000/year).

        3. @NOYB2

          Would you oppose allowing Peter Dinklage to move to a new neighborhood because he would decrease the per capita height of everyone there? That would be ridiculous, because no one is being shrunk. No one is being harmed. People are just doing being different heights in different areas than before. Ditto for per capita wealth and education. If a college dropout moves next door to an MD it doesn’t make the MD magically forget med school.

          The average person pays vastly more than they consume, both in infrastructure, and privately. Even low-skilled immigrants. Even if they less productive that average, that’s fine, because they are making Americans more productive through the law of comparative advantage. Everyone’s individual productivity will go up.

          Adding people increases productivity. Humans are richer than they were in the Stone Age and the Middle Ages when there were fewer people. This is because societies require a lot of specialization, having more people makes specialization easier.

          1. Would you oppose allowing Peter Dinklage to move to a new neighborhood because he would decrease the per capita height of everyone there?

            Look, we measure the wealth of a nation by its per capita GDP. Therefore, it is objectively wrong to say that bringing in people who lower the per capita GDP make a country wealthier. That isn’t a statement about policy preferences, it’s a simple factual statement.

            Now, you are free to argue that Americans shouldn’t mind turning their economy from one of the top ones in the world to a mediocre one like Estonia; that’s basically the argument you are making. But at least be honest about it.

          2. The average person pays vastly more than they consume, both in infrastructure, and privately.

            A simple look at fiscal reality shows you that that is bullshit. In fact, government spending in the US is largely paid for by taxes on the top 20%. The bottom 60% consume more than they contribute to the government.

            Adding people increases productivity

            Russia has about the same total GDP as Canada and twenty times the GDP of Luxembourg. Which of these three countries would you want to live in? Which of these three countries do you think has the highest standard of living? Which of these three countries do you think is the most safe and the most free?

            It is per capita output, per capita GDP, and per capita productivity that determines whether you live in a rich or a poor country, not

      3. Yes, we are running out of space on the coasts in the US, because that’s where jobs and generous welfare benefits are, including housing subsidies, ‘free’ medical care, food stamps etc. If that does not work, just have a baby and it’s all ‘free’ for 20+ years!

        Anyone who lives in a large city knows this.

    2. Exactly, just as Australia (the author’s home country) does! Years ago I took an online screening to emigrate to Australia and didn’t meet the requirements.

  6. “What about those who are neither well-educated nor beautiful but still want to live and work in America legally, maybe for the local mom-and-pop? They’ll likely have to put their dreams of permanent immigration aside.”

    Sucks for them, but our government is supposed to be working for US, not THEM. So it should be pursuing an immigration policy aimed at making things better for US, not THEM.

    That’s the fundamental misunderstanding here. “”The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics””

    Well, neither does it enact Rawls’ “A Theory of Justice”. Get used to it.

    1. +1000

    2. “our government is supposed to be working for US, not THEM. So it should be pursuing an immigration policy aimed at making things better for US, not THEM.”

      You realize this argument logically leads to China’s 1-child policy, right?

      1. No it doesn’t. Wow.

      2. Would you *kindly* sketch out your logic?

      3. You’re going to have to fill in the blanks for me, I really don’t see how that works.

        To be clear: Citizens and legal resident aliens have these things called “rights”, which restrict the policies the government can impose on them. Aliens not present yet in the US have a much, much smaller set of such rights, which rather conspicuously don’t include getting to come here.

        1. If the interests of the collective supersede the liberty of the individual, then what is to stop the state from deciding that the issue of overpopulation is so pressing that it justifies taking away your liberty to have as many children as you wish?

          1. Since foreigners don’t have a right to immigrate, what right is abridged?

            1. Freedom of association.

              1. No it isn’t. They can associate all they want. They just don’t have a unilateral right to travel here.

                Quit making that bullshit argument.

                1. Chemjeff is not a big believer in natural rights or rights given under our constitution.

                  He only thinks “freedom of association” will work because that might get more illegal immigrant slaves here in the USA.

          2. I don’t agree with the premise, and I’m talking about legal rights, not, as I said above, Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.

            The non-citizen outside the country has no right to enter the country to supersede in the first place, and so their rights can’t be violated by denying them entry. Citizens and legal resident aliens have considerable rights, and even illegal aliens have some rights once in the country, if only as to the manner of their expulsion.

            All of the above having to do with legal rights, as I said.

            1. +100

        2. If the interests of the collective supersede the liberty of the individual, then what is to stop the state from deciding that the issue of “cultural identity” is so pressing that it justifies taking away your liberty to do business with the individual of your choice?

          1. Your argument is just as bad as it supposed that individuals are equal no matter the nation they belong to solely in concert with US policy.


            1. individuals are equal no matter the nation they belong to

              The horror!

              1. Except Chinese people, amirit Little Jeffy?

            2. +100

      4. Bingo. If an increase in population is bad for the economy, then it’s not just the immigrants to blame, but every citizen family with more than 2.0 children.

        The children are destroying this country! Sterilization now! China has the right of it!

        1. Nobody argued population increases in isolation are bad. Why cant you make rational arguments?

    3. @Brett Bellmore
      There’s no conflict in whats good for us vs what’s good for them though. Bringing in more immigrants woulds also benefit citizens because it would increase the wealth and productivity of the country. A more productive and vibrant economy is good for everyone, it’s basic supply-side economics. A rising tide lifts all boats.

      That’s the tragedy of immigration restriction. It doesn’t even help the people it’s supposed to . American citizens are worse off on average because of it. To see how this is possible, imagine if American states were able to restrict migration and trade the same way countries can. It would make the Americans in each state poorer and worse off, not richer and better off. Open borders between different parts of America is one of the things that makes America rich.

      The conflict around immigration isn’t a conflict between altruism and self-care. It’s a conflict between knowledge and ignorance. Immigration restrictionists are making America worse for all Americans, but they are too stubborn to realize it.

      1. Except it hasn’t “increase[s] the wealth and productivity of the country” in the past 50+ years and, in fact, has done just the opposite for all but the top 5%.

  7. >There are no slots for nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, or stepchildren<

    Why in the world would there be?

    1. We also need slots for BFFs, pen pals, Twitter followers, …

    2. When people talk like this author does, it illustrates that immigration into the USA is considered a right by some non-Americans.

    3. I had a house full of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles… last week. But that’s only because I can’t keep them from crossing county lines.

  8. Appeal to emotion. Now let’s look at statistics.

    You make mention of the family visa, didnt catch the diversity visa, which many would argue should be reduced on number while working Visa and education visa should be increased. One thing missing is the number of visas granted every year, 1 million. Basically a medium sized town. Every year. Why do these articles always fail to mention the cap, only focusing on the plight of the immigrant against the numbers applying for a visa.

    1. I don’t understand why there should be a cap. What is your argument why it should be less? I am not a complete open borders person. I think if someone at the border can pass a background check, show they have a place to live and possibly a job then they should be let in. But I don’t see why setting a cap is a problem.

      1. If you’re not complete open borders, what is your cap? I think 1 million is enough based on infrastructure growth rates. I think a new medium sized town is more than enough.

        I do like your limiting factor as “possibly having a job.” Shows you’ve really thought about this.

        Average ESL child costs 3x the average english speaking child, as a quick example. That is a huge drain on resources and that immigrant who “possibly has a job” is not paying 3x the local taxes. I can point to direct evidence of all but 1 trauma 1 hospital shutting down on southern arizona due to uncompensated costs for illegal immigrants without insurance or a means to pay. I know I know, this requires thinking and researching past the easy to bundle appeal to emotion.

      2. What bothers me most in your line of questioning is that you believe there even needs to be a reason that you consider valid. My borders, my choice. If a nation does not wish to commit demographic and cultural suicide, it does not have to. When you start importing numbers of people that outpace the native-born birthrate, that is cultural replacement and the first major step towards genocide/ethnic cleansing.

        1. Your borders are also my borders. I choose more immigration. (preferably skilled and/or fluent in English)

          1. I prefer less immigration per year with only a few random picks and more skilled picks to come to the USA.

          2. Good thing you aren’t in the majority.

        2. @awildseaking

          You got it backwards. The people who don’t even need to have a reason other people consider valid are the renters and employers of the country. They should be able to hire and rent to whoever they want, regardless of what side of an imaginary line that person was born on. Their property, their choice. It’s a horrific tragedy that a cabal of socialist bullies is able to stop them.

          The idea that allowing more immigrants to the USA would lead to genocide/ethnic cleansing of the native population is, of course, ridiculous. Only about 12% of Americans have British ancestry and they don’t seem to be in any danger from all the Eastern Europeans, Dutch, Germans, Italians, etc. that have since migrated here.

          1. First off, the American identity we’re losing isn’t exclusively Anglo, and it’s a bit racially charged to even start drawing the line based on particular ethnic groups. That discussion is a red herring and useless. The point is dealing with reality right now. The people who have migrated here, in large part, do not share values we once held as a nation. We already have a large enough number of “white” Marxists. Are we going to keep importing them with reckless abandon?

            The dismissive attitude you have towards genocide is appalling because that’s exactly how it’s happened to every targeted group. Demographic replacement is the starting point of every single genocide perpetrated on this planet.

            Property rights do not apply to national borders and the idea that owning land means you are a nation state is absurd. I’ll allow property owners to permit open borders when they confine those migrants to their private property. Protip: they will never agree to this because they’re subversives who want these immigrants in your neighborhood, not theirs.

          2. The population of Africa is going to double by 2050. Imagine what that means with unrestricted borders..

      3. I think if someone at the border can pass a background check,

        Background checks take weeks even for Europeans; for most third world nations, they are impossible.

        show they have a place to live and possibly a job then they should be let in.

        Let’s say we double the US population by letting in an average world population. Average per capita GDP for the world is about $17k/person, for the US it’s about $60k/person. Those new immigrants would be no more productive in the US than abroad, so that would probably get US per capita GDP to about $39k/person. The net effect? The US drops from one of the richest countries in the world to the level of Cyprus or Spain.

        That’s why we shouldn’t let in anybody with a job and a place to live.

        1. Ever heard of comparative advantage? Your math sucks.

          1. I have heard of “comparative advantage”! How do you think it applies here?

      4. “…and possibly a job then they should be let in.”

        Who supports them when they do not have a job? Shall we guess?

        PS: You are a “complete open borders person”.

    2. A million people is a good sized city.

      A small city is about 100,000 people.

      1. The city of Cleveland is about 250k. Metro area is 1.5-2 million, depending on how far out you go.

  9. Borjas calculated this surplus at 0.24 percent of GDP. That might not sound like much, but it would have amounted to a whopping $49 billion in 2018.

    We have 37 million legal immigrants in the US alone; if all they do is contribute $1300/person/year to GDP, that is a pitiful showing.

    In order to make the US wealthier, an immigrant at least (!) has to contribute above $60000/year to GDP and pay above $20000/year in taxes. Letting in a population that doesn’t meet those criteria at least on average makes the US a poorer country.

    1. Not to mention that stats calculated to a fraction of a percent are largely fiction. Like we actually know the real numbers and can predict things that accurately!

  10. It’s duplicitous that you admit there are limits to the number of recipients for particular VISA programs and then say there’s no line. If there isn’t a line, then what do you say to people who didn’t get in compared to those who forced their way in?

    1. And there is a line. It took me two decades to become a US citizen. Some of the illegals who received amnesty or other exemptions got it in a fraction of the time.

  11. If I wanted to put a romantic gloss on my story, I could note how I arrived 22 years earlier via a one-way ticket to Detroit on a student visa with just a small bag of clothes, some philosophy books, and $97 in cash.

    How—in the tradition of all good immigrants!—I buckled down and worked hard and graduated with a Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University in three years.

    You people just don’t get it.

    You were admitted to the USA on a student Visa. To learn and then go back to your country. Otherwise you are committing fraud by knowing that your student Visa is a scam just so you can get into the USA because you never intended to return to your home nation.


    So after millions of immigrants have abused this system and open borders nuts have advocated abusing other immigration programs, Americans have become pissed.

    1. I’m actually cool with considering converting student visas to green cards after graduation; At that point they start to look like ideal immigrants: Educated, somewhat acculturated, clearly literate in English, and with a track record of lawful behavior.

      Cream skimming is a legitimate immigration policy, and what cream is easier to skim than the cream that’s already here?

      1. Well, as others have pointed out, excessively “skimming the cream” eventually winds up becoming “importing a new ruling class”. Do you really want your country ruled by foreigners?

        1. Well, no. That’s why I said, “considering”. I don’t think having arrived on a student visa should preclude getting to immigrate here. You’d still want to look the person over, see whether they’re a good fit for the country.

          1. I think an immigration policy where some non-Americans can visit and study and then apply for naturalization is fine too.

            I just want an open and clear policy on immigration.

            For example: America will accept 100,000 applications for naturalization per year and visitors visas for those candidates for 2 years to see if they are a good fit.

      2. Brett, I am not against the immigration policy you mention but my understanding of student visas were to give great American education (back when US education system was great) opportunities to citizens of foreign nations so they can help their fellow countrymen.

        The US Immigration policy was (before Trump) this series of visas under a wink-wink ‘you get to go to America for a short period but have to return to your home country soon’.

      3. If we didn’t follow this path, we’d have a much bigger shortage of doctors. Huge percentage in med school are Indian

    2. And he took a Phd spot that could have gone to an American. I at least hope it was a private college, though I doubt it.

    3. Once he graduated, he had an H1-B visa and employer sponsorship, but since you know everything rattle on, rattle on. Blah, blah. I guess he really is smarter than most. For a publication called Reason, it has more than its share of lunatics. Is it any wonder that native born Americans like myself marry successful, open-minded intelligent immigrants when you read half the comments here? Good grief. By the way, my grandparents were dirt poor, uneducated Ellis Island immigrants in the early part of the 20th century. We did okay….no doubt way better than you.

  12. Look! The tax slaves are fighting each other! Divide and conquer! What a field day for Government Almighty! The three tribes (the Exalted Ones ((the Native borns)), the legal sub-humans, and the illegal sub-humans) are all fighting, and NO ONE is paying attention to the over-taxing man! Hooray for Government Almighty!

    Slaves!?! We’re ALL tax slaves! But, the illegal sub-humans are even more so, tax slaves, than the Exalted Ones, the native-borns, are, because the Exalted Ones can get back SOME of the money that they pay into Social Security. Illegal sub-humans get NONE of it back.

    See “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes” (in quotes) in your Google search window will take you straight there, hit number one… AKA For details about us natives mooching off of the taxes of the illegal sub-humans…

    Let’s all mooch, then bitch that the people that support us, are here for us to mooch off of!

  13. Interesting article. When is at least one of the Dem front runners going to put a comprehensive immigration reform plan out there for all of us to see and think about? “Never” is probably the right answer but I’m afraid that isn’t good enough.

  14. Repeat after me, boys:
    The interests of the collective outweigh the liberty of the individual.
    But only for immigration.
    When it comes to everything else, it’s “fuck the state, I want my liberty”.
    I have yet to see any logical justification for the immigration status quo, let alone an even more restrictive regime, that does NOT also logically justify trampling over all of our other rights.

    “But but infrastructure.” So how about if Texas restricts immigration from California because all of those people place huge burdens on Texas infrastructure. Sound good? Why is MUH INFRASTRUCTURE *only* considered a problem when immigrants migrate, but not when citizens migrate within the nation?

    “1 million immigrants per year is enough already”. Is it? Why should there be any arbitrary cap when it comes to the exercise of liberty? That’s like arguing that “1 million books published per year is enough” or “1 million guns produced per year is enough”. Placing these artificial caps on the exercise of liberty is PART OF THE ENTIRE PROBLEM.

    “My borders my choice”. The only way that you may legitimately assert a right to decide who your neighbors are is to deprive your neighbors (and by extension, yourself) property rights over their own property. If people you don’t like purchase land adjacent to yours, by what legitimate right can you try to get them kicked out? Answer: if the collective property “rights” of the people trump individual property rights over their own land. Which is the literal definition of communism. Congratulations, you’re now a commie! So if a property owner wishes to sell land to a kulak, you think the proletariat should have the authority to veto that transaction. This type of thinking could never lead to undesirable consequences. Oh no no no.

    And it goes on and on. Immigration brings out the real collectivism in the right-wing fanbois around here. Their claims of wanting some pure unadulterated liberty to exercise their other rights ring hollow when they are unwilling to recognize the liberty in others. “Liberty for me but not for thee” is not a principled position in any universe.

    1. It’s pretty simple, actually: You’re free as an individual to prioritize the welfare of people outside the country over the welfare of people who are already citizens. The government? No, it shouldn’t be doing that: If the government isn’t working for the welfare of the citizenry, it has no excuse for existing at all.

      1. How do you define what constitutes “working for the welfare of the citizenry”?

        The libertarian answer is very simple: to protect the liberty of the individual.

        When individuals are free to pursue their own desires and not constrained by arbitrary government limitations, then that will best enhance “the welfare of the citizenry” by their own free choices.

        If you come up with any other definition of “welfare of the citizenry”, then you enable state power to be making arbitrary decisions on what is “welfare” that wind up harming people’s liberties.

        Example: Plenty of people believe that confiscating guns constitutes “working for the welfare of the citizenry”. Why are they wrong? There’s plenty of empirical data to support this contention.

        So if you want the government to “work for the welfare of the citizenry” then you should be demanding that the government be respecting individual liberty, respecting freedom of association, and tearing down the state apparatus which harms liberty via the enforcement of immigration laws.

        1. As soon as you realize that paternalism isnt freedom you’ll see why your sophistry is not well thought out.

          1. The paternalism, in this case, is Brett’s definition of “welfare of the citizenry” as the guiding standard for the state. The state should paternalistically decide for citizens what is in their welfare and then use force and violate people’s rights in order to pursue it.

            You know what’s not paternalistic? Letting people be free to pursue their own desires without arbitrary state interference.

            1. Pedo Jeffy, of course you want foreigners given priority over Americans. You are one.

              Fucking Canadian.

    2. You’ve made the retarded argument 3 times now.

      1. So this is where you have nothing of substance to add, so you result to insults.

        1. Your statements have no substance to begin with. You make the same discredited arguments over and over.

    3. Because any prioritization of the individual in migration, in a society that is free due to a collective agreement to be as individualistic as possible, would destroy said system and the freedoms we enjoy. This is not hard to understand. If you allow free movement and the people who move in don’t believe in free movement, free movement allows them to amass the numbers necessary to ban free movement. Duh.

    4. The interests of the collective outweigh the liberty of the individual.
      But only for immigration.
      When it comes to everything else, it’s “fuck the state, I want my liberty”.

      You finally understand.

    5. The interests of the collective outweigh the liberty of the individual.

      I couldn’t care less about “the interests of the collective”. Any additional low income immigrant the US admits increases my tax liability and the debt the US government takes on on my behalf.

      I’m perfectly happy to admit anybody to the US who at least pays as much in taxes as the average American costs the government. Currently, that’s about $20000/year in taxes.

  15. Guys, guys, guys, guys. GUYS.

    As the only imaginary U.S. citizen here from Canada just be happy it’s not a Dalmia screed on immigration. At least this one was informative – however imperfect it may be. More of these and less of the other TDS takes.

    /throws tomato. Flips table. Ducks.

  16. Employers have to pay a tax for H1-B workers. Meaning hiring an immigrant comes at a huge disadvantage. Contrary to the meme, immigrants are not taking our jerbs, none of us are taking those jerbs and the employers have to pay more to get people to fill them.

    If I had my druthers there would be a line. At the employment tables set up at the border. Get hired, get to come in for the duration of that job. I would rather have some unskilled immigrant come here than another citizen sitting on his ass watching Oprah. Bring back a sensible guest worker program.

    It’s not a zero sum game. That’s fucking union/socialist think. The more people working the better.

    1. “Bring back a sensible guest worker program.”


    2. How cute. You ignored laws like ACA and how immigrants can be excluded from some regulations.

    3. Bring back a sensible guest worker program.

      Guest worker programs don’t work; after people live in a country for a decade, they have a reasonable expectation of staying there, and they can usually make it work. In the US, Jus Solis alone means that a guest worker program is not feasible.

      It’s not a zero sum game. That’s fucking union/socialist think. The more people working the better

      First, the US has massive per capita government spending that scales with population, so adding more people adds more government spending. Second, the wealth of a nation is determined not by the absolute number of people working, but by their average productivity.

    4. But seriously, how many immigrants would we get annually if there were literally no limits or laws? Everyone who could get a plane ticket? It’s just not sustainable.

      1. That would mainly depend on the capacity of the world’s planes and passenger ships. Every one bound from Shitholia to North America would be full.

  17. Yeah, I find that sense of entitlement pretty galling. If I had my druthers, that kind of an attitude would be an immediate disqualification for admittance. It’s not like we’re suffering any shortage of entitled asswipes now.

    1. I agree. Before I became a citizen, I viewed myself as a guest in the US, nothing more, a guest who could be asked to leave any time for any reason.

  18. I don’t think you can cite Borjas’s calculation in that way, because yes, he calculates there’s an immigration surplus, but then he also calculates *which* americans get that surplus.

    Specifically, he calculates there’s an immigration surplus of ~50 billion, but that’s because employers pocket ~500 billion due to immigration, and native workers lose ~450 billion. So immigration boosts wealth of *some* natives as a minor effect, but it’s really a wealth transfer from workers to employers, and the big effect is decrease in native worker wages.

    Whether or not Borjas is right, you can’t cite him for the one number and not deal with the other calculations that are part and parcel of the same calculation. Borjas is not exactly a pro-immigration advocate. (Nor is Borjas finding unexpected – increasing the supply of labor should reduce the cost of that labor).

    [My personal beliefs favor relatively open immigration, but I’m willing to acknowledge that workers will suffer in the short term, because currently global wage distributions are distorted by borders. In the long term it will be better for everyone, but in the short term workers in developed economies will suffer. I certainly wouldn’t try to cite Borjas as evidence in favor of more immigration.]

    1. I personally don’t aspire to, as the phrase has it, “what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity“, even if it would be on average a vast improvement for most people. I’d like to keep what we’ve got, and give the rest of the world an example of what to work their way up to at home.

      1. I do love Snow Crash.

        You have to admit, though, that immigration is hardly going to be the major driver of that. Global supply chains are already taking advantage of arbitrage in labor markets. Opening up immigration just pushes global equalizing of labor markets a little bit faster.

        The problem is kind of two-sided though, cause Stephenson is wrong insofar as it won’t reduce us all to what a Pakistani brickmaker *currently* would consider prosperity. Global wages are rising rapidly on average while developed economy wage growth is only reduced or stagnating (and at least in the US, it’s reduced, not really stagnating). It’s going to all be one large labor market anyway for most purposes, and the faster global arbitrage in labor disappears, the sooner we’ll reach a point where worker wage growth in developed economies stops being impeded by globalization. The future really is more wealth for everyone, but workers in developed economies benefitted from an unfair advantage based on location for a long time, and that advantage is degrading rapidly.

        (Stephenson’s list of comparative advantages is also incomplete – the US does entrepreneurship better than anywhere else, and there are probably some other things too).

  19. I am all for The Wall, as long as we adhere to the spirit of the thing and also build the Great Northern Wall. Keep those goddam Canucks in Canuckistan, with their delicious poutine and vast natural beauty.

  20. The guy’s middle name is Stacey? What country does he hail from, East Fagistan? Oh wait, probably just a tea suckling from mother England.

  21. Taylor’s antepenultimate paragraph is the operative one. People come to America because GOP-Dem politicians still enforce laws left over from the Prohibition party campaigns of 1869-1932. Those laws crushed the US economy once the nullification of 1922 was replaced by the Increased Penalties Act of 1929. Your tax dollars send the FATF, AML, DEA, CIA, TF, CFT, DNFBP, IRS-CID, INL, ICRG, GIABA, GAFISUD, FSRB, FIU, FinCEN, EAG to persuade their caudillo-junta dictatorships to shoot, jail, extradite and rob folks via asset forfeiture–the exact same things that wrecked the economy in 1929, 1987 and 2008. Instead of capable entrepreneurs, those people are literally forced to vote for candidates the DEA chooses for them. This became a habit to buy stingers for Afghanis, granted, but the Soviets are gone. Freedom in Latin America could offer US a place of refuge if another Hoover-Johnson-Nixon-Wallace-Bush type clique causes Americans to again flee across the borders.

    1. Sorry, but most countries manage to be s…holes all of their own. You can’t blame the US for the ills of the world.

  22. If we want libertarians immigrants to follow the law, we need better and fewer laws.

    Did I do that right?

  23. OK, so there is no line.

    So what.
    America is not morally obligated to create a path to residency or citizenship just because some foreigner wants to get in.
    And the absence of a line is not license to enter or stay illegally.
    The world needs to get over a sense of entitlement to just waltz into someone else’s country.

    1. Exactly!

  24. “There is simply no path for many people in the world.”
    We are full up. We have already cut our birth rates because we understand the downside of excessive population.

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