But Maybe It’s the Best we Can do For Now

Hans, I disagree with some parts of your post on immigration and agree with others. On one hand, I’m in total agreement that we should ditch “family reunification” as a basis for legal immigration, bring in more skilled workers and swear never to do another amnesty. But I’d disagree with you on two major points.

First, who says that physical barriers won’t work? There’s actually ample evidence that they would. Where we’ve built them, near San Diego, they’ve displaced a large amount of immigration. We build more and we can displace it until it has no place left to go.

Second, although I think that illegal immigration is a net minus for society, I’m not convinced that social services consumption drives it. Coming over as an illegal immigrant costs lots of money (Coyotes charge about $3,000 per head, I’m told.) People just won’t make that investment unless they plan to make it back. Some are wrong and they end up on welfare but I can’t believe that many people make the decision to enter the U.S. based on our welfare system.

The real lure is simple: relative economic freedom. If our economy were a centerally planned nightmare, illegal immigrants just wouldn’t come in large numbers.

The real source of illegal immigration is Mexico’s poverty. Mexico is poor because its people have little freedom to shape their own economic destinies. On the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom Mexico ranks below free market bastions like France, Latvia, and Norway. The real way to end illegal immigration is also the one most beyond the reach of American policy: real wholesale reform of the Mexican economy, privatization of the state oil monopoly, and probably even some efforts to crack down on rent-seeking “businesspeople” who got their hands on “privatized” assets through corrupt means. If Mexico had a better economy, Mexicans would stay at home.

It’s a tall order but, absent this kind of reform, I think we’ll have little choice but as to keep on building walls to keep out illegal immigrants.