Migratory Workers

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Granted, the U.S. government has the right to decide who may and may not immigrate. But it certainly doesn’t seem to have the power to keep foreigners from entering this country illegally. Thousands cross the border from Mexico every month. Building a high impenetrable wall thousands of miles long will not only be costly but likely also ineffective.

Instead of trying to strengthen the U.S. borders by hiring more border patrols and building longer and higher fences, why not increase immigration quotas many times over? Spend the patrol and fence money instead to establish additional consulates to process immigration applications. The consuls should try to screen out criminals, terrorists, and persons with communicable diseases, as immigration authorities have always done. But they should also try to screen applicants for honesty, reliability, and individual responsibility – and for an understanding of the U.S. Constitution, as required for citizenship. Personally, I should like to make them all study Austrian economics so that they would gain an understand- ing of the importance of private property. But I know that is not realistic.

To some extent, potential immigrants will screen themselves; the effort it takes to migrate will eliminate most who lack drive, ambition, energy, reliabili~ and responsibility. The consuls will inevitably make some errors in judgment, but they should err on the side of admitting rather than prohibiting entry. Increasing immigration quotas legally will not only come closer to the libertarian ideals of free and open borders, increased division of labor, and cross-border trade and exchange, but it will also help to relieve the U.S. demand for workers and reduce economic pressures in Mexico.

In the past, official guest worker programs have helped both U.S. employers and Mexican employees. Similar programs could alleviate the problem of illegals in the future. Before 1964, there was the Bracero program for farmhands. The Simpson-Rodino Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to 2.7 million undocumented workers. “Rodinos” were offered a chance at green cards and permanent resident status. Subidos, guest workers with green cards who are skilled at continuous-pour construction, for instance, are recruited for big U.S. construction jobs and travel back and forth between Mexico and the United States. They pay state, local, and federal taxes and contribute to workers’ comp insurance and so are covered for injuries on the job. They maintain their homes and family in Mexico and so make no call on schools and welfare agencies.

As far as the millions of illegal immigrants now in the country are concerned, some arrangement must be made to allow those who are self-supporting to remain, if they choose to do so, to acquire legal status and, in time, to earn citizenship. The present illegals must be required to pay a substantial price to gain that legitimacy, so that this amnesty will not be interpreted as disrespect for the law. But they should be offered that opportunity.

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