March 06, 2005

Immigration Redux

Ah, it's late, late afternoon and nothing yet accomplished today. But on the bright (very bright) side, it's so beautiful here in San Francisco. Moving on, Nathan Newman has an interesting immigration proposal: Sell green cards for $50,000 (money that can, obviously, be loaned to immigrants and paid back over time). Hm, I like it, though $50,000 seems fairly arbitrary and not the sort of price tag you want the government to set—governments aren't very good at this sort of thing. The key, I suppose, is to figure out how much naturalization is actually worth to an optimal number of illegal immigrants, and make that the price. But no doubt that optimal price fluctuates over time, depending on a variety of factors, and varies from region to region, so a market mechanism to set the "cost" of immigration would seem more efficient. How that could work I'll leave to the clever people of the world. Maybe we could sell "immigration futures" on the stock market. (What?)

My other fear is that companies looking for indentured servants would just agree to pay the $50,000 for, say, a Mexican immigrant to gain citizenship in exchange for, say, a twenty-year work contract at set wages, etc. The road to serfdom, indeed. But maybe you can regulate that.

But overall it's a worthy idea—not my (or Nathan's) preferred approach, but more politically realistic than some sort of widespread amnesty. And it's far better than the status quo. And it could raise over $200 billion in revenue! Somehow, though, I don't think the Republicans will ever go for the "green card for sale" plan. Think about the politics here: These newly minted citizens will all need to pay off heavy, heavy loans during their first few years in the U.S. They'll be working mostly low-wage jobs. So they're going to want better pay, free health care, unionization, etc. The goods, man, the goods. It's not hard to figure out which party they're going to start voting for—gay marriage and gun control won't weigh heavily on their minds, that's for sure.
-- Brad Plumer 6:56 PM || ||