Taxing Migrants: A Smart and Humane Approach to Immigration Policy
Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol. 7, p. 127, Spring 2014
44 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2014 Last revised: 16 Dec 2016
Date Written: May 30, 2014
In the midst of heated debates over how tightly to secure the Southern border against an influx of unlawful migrants, businesses and consumers in the United States are relegated to the sidelines to await yet another ineffective and potentially harmful immigration reform proposal. The problem according to policymakers is that borders are porous and unlawful migrants can and do enter and occupy jobs that American citizens could have. With this problem in mind, policy solutions have centered on legalization of existing unlawful migrants and strengthening the border to stop intending migrants. Stepping away from the political fray, it becomes clear that this is not the problem at all. The real immigration problem is that protectionist laws and policies are exacerbating the existing imbalance between supply of and demand for migrant labor. The use of quotas to severely restrict skilled and unskilled migrants has made U.S. businesses less competitive than many U.S. trading partners, has maintained artificially high consumer prices, and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars in unnecessary enforcement programs. In this article, I explain why current immigration laws and reform proposals use protectionism to benefit narrow political interests that cost the U.S. economy jobs and economic growth. I propose reevaluating the need to separate immigration from other types of trade policy and regulation by legalizing and regulating labor migrants rather than criminalizing and dehumanizing them.
Keywords: immigration, taxation, trade, public policy, homeland security
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