Circles of Trust: A Proposal for Better Migrant Screening

26 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2017 Last revised: 6 Sep 2017

Date Written: February 9, 2017


Screening potential entrants is a major challenge to any system of immigration, and has become particularly salient in the Trump era. At bottom, the problem is one of information asymmetry, in which migrants hold private information as to their abilities and intentions. We propose a new approach that leverages information that refugees, migrants and guest workers have about each other. Potential applicants to enter the US from disfavored classes would have to apply as a small group, called a trust circle. Once inside the country, all members would be subject to periodic, onerous bureaucratic requirements, but these would be waived over time for trust circles that remain in good standing. However, if anyone within a trust circle became involved in hostile or criminal activities, every member of the trust group would summarily lose their privileges. Knowing this, potential migrants will only associate with others they know to be trustworthy, and would have incentives to expose others in the group who adopt bad behaviors post-entry.

Keywords: immigration, refugees, guest workers

JEL Classification: K1

Suggested Citation

Ginsburg, Tom and Simpser, Alberto, Circles of Trust: A Proposal for Better Migrant Screening (February 9, 2017). University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 817, Available at SSRN: or

Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Alberto Simpser

ITAM ( email )

Rio Hondo 1
Mexico City, CDMX 01080
+525556284000 (Phone)


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics