Illegal Immigration and Second-Best Import Tariffs

11 Pages Posted: 8 May 2006

See all articles by Subhayu Bandyopadhyay

Subhayu Bandyopadhyay

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis - Research Division; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; West Virginia University


A version of the small-union Meade model is presented to analyze the illegal immigration problem in the context of import tariffs. Two possible host nation objectives are considered: (i) to control the level of illegal immigration to a given target; or (ii) to choose an illegal immigration level that maximizes national welfare. Available policy instruments are import tariffs/subsidies, border, and internal enforcement levels. The second-best tariff on imports from the source nation (for illegal immigration) can be of either sign. It depends on the effect of the tariff on the wage rate and the pattern of substitutability in consumption. In scenario (ii), greater enforcement may be justified if it reduces labor inflow and thereby contracts the protected sector. If enforcement is too costly, tariff policy may substitute for it to exploit monopsony power in the labor market and to counter the distortionary effects of labor flows.

Suggested Citation

Bandyopadhyay, Subhayu, Illegal Immigration and Second-Best Import Tariffs. Review of International Economics, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 93-103, February 2006. Available at SSRN: or

Subhayu Bandyopadhyay (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis - Research Division ( email )

411 Locust St
PO Box 442
St. Louis, MO 63011
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

West Virginia University ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506-6025
United States
304-293-7879 (Phone)
304-293-7061 (Fax)

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