Monday, August 23, 2010

Immigration: Liberalize, Modernize, Enforce

So illegal immigration is a huge buzz subject right now, so I figured I would take a minute to lay out what I think is the ideal immigration plan.  It is a three pronged approach, and all three are necessary in order for the program to be successful.

First, we need to liberalize immigration policy.  Make immigration into the United States by those seeking opportunities for gainful economic activity easier.  Free flow of information and people is key to a successful free market economy, and we must make our borders more open to people who can add to our society, whether by taking jobs considered undesirable by many Americans, or by providing skilled labor or an educational background to their employers.  Or, for that matter, by offering their labor at a lower rate, and thus serving to balance what is an increasingly inflated labor market in the United States.  Liberalizing immigration policy also makes it more obvious that the type of people who still continue to enter our borders illegally are not the type of people we want to have here.

Second, modernize.  Make agreements with other countries allowing us access to certain criminal records of those seeking to enter the United States.  Allow people to apply for visas online, and process those applications online.  Make all visas (even tourist visas) digital, to improve enforcement.  Use biometrics to track people and ensure they are who they (and their documents) say they are at the border.  Also, modernize both the public and government conversation on "border" security.  Borders are no longer only on the edge of our country, or on land.  They are no longer marked by a fence, a river, or a highway.  Borders are present at every international air and sea port in this country.  Borders are present anywhere there is a private air strip.  Border security matters everywhere, not just in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.

Finally, enforce.  Regardless of whether the laws which prevented them from legally entering our country are the best laws or not, the people who are here illegally are criminals.  Whether they were or were not before, they are now.  Enforce current immigration laws, and do so in a manner strict enough to discourage future violations.  Enforce the laws intelligently, too.  Don't just patrol border cities.  Follow up on tourist and seasonal work visas.  Did these people leave the country?  This goes back to modernizing.  Instead of a simple stamp on a passport, or a separate piece of paper, visas should be digitally available information.  At best, this would allow ICE to track down anyone on an overstayed visa.  At the very least, if this were linked electronically either to the passport itself, or to an electronic card required of anyone using a foreign passport as ID, it could greatly impair those on overstayed visas.  For instance, if they tried to go get a driver's license or state ID, their license should expire when their visa expires.  If they try to renew, they would not be allowed to, and ICE agents could be notified.  If they try to fly, they would not be able to check in (except to International flights) with an expired visa card.  If they try to open a bank account, or conduct any other business which requires an ID, their visa status would become clear.

It may sound odd that a Libertarian would propose tougher immigration enforcement.  First of all, keep in mind that I do advocate a more open immigration policy.  The new enforcement would be of less stringent requirements.  Second, anyone who has read or seen anything on human trafficking lately knows that in addition to many who are here for their own purposes, many individuals who are not properly documented, or who overstay visas, are not here on their own accord anyway.  Following up on every overstayed visa would greatly improve the likelihood of discovering and rescuing trafficked women and children.

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