Here's another immigration proposal I came across yesterday:
That's an interesting idea, but a few problems remain: first, some of the anti-immigration fervor is based on a rejection of illegal immigration only, but much of it also stems from the desire to limit immigration in general. The auction is only better than the status quo if it means increasing the number of immigrants to something approximating what the labor market requires. I suspect that the latter group, which I'd say constitutes the most vocal opposition to immigration, isn't going to be placated by going from 500,000 desert-crossing illegal immigrants to 500,000 auction-winning legal immigrants.
Each year, Congress would set the number of visas available for auction. They would then go up for bid by anybody. With a visa in hand, anybody who passed some form of security check to make sure you’re not a criminal, spy, terrorist, etc. would be permitted to reside in the U.S.A. for the duration of the visa, and work, study – whatever.
NGOs could purchase visas for political or economic refugees. Employers could purchase visas for desired employees. Universities could purchase visas for desired students. Individuals could purchase their own visas to do whatever.
Work here without a valid visa? Somebody’s defrauded the government; you should have purchased that visa at auction. There’s really no good excuse for not having one. Sanctions could be split between the individual and the employer according to some formula. Take the whole question out of the hands of the INS and give it to the IRS, who seem to get better results generally.
Second, presumably this means skewing the immigration flow away from Mexicans, and away from the poor. There's certainly a reasonable argument to be made for doing that, but I wonder how successful that would be addressing the drivers of Latin American immigration today. And supposing we replace 100,000 busboys with 100,000 IT experts; is the idea that the Americans displaced by the influx of foreign IT experts would then work in restaurants? If so, that could mean a fairly significant quality-of-life downgrade as a result of our new immigration policies, which would make it politically unfeasible. If not, there's still going to be a powerful magnet pulling people toward the States. All this makes me wonder if, despite the obvious ugliness of our present immigration situation, the US isn't collectively rather invested in having a semi-permanent imported underclass.
Also, when it comes to restricting immigration flows, two points can't be made often enough: first, roughly half of the undocumented immigrants living in the US entered legally and overstayed their visa. Even a fence more successful than any we could have imagined won't come close to ending illegal immigration. Second, the aging of Mexico's population (hopefully coupled with a more dynamic local labor market) will likely eliminate most illegal immigration in the next generation.