Immigration control: solution in search of a problem

I interviewed a candidate for national office earlier today. I sped through a litany of questions about subjects as diverse as military tribunals to health care to biofuels. I saw on this candidate’s website that she has a page devoted to immigration and her opposition to giving “amnesty” to illegal aliens (i.e. a path to legal status).

Immigration is an issue I’ve written about many times before, and my feeling is the recent call for a crackdown on illegal immigration is a solution in search of a problem. To see if my feeling was correct, I bluntly asked the candidate, “What problems do illegal immigrants cause?” I was expecting a response that detailed the crime wave they’ve induced, or the drugs they smuggle in, or the jobs they steal. Instead, the candidate retorted with what struck me as a transparent tautology, which was that illegal immigration is a problem because it is illegal.

My thoughts exactly!

To be fair, the candidate was in favor of more liberalized legal immigration and a more streamlined path to citizenship for those who entered legally, and I applaud her for that. But she needs to remember, as we all do, that enforcing laws is costly, especially to the person against whom it is enforced. Sometimes, enforcement is even more costly than the crime it seeks to prevent. And if you can’t think of any real costs the crime imposes on others, maybe you should reconsider enforcing the law against it.


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