Jaybird’s Immigration Story
In the interest of divorcing this subthread from the still-running Hayek discussion below, I give you commenter Jaybird’s immigration story:
My wife is a Canadian citizen. She moved to the US via Fiancee Visa in the late 90’s. She and I are, we like to flatter ourselves, fairly intelligent people. We are college educated, fluent in English, and fairly immersed in North American culture.
The immigration process was absolutely byzantine. It had us floored. Calling the INS was a phone tree maze of hellish proportion and if you can’t talk to a human being… who in the hell *CAN* you call? Well, I was lucky enough to stumble across the fact that a lot of Congresscritters have INS liaisons… so I called my Congresscritter and she explained the process to me, explained to me what forms I would need and what forms I would *NOT* need and what to include to speed stuff up (pictures, plane ticket receipts). We, college educated English-speakers, needed help from my congressman to get through this maze.
I will now point out that it’s pretty much agreed upon that the fiance visa is the *EASIEST* way to get to the US and get one’s Green Card. (And this was *BEFORE* 9/11!)
If I were a skilled immigrant thinking about coming to the US for a reason other than “love”, I can easily see the process as being alienating to the point where I’d say “you know what, I can make comparable money in a country that doesn’t treat me like this”… and if I were an unskilled worker in a country that bordered this country, I can see saying “hell, I can walk over and make enough money to pay for an apartment *AND* send back money to my family!”
Now imagine you’ve got a group of people screaming that “SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE!”
Will this result in more paperwork or less?
Will that result in more skilled immigrants coming over or fewer?
Will that result in more unskilled immigrants just walking over or fewer?
As such, I suspect that the costs of enforcement ought to include alienating skilled immigrants and making it easier to just say “hell with it, I’ll walk”… and the screaming that more needs to be done to just “enforce the laws we have” will make things even worse.
(And that’s not even touching on whether the immigration process, including the H1-B visas, had a direct hand in the outsourcing craze of the late 90s… which, if you agree that it did, ought also be included in the true costs of enforcement.)
I basically agree with the policy implications and the identified incentives here. The “something should be done” crowd isn’t quite ready to arm the entire Mexican border, so what we get instead is a lot more paperwork and a lot more waiting for legal immigration — and thus a lot more illegality. They make their own problem worse, not better.
Feel free to discuss immigration below.