The Becker Solution to Immigration

For many years I have argued that the best way to reform America’s (and other countries’) immigration policy would be to allow all immigrants to enter if they can pay a given monetary fee. For illustrative purposes I have used the figure of $50,000, but the actual fee would be set by the supply of immigrants and America’s willingness to accept immigrants (for details see my short monograph, “The Challenge of Immigration: A Radical Solution,” 2011, IEA). I have shown why this approach would attract young, skilled, and ambitious immigrants who gain a lot both monetarily and in other ways from coming to America, including better opportunities for their children. This approach would also raise a sizable amount of revenue to the government at a time when additional revenue has a huge value.

Loan programs should and would be developed by companies, and also by the federal government, that would allow immigrants to borrow much of the money needed to pay the immigration admission fee. Immigrants would repay these “immigration loans” over time from the higher earnings here compared to their earnings in their countries of origin. There could be scholarships and discounts on the fees for particularly desirable immigrants, but the fee structure should not be made too complicated.

Gary Becker. Richard Posner on immigration. David Friedman weighs in.

Comments (11)

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  1. Cindy says:

    This is an interesting thought, but what about special immigrant cases — like family visas, adoption, marriage, etc? Would those individuals still need to pay or could they continue to be sponsored by American citizens?

  2. seyyed says:

    it would be interesting if the onus of the fee were placed on companies that sponsored immigrants to come work for them. therefore, the flow of immigrants would be decided by the need of companies to fill high-skill jobs and has the benefit of not discouraging potential immigrants

  3. Erik says:

    @ Cindy
    Adoption would be different since the child is more a less an American. Marriage would have to depend on the case, if the marriage is for legal purposes or for citizenship.

  4. Peterson says:

    I’ve never heard of anything like this before. I think its a very unique idea that should be given serious consideration when trying to solve the immigration problem.

  5. Studebaker says:

    This is a great idea. If life in the U.S. is so desirable, there is no reason to just give away visas. Tax credits could be provided or maybe “worked off” for those with engineering backgrounds or other credentials that are in high demand. Preferences granted for certain skills is already done for through the H1-B visa program. There used to be (maybe there still is) an immigration fast track program for people willing to invest $1 million into a business. I don’t believe it was utilized much. Part of the reason was that the US Dept. of Immigration had a mindset that discouraged it.

  6. Robert says:

    I like it!

  7. Jardinero1 says:

    I think it is a silly idea. Its complex, requires administration and enforcement, requires political decisions about what are essentially, economic and market issues. What is a desirable immigrant and what isn’t one anyway? And who gets to make those desisions? A senator from Iowa, some policy wonk at Harvard? I vote to shitcan the idea outright and offer a better simpler solution.

    Allow any migrant workers in who want to work. When they arrive, they will find work and maintain themselves; or they won’t. If they don’t find work, we do nothing for them, no welfare or assistance and they can either go home or face starvation.

  8. Wasif Huda says:

    This is an interesting idea. But, I do think the admission fee is certainly a premium that many people from the developing world can commit or will risk committing. Certainly, many growing upper class members through out Asia are willing to pay the high cost. Nonetheless, I do think America should fight to attract individuals who have talents, even though if they do not have a nice bank account backing their name.

  9. August says:

    “Freer immigration is also an argument against the welfare state. Increases in the level of welfare will have some tendency to pull in poor immigrants, increasing the cost of those increases to those already here, which should make increases less politically popular. That is an argument for freer immigration from the point of view of those opposed to the welfare state.”

    Lots of interesting ideas in these articles.

  10. Floccina says:

    What if people could sell their citizenship?

  11. Catherine says:

    I totally agree with Seyyed. The cost of employing and sponsoring immigrants is so high, that many of them (very skilled, experienced and knowledgeable individuals) are forced to go back to their home country because employers here simply can’t afford to employ them. If there is one thing I support about the current administration it would be their efforts to help the immigrant community. With the enforcement of the Dream Act and other immigrant reforms, there is certainly hope for these people to legally establish themselves in this country. However, it won’t be easy.