Immigration is a somewhat ambiguous issue on the Nolan Chart. Cracking down on immigration definitely requires government action — huge amounts of intrusive government action to deport illegal immigrants not caught at the border. But given the existence of the welfare state and minimum wages laws, granting amnesty and/or opening the floodgates would require expanding the already over-extended welfare system and other government services. This holds even if every immigrant is hard working.

Low skill hard working immigrants pull down the market rates for the jobs they do, causing many native-born to go on welfare. The developing world has billions of people with poor English language skills and little education who would earn more working in First World sweatshops. This thwarts the goals of progressive legislation designed to eliminate such sweatshops.

Open immigration between nations of equal economic status is workable. Free immigration is also workable with factories hungry for manual laborers or a frontier open for colonization. These conditions no longer apply to the U.S.

So is immigration an economic or personal freedom issue? Technically it is both. I think I’ll keep it in the personal axis as liberals are making more pro-immigration statements and conservatives more anti-immigration statements. But note how Obama is deporting plenty of illegal aliens, and how much amnesty was granted under Republican administrations. This issue does not fit cleanly in the left-right axis.

I’m tempted to omit this issue for the next Quiz, but I’ll keep it for two reasons:

  1. I’d like to pitch a creative compromise which keeps the inflow manageable while protecting the civil liberties of recently nationalized citizens.
  2. I’d like to know where people stand on this issue with respect to other issues. For example, Ron Paul was quite anti-immigration in previous runs, whereas the Libertarian Party is and was open borders in its platform. Most liberal pundits make pro-immigration statements, but Ed Schultz is quite an outlier. I’d be curious to know how many liberals agree with Schultz.

So, for the next version a few more options on immigration. Also, the question will clearly be on immigration vs. illegal immigration. (Raise the quotas and the illegal immigration problem goes away.)


The United States and other developed nations have welfare systems and minimum wage/job conditions laws designed to set a minimum standard of living for all citizens. This minimum standard is way above the standard of living for billions of people in poorer nations. This leads to massive immigration pressure. Immigrants — legal and illegal — enter rich nations like the U.S. willing to do hard jobs at minimum wage or less. Consumers of their labor benefit, but many citizen laborers suffer and some of them go on welfare raising the general tax burden.  We currently set immigration quotas far below the demand, with the result of millions of illegal aliens residing within the land. Since they are illegally here, they cannot safely call the police, so alien communities are ripe pickings for organized crime. But getting them out would be a civil liberties nightmare.

What should the U.S. immigration policy be?

  • Open the gates! Borders are artificial. Let the welfare system crash and shantytowns bloom. Overall, more people benefit with fully open borders.
  • Raise the quotas a bit, but favor skilled immigrants to ensure enough jobs for unskilled immigrants.
  • Keep the existing immigration laws.
  • Tax the poor but give all citizens a monthly rebate check. This could be the “prebate” promoted by the Fair Tax folks, or making the income tax flat towards the bottom coupled with a citizen’s dividend.
  • As above, but also sell citizenships. Anyone can become a citizen as long as they obey the laws and prove that they are/will be a net taxpayer.
  • Seal the borders but don’t violate civil liberties trying to hunt down illegals already within the country.
  • Institute a national ID in order to catch illegals within the borders.
  • Reduce the immigration quotas so we can assimilate the immigrants we have.
  • Do two of the above three options (seal borders, national ID, reduced quotas).
  • Do all of the above three options to reduce immigrations.

What have I missed?