Monday, March 04, 2013

Should U. S. Citizenship Be For Sale?

See A Market Solution to Immigration Reform: The U.S. needs more people with skills and vision. To get them, it should sell the right to become a citizen by GARY S. BECKER AND EDWARD P. LAZEAR, from yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Excerpts:
"We propose that, instead of the current maze of rules and formulas, the U.S. should sell the right to become a citizen. Setting a price of perhaps $50,000 would attract those who place the highest value on citizenship."

"...the U.S. system currently gives much lower preference to workers with skills than do countries like Germany."

"...the sale of immigration slots could be coupled with a loan program that allows people to borrow the fee and to pay it back out of their earnings over an extended period."

"There are several benefits to a market-based immigration system. First, it would attract skilled, productive, entrepreneurial people..."

Second, current citizens could provide loans or pay the fee of immigrant relatives who matter the most to them. This would encourage the best kind of family reunification.

Third, because the current system for legal immigration favors relatives of those already here, immigrants tend to come from relatively few countries. Opening immigration up to the rest of the world is fairer and would be of greater benefit to the U.S.
Finally, selling the citizenship right would bring in much-needed revenue for the government. About one million immigrants arrive legally each year. That is $50 billion in the system we propose."

"People who are now here illegally could become legal by paying the fee."

"Of course, some illegal immigrants might choose to stay underground to avoid paying the fee. For that reason, the sale of slots must be coupled with strong enforcement of the laws."

"A point system requires that the government choose the number of points to award to skills, family ties, age, time living in the U.S., and other factors that are extraneous to economic growth. This means politics will influence the points awarded."

Yes, the price of a slot may also be subject to politics. If it is high, the U.S. will have fewer and more skilled immigrants. This probably means Republicans would favor a higher price and Democrats a lower price—each wanting immigrants they believe would vote for them. Still, selling slots won't create major misallocations among those who come in, once the price is determined."

"...allow people to pay an annual fee, renewable for up to three years, at the end of which time they would leave the U.S. or commit to pay the citizenship fee."

 Mr. Becker, a Nobel laureate, is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Mr. Lazear, former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers (2006-09), is a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Both are fellows at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

No comments: