Follow-up Thoughts on Immigration "Amnesty" And the Need for a New Category of Legal Presence

A while back I got a LOT of feedback when I asked if Republicans really wanted to create 12 million refugees.  My assumption was that if one opposed substantially liberalizing immigration quotas (ie making the quota near unlimited) and one opposed "amnesty" for the 12 million currently illegal immigrants in this country, the only alternative was to try to deport them all.

I got a lot of responses back from all over the political spectrum, but the one I found the most surprising was to say that I was setting up a false choice.  The only alternative to amnesty was not deportation.  Many advocated for what I would call an "illegal but tolerated" status for these 12 million people, sortof a parallel to how marijuana is treated in many states.  I have a few reactions to this:

  1. Isn't this the status quo?  People got really angry with me in the comments for trying to create a straw man position (deportation) for Republicans by not considering this "illegal but tolerated" status.  But I can say with all honesty it never crossed my mind.  The one theme I get from every Republican candidate and nearly every Conservative pundit is that the current immigration situation is broken and intolerable.  So I am still confused.  If "amnesty" is still intolerable and the current situation is intolerable and deportation is not what they want (or at least not what they are willing to admit to in public) -- then what is it that Republicans want?
  2. To avoid charges of racism or economic Luddite-ism (since both history and most economic studies show immigration to be a strong net positive), immigration restrictionists often argue that what they are really defending is the rule of law.  Immigration is illegal and what they can't abide is seeing so many people flaunt the law.  But what could possibly be more corrosive to the rule of law than an "illegal but tolerated" status?  We give effective amnesties all the time.  Colorado didn't wait to legalize marijuana until every past illegal user had been prosecuted.
  3. "illegal but tolerated" is a license for abuse and harassment.  It is why organized crime flourishes in narcotics and in alcohol when it was illegal but tolerated.  It is why women get abused in prostitution.  It creates unpersons with limited access both to the legal system and to the basic plumbing of the modern world (e.g. banking).  It drives people underground, pushing people who at worst committed a victim-less crime (ie illegal immigration) into crimes with real victims (e.g. identity theft).
  4. I continue to argue that Conservatives are abandoning their free market principles when they advocate for strict limits on immigration.  I have heard folks like Sheriff Joe say that these folks are "trespassing" in the US.  Well, they are only trespassing if we are Marxists and adopt the view there is no such thing as private property and everything belongs to the government.  In a free society, the actual questions involved are whether an immigrant can rent an apartment from me, or work for me, or bank with me, etc.  Those are supposed to be private decisions.   In effect, Conservatives are arguing that I can only hire from or rent to people on a government-approved list.  That does not sound like free markets and small government to me.

I am not blind to the problems that our generous welfare policies have on immigration.  I would argue that what is needed is a new immigration status.  In a sense, those who want 12 million people to be "illegal but tolerated" are essentially arguing for the same thing, but frankly that solution sucks for everyone.  I would argue for institutionalizing a new level of legal presence in this country, well short of "citizen" but beyond "illegal but tolerated."

As an aside, for years the Roman Empire was really good at this, at least in its early years.  It grew and adopted and eventually commanded the loyalty of a broad range of peoples and cultures in part because it was incredibly flexible in thinking about citizenship status.   It had many custom levels, such as Civitas sine suffragio (citizenship without the vote).  Many Conservatives argue that Barbarian immigration brought down the Roman Empire and use that as an argument for modern restrictions.  But in fact, I believe just the opposite -- that it was the Romans losing their knack for citizenship flexibility and integrating new cultures that contributed to their downfall.

Here is a plan I posted nearly 10 years ago for a new, legal, less-than-full-citizen ability to be present in this country.  I am still mostly OK with it:


  1. Anyone may enter or reside in the US. The government may prevent entry of a very short list of terrorists and criminals at the border, but everyone else is welcome to come and stay as long as they want for whatever reason.  Anyone may buy property in the US, regardless or citizenship or residency.  Anyone in the US may trade with anyone in the world on the same terms they trade with their next door neighbor.
  2. The US government is obligated to protect the individual rights, particularly those in the Bill of Rights, of all people physically present in our borders, citizen or not.  Anyone, regardless of citizenship status, may buy property, own a business, or seek employment in the United States without any legal distinction vs. US "citizens"
  3. Certain government functions, including voting and holding office, may require formal "citizenship".  Citizenship should be easier to achieve, based mainly on some minimum residency period, and can be denied after this residency only for a few limited reasons (e.g. convicted of a felony).  The government may set no quotas or numerical limits on new citizenships.
  4. All people present in the US pay the same taxes in the same way.  A non-citizen or even a short term visitor pays sales taxes on purchases and income taxes on income earned while present in the US just like anyone else.  Immigrants will pay property taxes just like long-term residents, either directly or via their rent payments.
  5. Pure government handouts, like Welfare, food stamps, the EITC, farm subsidies, and public housing, will only be available to those with full US citizenship.  Vagrancy and squatting on public or private lands without permission will not be tolerated.
  6. Most government services and fee-based activities, including emergency services, public education, transportation, access to public recreation, etc. will be open to all people within the US borders, regardless of citizenship status, assuming relevant fees are paid.
  7. Social Security is a tough beast to classify - I would put it in the "Citizen" category as currently structured (but would gladly put it in the "available to everyone" category if SS could be restructured to better match contributions with benefits, as in a private account system).  But, as currently configured, I would propose that only citizens can accrue and receive SS benefits.  To equalize the system, the nearly 8% employee and 8% employer social security contributions will still be paid by non-citizens working in the US, but these funds can be distributed differently.  I would suggest the funds be split 50/50 between state and local governments to offset any disproportionate use of services by new immigrants.  The federal portion could go towards social security solvency, while the state and local portion to things like schools and medical programs.

It may be possible to earn-in to benefits in #5 and #7 based on some cumulative tax payment history.  For example, unemployment taxes are really close to an insurance policy, such that a couple of years of payments into the system could make one eligible for benefits.   Given how much fraud I see on this from citizens**, I can't believe immigrants would be any worse.




  1. Swami Cat:

    I like your recommendations. Two suggestions:

    1). We should require "bonding agencies" to certify and bond potential immigrants. The bonding agencies can be "approved" by the government based upon impartial requirements and do the background checks. In case of serious violations of the terms of entry (criminal conviction) the bond agency gets penalized (fines, demerits toward approval as an agency, etc). The bonding agency will of course charge for its services (in competition with other agencies).

    2). We should test your broader idea in a number of states for a decade to work out the bugs and ensure it works as expected. Thus there would be state laboratories.

  2. LoneSnark:

    All you are really suggesting is we eliminate the caps and limits on visitor and work VISAs. Seems like a great idea to me.

  3. NL7:

    If the midpoint is "illegal but ignored" and the extreme authoritarian position is "deport them all right away," I think most of the restrictionist debaters want a middle ground between the two that's something like "deport all or most unlicensed immigrants over time, at an accelerated pace, even if it takes years to finish." Basically an acknowledgement that it will take years to deport them all, but an emphasis that total deportation is still the eventual goal.

    I think they agree that the government cannot deport millions of people, but this agreement is a resource question rather than a moral question, at least to the average anti-immigration partisan. Politicians say they don't want to deport everybody because of the terrible disruption it would have on the lives of millions of people, including millions of US citizens and legal residents. It would also be quite unpopular when you get stories about A+ students and disabled children and church elders and loving grandmothers getting deported. So politicians, even many Republicans, are trying to avoid deporting too many people because it would be so unpopular.

    But I think conservatives debating online take the position that total deportation is viable and desirable, but agree it will take years. At least, that's how I've seen it phrased in earlier threads on this blog.

  4. NL7:

    Legalizing immigrants and then kicking them out of Social Security is expensive, probably much more expensive than the savings in denying welfare to refugees. The best financial aspect of "illegal but tolerated" is the billions of dollars in FICA taxes unlicensed migrants pay in to the trust fund without any legal right to get it out.

    But it's still the fair thing to do. People should have a right to work without paying taxes; that's doubly true when they are paying taxes to buy benefits they are legally barred from ever consuming. It's one thing to pay taxes for roads and libraries, but what if you had to pay taxes for roads and libraries that you were legally prohibited from using?

  5. Richard Harrington:

    I agree with the plan, and I'll add a dynamic element to it - employers like to employ legal (H1B) and sub rosa residents because of the power imbalance. They work harder for less and don't complain as much. This increases the demand. Providing a legal and more secure status means the newly arrived have more power, and that would decrease the demand for the exploitable. I have no way of guessing how strong this effect would be. But, I'm going to assert that making legal status easier could potentially reduce the number of people arriving.

  6. mx:

    I too was amazed at the number of people who were basically advocating for the status quo despite the fact that it clearly isn't working for anyone, least of all millions of parents who have been here for decades and raised families here, but are subject to deportation at any moment.

    The issue where "illegal people" spur more illegality is also a real problem. Businesses are held responsible for employing illegal immigrants, sometimes knowingly but sometimes on the basis of fraud. Workers are open to extortion if they don't go along with whatever demands their employer makes. Since public transit is not a workable option in many parts of the country, people need to drive to work and eventually wind up in trouble with the law for driving without licenses. And in many cases, there is no legal path available to them besides going "home" to a country they may have never known.

    When we're talking about more than 10 million people, the inevitable consequences of trying to deport them all are so obviously unworkable that it's a nonstarter. Some number of them would literally die due to medical conditions and the stress of being moved. Odds are good a bus full of deportees would crash somewhere (we still talk about the 1948 plane crash). Some number of US citizens would get caught up in the dragnet and would be stranded in foreign countries. You'd have the inevitable articles about the high school senior who just got accepted to Harvard who is now getting deported. Frankly, I hope we wouldn't be able to stomach it.

  7. Adriana:

    Another idea I've heard (from people on the left and the right) is to clamp down on employers who hire illegal immigrants so that there won't be an incentive to immigrate in the first place. Or, if they're already here, they'll go home after suffering a severe case of the poorz. This would presumably accompany status quo deportation policies - we deport when we discover them, but we don't undertake a massive effort to round them up.

    I understand the leftist perspective, in that they are very supportive of labor and employment regulations generally, and believe employers are exploiting illegal immigrants, so preventing them from working at all will somehow (?) improve their lot.

    I have a somewhat harder time understanding the conservative, right-wing or Republican view that cumbersome and intrusive regulations of the marketplace are good or are at all compatible with their limited government principles so long as the target is foreigners.

  8. jdgalt:

    I like most of your proposal at the end, but it seems to me to have a few problems from a standpoint of liberty and paying your own way.

    (1) Re #4. While we're at it let's bring the US income tax system into compliance with the way every country in the world does it except ourselves and Eritrea, and that is to tax only income earned within our borders. This would let us do away with outrageous impositions such as FATCA.

    (2) Re #5. It is my understanding that under present law, legal immigrants are supposed to have a sponsor (a US citizen who guarantees that the immigrant will not break the law or become a burden to the taxpayers while resident here). Why aren't we enforcing that guarantee by billing or fining the sponsor when the immigrant applies for welfare or is convicted of a crime?

    (3) Re #5. There is no need or justification for a law against vagrancy (for immigrants or anyone else). If a person can't support himself (or find private charity) and we aren't willing to give him welfare payments, the humane thing to do is to ship him home. Of course it's a different story if he starts stealing or committing other crimes, but those are already separately illegal anyway.

    (4) Re #5 and #6. I find the separation between these two lists of services interesting. In reality, emergency services and public education
    are usually free in the US.

    I'm not sure if public housing is now free or not. I'd say it should be spun off to private charity because government provision of housing leads to some really nasty rules and enforcement practices, which government shouldn't be allowed to do outside of prisons. The private charities would be able to make practical decisions about those things.

    Education ought to be a service parents pay for, and if they can't, their children should be taken away. But if we are going to provide it free, immigrants should be eligible like anyone else, because having unschooled adults around will create a crime problem for others.

    Emergency services ought to be free, unless caused by criminal behavior in which case the person responsible should be fined.

    (5) Re #7. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. But under present law, those illegal immigrants who pay their taxes (as they must, if they want their "anchor babies" to sponsor them in someday) are having to pay into it while not getting anything out. I don't think that is fair. I would allow those people to collect SS based on what they've paid into it; while at the same time I would increase the SS tax (on everybody) as much as needed so that the system can continue to pay its current level of benefits indefinitely. This goes for Medicare, too. If we're not willing to raise those taxes then benefits should be reduced to match the taxes coming in.

  9. EricP:

    This whole post is sort of interesting in a "if I could wave my magic wand" type way. if implemented you would immediately find a sizable number of citizen/voters unemployable at anything but 3rd world wage living in a 1st world country. You are talking about destroying the lives of countless fellow citizens. And they are voters.

    Basically it's no more practical than deport them all.

    Not dealing with the impact on current citizens of millions (billions?) of new residents is like "underwear -> ? -> profits!"

    You need a path in the middle and no one seems to have a good one.

  10. EricP:

    Sorry that the YT embed is so huge, I had not idea before including the link :(

  11. Magua1952:

    Lots of long winded self-delusion about private markets and open borders and the enormous economic benefits of having tens of millions of impoverished people who don't speak the common language.

    People can plainly see what happens to neighborhoods overrun with people who can't afford to live there. Three families live in a three bedroom house while a fourth lives in a shed in the back yard. Five or ten electric wires run on a clothesline to the shed. Several single male boarders live in the basement. Six or eight cars are parked on the front lawn. Neighbors who lived in the area for decades see their property values plummet.The local shopping center loses the Safeway, florist, several fast food joints and the typical gift shops, etc. These are replaced by free clinics for the indigent. The commercial property is then neglected to the point that waist high grass grows around the buildings while the parking lot returns to nature. I am describing a once stable neighborhood in one of the richest counties in the U.S.

    The cost of everything increases because these so called economically dynamic migrants simply can't afford health care, dental care, lunches for their children or insurance for their cars. The notion that this state of affairs benefits our nation is naive to the point of madness. The open borders defenders always bring up the illegal who achieved a scholarship at Harvard or the founders of super corporations. Funny, none of those around here. Our county drops in the ratings. Once great schools now have 80% of the children receiving subsidized lunches and two thirds require special training in English. A sad biproduct is that many dreamers are shunted into school programs for the low functioning even though they are normal kids. A large percentage of the illegals work strictly off the books. So much for 'rescuing social security'. You can find cheap painters and house cleaners but you need to pay with cash.

    It amazes me that apparently intelligent people fool themselves with high minded self congratulation on this issue. Open your eyes and look around you. We made a mess of our country and a future generation has a bitter price to pay.

  12. Penkville:

    There's too much focus on immigration as an economic issue and not as a cultural/social issue, when it's clearly both. As we see, and despite the fact the US is definitely one of the better countries for assimilating immigrants, if you have enough of them gathering in one place, you have cultural change, change that is often inimical to the rules or scenarios proposed here. Libertarians have a suicide pact with lefties in pursuing open borders... Even as regards the economics, on a micro level, if you lose your job (or suffer depressed wages) as a result of increased H1-B visa issue for example, then it's not all milk and honey. Similarly, pundits in the UK can't seem to understand that with only 4% unemployment wages refuse to go up, while it appears that up to 2MM additional workers from the EU have entered the country to take advantage of that job creation over the last few years, well duh...

  13. Adriana:

    You may want to read about the actual research on native-born wage suppression before you declare that open borders would result in third world wages and the destruction of the lives of American citizens.

    The negative effects, when present, are quite modest. Most of the effects are positive. The group most in competition with immigrants, ironically enough, but unsurprisingly, is other recent immigrants since they tend to have comparable English language ability, skills, and education.

  14. Nehemiah:

    "I am not blind to the problems that our generous welfare policies have
    on immigration."

    Not being blind to the problems that our welfare policies have on immigration while maintaining that historically immigration has been a net positive is farcical. What is the per capita drain on the economy, i.e., crime, medical, education, wage suppression, etc. Versus the contribution from their consumption or as a cheap source of labor for business?

    What is the loss to their fellow countrymen back home because they don't stay to work for reform that might lift the standard of living there? Illegal immigration to America is a pressure release value for corrupt and inefficient governments. Our slack policy enforcement is the best thing going for the countries of Central and South America.

  15. NL7:

    My uncharitable interpretation is this:

    Progressives want to simulate the feeling of they are helping people and ethnic minorities improve their lives through rules, laws and social spending. Libertarians are very skeptical that rules, laws and spending are very helpful to poor people and ethnic minorities. Conservatives are very skeptical that we should want to help poor people and ethnic minorities.

    I know that's unfair and not all conservatives think that. But I've spoken to enough conservatives online who are concerned not that government help is ineffective, but that certain recipients are unworthy of the help. In other words, help being effective is a problem when it goes to the wrong people. To them, the question is not whether welfare is cost-justified, or whether it is voluntary, but whether it's good to help foreigners and lazy poors.

  16. Adriana:

    crime, medical, education, wage suppression, etc.

    tl;dr lower crime rates than native-born Americans, crime rates in decline despite large immigrant and illegal immigrant population

    (broad category)
    Medicaid -
    Medicare (positive contribution) -
    tl;dr probably net loss on Medicaid ($4.3b), but overwhelming net gain to Medicare ($13b+)

    tl;dr $761m

    Wage Suppression:
    tl;dr the negative effects, when present, are quite modest, most of the effects on wages are positive, immigrants themselves in most competition with new arrivals

    They are also a net gain to the Social Security fund.

    And as far as I can tell, most economists who have added up the costs and the gains have concluded that immigrants are a net positive, illegal or legal.

    So, I don't know if farcical is the right word since the evidence seems to suggest that they cost way less than they contribute. Education, among all that you listed, appears to be the biggest drain, but other than that, the indicators are very positive.

  17. Adriana:

    I think that would explain the mixed message on transfer payments and welfare spending. A lot of the rhetoric and vitriol is directed at foreigners and poor people, when clearly the elderly are by far the biggest recipients of welfare. The outrage just isn't there, though, even when evidence shows that Medicare and Social Security recipients pay in and have paid in so much less than they receive, and even when evidence shows that immigrants pay into these budget sucks without collecting anywhere near what they contributed. I can really only explain this as the elderly are deserving and foreigners and poor people are not.

  18. Nehemiah:

    I'll reply in more detail on the rest of your post, but the comparison is not about the cost for crime for illegal immigrants versus native born Americans. It is the cost of the illegals versus not having that cost if they weren't here. Now we have the cost of native-born plus the cost of illegals.

    And its not just about the costs of police work, prosecution and incarceration. What about the toll on the victims and their families? Sure, we have victims of native-born criminals as well as illegal immigrant criminals. But if the illegals weren't here at least some amount of suffering would be alleviated. We shouldn't have to carry the human toll or incarceration costs of illegal immigrants. We should at least vote on it first.

  19. NL7:

    I think this post deserves its own blog entry. Awesomely done.

  20. NL7:

    If your emphasis is a hardnosed comparison of what a person contributes versus what they receive, doesn't that imply we should cut off Social Security and Medicare for retirees? Medicare and Social Security are after all subsidized by the general revenues, because their premiums and payroll taxes are not sufficient to cover costs. Are you saying senior citizen retirees are a drain?

  21. Adriana:

    It is the cost of the illegals versus not having that cost if they weren't here.

    But if the illegals weren't here at least some amount of suffering would be alleviated.

    I understand, but your argument would better be applied to native-born Americans. Illegal immigrants and immigrants are a better deal in terms of crime rates and costs than we are.

    Your argument would ring truer, then, if you supported population control measures and child licensing for native-born Americans. We would alleviate a lot of suffering and we would reduce a lot of costs that. After all, your case seems to be that bearing the burden of new people is an injustice to the people already here.

    So, I suspect this isn't your real reason behind your objections.

    We shouldn't have to carry the human toll or incarceration costs of illegal immigrants. We should at least vote on it first.

    A lot of incarceration costs are due to the costs of arresting and deporting them. Those are a byproduct of the policies you support. Again, if you care about the financial costs and human toll of incarcerating illegal immigrants, shouldn't this lead you to support more open borders? There's a great toll on the immigrants themselves and their families, as well as on taxpayers, and their employers who benefit from their labor, not to mention consumers.

  22. jdgalt:

    Social Security is paying out more than it's collecting, but the difference comes out of the trust fund. Current projections are that the fund will exhaust in 2022 if nothing changes. At that point, if Congress doesn't act, payouts will automatically fall to match revenues.

  23. jdgalt:

    I understand, but your argument would better be applied to native-born Americans. Illegal immigrants and immigrants are a better deal in terms of crime rates and costs than we are.

    Amen!  This especially goes for kids that are the result of poor people being subsidized to have kids (AFDC/TANF)!  They have no prospects in life except crime, so we badly need to stop paying the poor to create more of them!

  24. mesocyclone:

    Most republicans understand that we aren't going to just kick out 12,000,000. The debate has become so inflamed, partly because of the effects of immigration on blue and white collar Republicans, that it's hard for a candidate to say that right now. Ultimately, a legal but not citizen status is inevitable, unless the Democrats get in and grant citizenship to all so they can vote Democrat.

    But, terrorism is far from the most important issue about immigration, although it is serious. Economics and culture are far more important.

    Libertarians say... let them all come, and if American workers lose their jobs... too bad, they just weren't competitive. Which sounds great in theory until you think a little more deeply. Immigrants are coming here from countries that are poverty stricken and awful. They would be happy to come here and live in what, for Americans, would be intolerable conditions, because they would still be better off than where they came from. Let too many of them come, and Americans will be out of work. Already, in Arizona, we see very few Europeans in construction jobs, and some areas are almost totally Hispanic - such as gardening. Those workers largely displaced American workers. This is one of the reasons that we have such a high rate of actual (as opposed to nominal) unemployment. Americans cannot compete with people from fourth world countries.

    Maybe Coyote would love this - his labor rates could go down.

    But... think this through. The more Americans who feel displaced by immigrants, the more support there will be for really wacko populists - say, Donald Trump but racist, and with enough political smarts to get elected and rule. Do we want that?

    Or, if the immigrants end up voting, they will vote for the kinds of policies that wrecked their own countries. Our neighbor Mexico is rich in natural resources, and yet is full of poverty stricken citizens. That's because of their culture - yes, culture - because their government is a reflection of that culture. Those who are here are strongly for - yep - Democrats, who favor the same kinds of policies.

    And it isn't just blue collar workers getting screwed. I am a retired engineer, and I have lots of former coworkers who lost their jobs to H-1B immigrants - lesser qualified ones for the most part, by the way. The H-1B system shows out reality gets in the way of good policy. In theory, a company can't hire an H-1B worker unless they cannot find an American worker to do the job, and they are supposed to pay prevailing wages. In practice, this simply is never enforced. And... if we allow these people to come under Coyote's conditions, they won't even be tied to the H-1B visa. That would in some ways be better - the conditions of the H-1B allow employers to pay substantially lower wages because the H-1B immigrants can't job shop. But ultimately, we will have third world engineers replacing US engineers - with *no* offsetting jobs for those Americans. Yes, that sounds like something Libertarians love.

    So I guess I'll invoke Godwin's law here. The rise of Hitler was a result of a terrible economy - third world conditions being suffered by formerly first world people. Screw enough American workers, and the dangerous populists will not only get elected, they will rule!

    So, I am a restrictionist. I don't feel in the slightest bit guilty, even though all Democrats and too many Republicans would call me all sorts of names. A lot of conservatives feel the same way, because although the Democrats don't care and some Republicans have forgotten it, the fact is that a nation is about more than a line drawn around some land. It is about a culture and it is about an economy, and the government isn't worth a popcorn fart if it doesn't protect its citizens - first and foremost.

  25. Adriana:

    If it's really just about costs and crime, then I can't see why not. :D

  26. Nehemiah:

    SS & Medicare were lawfully enacted. I'd rather they weren't, but it is now the law. ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, are not here by the will of the people. When the people vote to allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal status then your position is valid.

  27. Nehemiah:

    So let's switch out the population, native borns vacate so illegals can move in to lower the crime rate.

    I am okay with caring for people, but I'd prefer they be here legally. Does anyone on this blog respect the rule of law?

  28. Nehemiah:

    It is about RULE OF LAW?

  29. Adriana:

    You seem to be under a mistaken impression about the rule of law. Laws should be good and laws should be just, otherwise they lack in legitimacy. That leads to the state lacking in political authority.

    Intuitively, you know this, as I am sure you break laws all the time (on purpose and by accident) because they don't carry any moral weight to you or because they're unduly burdensome. And perhaps you look upon the Underground Railroad and the refusal of northern states to return runaway slaves in violation of the law as a moral good even if it was technically a violation of the law. You might even say they were justified in breaking those unjust laws.

    Usually, when people talk about the "rule of law," they're not really worried that violation of this one law will lead to a collapse of political authority. Instead, they're trying to say that they like this particular set of laws and wish they'd be enforced more. If that's how you feel, say that. Don't present this as "if we don't enforce immigration laws, it'll be blood in the streets!"

    So, ask yourself if you think there's anything truly immoral about a peaceful person moving into a territory and engaging in private and consensual economic activity with another person. Is this something human beings should need government permission to do? And if people don't do it, do you think they've done something terribly wrong?

    Also ask yourself about cost versus benefits since you seemed to be open to that idea initially. The costs of compliance are high, which is why we have 11-12 million illegal immigrants here. We know there are lots of benefits to immigrants, and that the benefits appear to outweigh the costs considerably. So, if it costs us a lot to kick them out, and it hurts them and us, and they're not doing anything truly immoral (moving, working, buying, selling), why stand up for this bad law?

  30. WarwickBoy:

    There is no money in the trust fund. They have paper securities but every time one is cashed in, funds have to be diverted from the general fund.

  31. jdgalt:

    That depends what you mean by "the rule of law." The term is frequently misused to refer to the misguided idea that everyone has a moral obligation to obey every law, either as written or as interpreted by some current official or other. That notion is BS; it also is not what the phrase properly means.

    The rule of law really simply means that if government, in any form, wants to penalize an activity, they have a duty to publish a written law against it first -- thus making it possible, at least in theory, for anyone to be safe against law enforcement by reading the laws and obeying them. This duty binds officials, but not the public, and it means (among other things) that there must be no arbitrary beatings by police, no "contempt of cop," and no discretion on a cop's part either about whether you've broken a law or whether to do something about it (or what). It means a cop may cite or arrest you, but he is not a judge, and is not entitled to inflict punishment of any kind except on a judge's order.

    (Hat tip to Jerry Pournelle, my source for this definition. He refers to a particular law enacted during Rome's Early Republic period that directed the Senate to publish all laws from then on, but I have not been able to find that in other sources.)

    And by that correct definition, yes, I'm all in favor of the rule of law. It would fix a major part of what is wrong with our country as it is now.

  32. jdgalt:

    Agreed. It all comes from current revenue. And if the federal government had to include the unfunded liability in its accounts, as a private business would, the total national debt right now would not be $18.7T, but closer to $60T.

  33. herdgadfly:

    According to the Heritage Foundation: In 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. This generated an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household. This cost had to be borne by U.S. taxpayers. Amnesty would provide unlawful households with access to over 80 means-tested welfare programs, Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare. The fiscal deficit for each household would soar.

  34. herdgadfly:

    Why do we even have laws if we do not intend to apply them evenly to all? I think the old saw is referred to as "having your cake and eating it too." If bound by law, violators are punished - so how is it that the public is never bound? Sorry but civilized countries must have laws and law enforcement is required.

  35. jdgalt:

    There's a big difference between why we ought to have laws and why we really do have them. But the bottom line is, government is not a source of moral principles -- it ought to be following them (but doesn't).

    Government is merely an armed gang. When well behaved, that gang performs the job of protection we hired them to do. When they don't feel like behaving, they're just like all other gangsters on the planet. History shows that these gangs only behave as well as the rest of us manage to force them to. Right now, they have the upper hand and pretty much use it as they please.

    And most of the details of the law are bought and paid for by those who employ lobbyists. They are certainly not sources of moral right.

  36. PWS:

    And as long as we're at it we should euthanize the ones that are already here