Should We Charge For Immigrant Visas?


by Zoë Pollock

Yes, argues Alex Nowrasteh, promoting an immigration tariff:

A tariff makes the process more predictable and timely because it focuses on one factor — money. Instead of relying upon the arbitrary decisions of bureaucrats or lotteries, immigrants have a benchmark they can reach. They can save, borrow money, or have their employers pay the tariff with the certainty that, unless they are criminals or very ill, they will be able to enter the U.S. to work, start a business, and build a life.

The immigration tariff is pushed by Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker, but its central concept dates back to the birth of modern economics. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith endorsed a tax on wool exports. It's not that he supported the tax, but rather saw it as an improvement over Britain's outright ban on the export of wool that existed at the time. He was right. A tariff, while surely imperfect, is a great big step toward stimulating economic growth and raising revenue.

Something about charging people for the opportunity for a better life rubs me the wrong way, but our immigration system is undeniably broken. Would this actually help?

(Photo: Hundreds of people wait to pass from Mexico into the United States at the border crossing on December 10, 2010 at Nogales, Arizona. By John Moore/Getty Images.)