November 22, 2016


What If Trump Wanted More Illegal Immigration? Wait, He's On It! (Tyler Cowen, 11/22/16, Bloomberg View)

Imagine that a new U.S. president, different from the one we just elected, set out to maximize the number of illegal Mexican immigrants. Maybe he or she saw electoral advantage in this, or maybe just thought it was the right thing to do. But how to achieve that end? Imagine also that I was called into the Oval Office to give advice.

I would start by recommending an enormous new program of fiscal stimulus and construction. Let's rebuild our roads, bridges and power grids, and put up some new infrastructure as well, including perhaps an unfinished border wall. That will require a lot of labor, and Mexican labor, including that of the illegal variety, is common in the construction business. The financial crisis, and the resulting freeze-up in the housing market, was a major reason why Mexican migration to the United States went into reverse, so a new building program might counteract that trend. ­

But wait, that's not enough. When state and local governments hire people to perform labor, they insist on some pretty serious documentation of legal employment status. The federal government does the same. So the stimulus plan will have to be designed to evade such enforcement possibilities.

How? Well, profit-seeking private contractors are less concerned with the legal status of their workers, provided they have some kind of plausible deniability. They'll sometimes hire illegal immigrants on the basis of falsified papers, or seek out contractors who don't even ask for documentation. In other words, we'll have to run the stimulus program through private contractors to get the maximum inflow.

By the way, infrastructure programs will help illegals in other ways, more than would citizen-focused Social Security or Medicare benefits, for example. Illegal immigrants use roads and mass transit and electricity and other forms of infrastructure all the time. And they won't suffer much if subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare are reallocated to construction because it was so hard for them to get those subsidies in the first place.

Fiscal stimulus, however, is not enough. 

Posted by at November 22, 2016 3:48 PM