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Policy areas: 
Personal liberty
Rick's thoughts: 


The United States has the worst immigration policy in the world.

Just one example. We bring foreign students to the US to get a PhD. And when they graduate we give them 90 days to get out of the country. Really.

Thanks, politicians, you've turned a nation built on immigration into a source of international ridicule (and they're maligning us all the way to the bank, as competitor nations attract the best immigrants, from all over the world, with friendly immigration policies).

But it isn't hard to fix things. Overnight. Free. And with a change neither my friends on the left nor my friends on the right should find objectionable.

First this - the only real cause of 'illegal' immigration is the impossibility of legal immigration. It's not like the illegals 'want' to break American laws - they just don't have a viable alternative. Could they stay home in their own miserable countries and waste away? Sure they could. But, being the best and the brightest, and having no hope at home, they make a fairly obvious choice to take their chances abroad. Wouldn't you? Assuming you're one of the best and the brightest, that is ...

Therefore - let's provide the best and the brightest an easy way to be legal. Let's sell them a green card (United States Permanent Resident Card).

For $50,000.

Before someone screams that's too much! let me walk through the rest of the logic. First of all there is an important auxiliary regulation. If a US employer is caught employing a non-citizen without a valid green card, there is ... a consequence. No jail time, no fine, no media opprobrium, just this - they have to make that person legal, by immediately buying them their green card. For cash.

Seems fair, right? After all the employer obviously wanted to hire them, since they did hire them, and they certainly want them to be legal, since they are good law abiding citizens, aren't they?

Pretty easy dynamic here ... how many illegally employed workers are there going to be after, let's say, one week? Like, none, except the ones who won't turn in their employer and get a free green card. Like, maybe two or three.

Now about that price. How can they ever pay that much?!? I can hear my non-actuarilly acute friends squealing as I type. Simple - in cash. 

Let me first claim to have some first hand knowledge of the situation. I spend some time every year in Guatemala, where I am a volcano guide (come on down! hike with us!). Volunteers like me (well, not exactly like me, the others are all 40 years younger) take tourists up and down volcanoes, raising money for an elementary school for poor kids (you know - the ones dreaming of coming to America some day). In this work I spend a lot of time in the Guatemalan hinterlands, and meet a lot of Guatemalan families, virtually all of whom have a son or father or brother working ... illegally ... in the US (there are also a few daughters, mothers, sisters, but very, very few). 

The unmistakable goal of each of these illegals is to get a job and save some money so they can 1) buy the materials to build a house, 2) buy a pickup, 3) come home to Guatemala to spend the rest of their life with their families

To do this they frequently pay a coyote to transport them to the US. Cash. Up front. Everybody says for $10,000, although I tend to be skeptical of that number. Regardless, the one thing this purchase doesn't come with is a Walmart money back guarantee. If things go wrong (they frequently do, I once met a man who made seven unsuccessful attempts before giving up), you are out of luck. And - if things go right and you end up in, say, Iowa with a job, things can still go wrong. As they frequently do.


Ever hear of the ICE raid in my hometown Postville? Perhaps the worst part of the story is that after busting the illegals we made them spend five months in jail before sending them back to ... Guatemala (what goes around, comes around). I don't know how much that cost, but prison is definitely not cheap, and we proved ... what? That we were tough guys?

The raid wasn't cheap either - ICE said it cost them over $5 million (let's see, that would have paid for over 100 of my green cards ... and they only deported about 400). See what I mean by worst immigration policy in the world ... ?

So my bet is my illegal Guatemalan friends would jump at the chance to pay $50,000 for a legal green card. Cash. By pooling their money and buying green cards one at a time ... just like they do now, to pay the coyotes. My bet is they would be delighted to be legal workers, who could ride legal buses back and forth to their Guatemalan homes for Christmas (that's what I do - it's a delightful four day trip).

And if $50,000 turned out to be too high, and we couldn't entice enough of the best and the brightest from around the world to come to work and pay taxes in America, well we could always auction green cards off for less. Or more! Let the market decide how much an American green card is worth. Such a novel idea ... not! I stole, er, borrowed it from my friend and Nobel prize winner Gary Becker (only half that sentence is completely truthful, although I did have a short conversation with Mr. Becker once, about minimum wage research, his comment was 'man bites dog' research results should be double checked before publishing). If you want to read his paper, drink a cup of coffee beforehand.

Let's wrap it up with some thoughts about the families of green card holders.

Welcome to America! You're a tourist - spend your money freely. Just like the German and Swiss tourists do (perhaps don't drink so much beer and then try to sing in English).

And if you are a wife or husband and you want to work ... $50,000!

Or a son or daughter not born here, and you want to work ... $50,000!

Green cards are available to all, we love your money, but even more than that we love your enthusiasm for our country - still the best in the world, and now featuring the best immigration policy in the world!





Nicole's picture

How much does it cost to buy a truck and build a house in Guatemala? If those people can't afford to do that in their home country, how are they supposed to afford a green card to enter the US?

Trucks cost more to buy in Guatemala because of high import duties (over 30%). Some housing materials are the same as in the US and some are slightly less, due to labor costs (think concrete blocks). Construction labor itself is very inexpensive, perhaps only $6 per day. Guatemalans have, on average, an economic opportunity of about $7,290 per year, vs an American´s economic opportunity of about $53,000. Due to this huge disparity Guatemalans would obviously be more than happy to pay a one time fee of $50,000 to gain a lifetime of legal employoment in the US. Your question is 'how would they afford the $50,000' and the answer is - in a multitude of ways. Most importantly would probably be borrowing it from Guatemalans already working legally in the US, but bank borrowing, and borrowing from your US employer, would probably also be popular. No one knows exactly how this market would sort itself out, but it undoubtedly would, and probably with amazing rapidity, given the incentive of getting a legal green card.

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