A Trumpian Immigration Policy

Once again I’m going to save Donald Trump some time in writing up the legislation. Here is some handy-dandy text borrowed from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

An Act to Execute Certain Treaty Stipulations Relating to individuals of s***hole countries

Whereas, in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of individuals of s***hole countries to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof: Therefore,

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act, the coming of individuals of s***hole countries to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended; and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any individual of s***hole countries to come, or having so come after the expiration of said ninety days, to remain within the United States.

SEC. 2. That the master of any vessel who shall knowingly bring within the United States on such vessel, and land or permit to be landed, any individual of s***hole countries, from any foreign port or place, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 for each and every such individual of s***hole countries so brought, and may be also imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year.

SEC. 3. That the two foregoing sections shall not apply to individuals of s***hole countries who were in the United States on the XXth day of XXXX, XXXX, or who shall have come into the same before the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act…

SEC. 4. That for the purpose of properly identifying individuals of s***hole countries who were in the United States on the XXth day of XXXX, XXXX, or who shall have come into the same before the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and in order to furnish them with the proper evidence of their right to go from and come to the United States of their free will and accord, as provided by the treaty between the United States and XXXX dated XXth day of XXXX, XXXX, the collector of customs of the district from which any such individual of s***hole countries shall depart from the United States shall, in person or by deputy, go on board each vessel having on board any such individuals of s***hole countries and cleared or about to sail from his district for a foreign port, and on such vessel make a list of all such individual of s***hole countries, which shall be entered in registry-books to be kept for that purpose, in which shall be stated the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, physical marks or peculiarities, and all facts necessary for the identification of each of such individuals of s***hole countries, which books shall be safely kept in the custom-house; and every such individuals of s***hole countries so departing from the United States shall be entitled to, and shall receive, free of any charge or cost upon application therefor, from the collector or his deputy, at the time such list is taken a certificate, signed by the collector or his deputy and attested by his seal of office, in such form as the Secretary of the Treasury shall prescribe, which certificate shall contain a statement of the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, personal description, and facts of identification of the individuals of s***hole countries to whom the certificate is issued, corresponding with the said list and registry in all particulars…

SEC. 5. That any individuals of s***hole countries mentioned in section four of this act being in the United States, and desiring to depart from the United States by land, shall have the right to demand and receive, free of charge or cost, a certificate of identification similar to that provided for in section four of this act to be issued to such individuals of s***hole countries as may desire to leave the United States by water; and it is hereby made the duty of the collector of customs of the district next adjoining the foreign country to which said individuals of s***hole countries desires to go to issue such certificate, free of charge or cost, upon application by such individuals of s***hole countries, and to enter the same upon registry-books to be kept by him for the purpose, as provided for in section four of this act.

SEC. 6. That in order to the faithful execution of articles one and two of the treaty in this act before mentioned, every individual of s***hole countries other than a laborer who may be entitled by said treaty and this act to come within the United States, and who shall be about to come to the United States, shall be identified as so entitled by the XXXX Government in each case, such identity to be evidenced by a certificate issued under the authority of said government, which certificate shall be in the English language or (if not in the English language) accompanied by a translation into English, stating such right to come, and which certificate shall state the name, title, or official rank, if any, the age, height, and all physical peculiarities, former and present occupation or profession, and place of residence in XXXX of the person to whom the certificate is issued and that such person is entitled conformably to the treaty in this act mentioned to come within the United States…

SEC. 7. That any person who shall knowingly and falsely alter or substitute any name for the name written in such certificate or forge any such certificate, or knowingly utter any forged or fraudulent certificate, or falsely personate any person named in any such certificate, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor; and upon conviction thereof shall be fined in a sum not exceeding $1,000, and imprisoned in a penitentiary for a term of not more than five years.

SEC. 8. That the master of any vessel arriving in the United States from any foreign port or place shall, at the same time he delivers a manifest of the cargo, and if there be no cargo, then at the time of making a report, of the entry of the vessel pursuant to law, in addition to the other matter required to be reported, and before landing, or permitting to land, any individual of s***hole countries passengers, deliver and report to the collector of customs of the district in which such vessels shall have arrived a separate list of all individual of s***hole countries passengers taken on board his vessel at any foreign port or place, and all such passengers on board the vessel at that time…

SEC. 9. That before any individual of s***hole countries passengers are landed from any such vessel, the collector, or his deputy, shall proceed to examine such passengers, comparing the certificates with the list and with the passengers; and no passenger shall be allowed to land in the United States from such vessel in violation of law…

SEC. 11. That any person who shall knowingly bring into or cause to be brought into the United States by land, or who shall knowingly aid or abet the same, or aid or abet the landing in the United States from any vessel of any individuals of s***hole countries person not lawfully entitled to enter the United states, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in a sum not exceeding $1,000, and imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year.

SEC. 12. That no individual of s***hole countries person shall be permitted to enter the United States by land without producing to the proper officer of customs the certificate in this act required of individual of s***hole countries persons seeking to land from a vessel…

SEC. 13. That this act shall not apply to diplomatic and other officers of the XXXX Government traveling upon the business of that government, whose credentials shall be taken as equivalent to the certificate in this act mentioned, and shall exempt them and their body and household servants from the provisions of this act as to other individual of s***hole countries persons.

SEC. 14. That hereafter no State court or court of the United States shall admit individual of s***hole countries to citizenship; and all laws in conflict with this act are hereby repealed.

I have relied upon this Act for the text, omitting Article 15, which did not seem relevant. The altered text is underlined.

39 thoughts on “A Trumpian Immigration Policy

  1. Moses Herzog

    In the name of transparency, I will say I am a white male, in his middle years shall we say. I am neither ashamed of this nor wearing it as some mark of superiority. […edited by MDC…]

    That being said, I found the above post to be humorous in a kind of dark and ironic way. I think breaking the law is one thing, but if “ICE” couldn’t find you after 15+ years THAT’S on the US Gov in my opinion, and if you are following the law OTHERWISE, you should be left alone. And start the “YOU can see it as humorous because YOU’RE white” and ad nauseam in 3….. 2….. 1……

    1. Bruce Hall

      Why did Trump’s position on immigration resonate with the people who put him in the White House? Perhaps because people perceived the present situation as a basic corruption of our nation and its laws.

      Identity politics largely governs relative immigration enforcement. Yet the current liberal idea of a sanctuary city or state in which federal immigration authorities cannot easily deport convicted alien felons is hardly progressive. The concept of defying federal laws harkens back to the antebellum nullification efforts of defiant state governments that seceded to form the Confederacy.

      Certainly, California or New Mexico would resent bitterly any other state that likewise nullified the authority of federal laws. California Gov. Jerry Brown would grow irate if Utah or Alabama followed suit in defiance of Washington, declaring elements of national environmental legislation, gun registration statutes or safety standards null and void in their local and state jurisdictions.

      Forgotten also are historic truths about immigration. In the past, immigration has proven a great boon to a host country — if it was legal, measured, meritocratic and diverse. That way, assimilation, integration and mastery of native languages and customs were enhanced by immigrants who in turn enriched their adopted country.

      The opposite holds true of massive, illegal and nondiverse influxes of foreign nationals. The results are too often tribalism, political manipulation and factionalism, as the current multicultural and multiethnic turmoil in the Balkans, Middle East, Africa — and now Europe — attest.”


  2. pgl

    Did Peter Navarro write the opening line?

    “Whereas, in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof”

    Opinion sine evidence.

  3. 2slugbaits

    Menzie There probably wasn’t any need to go to all the trouble. I’m sure ALEC, Heritage and the Eagle Forum have already written and circulated the appropriate language across the federal and GOP controlled state governments.

  4. Ed Hanson


    At one time your post could be edgy and fun, but it seems no more. You seem to have caught
    Trump derangement syndrome.

    This post is a new low for you. It continues the tone you have been instrumental in setting for this once top blog; bringing into it crudeness, vulgarity, and just plain expressions of hate rather than informative and fun discussions of economics and the political economy. It is time, and I ask you, to pull it back.


    1. rtd

      Agreed… Menzie has taken his act to another level. I commented on a recent post that Menzie shares traits with Trump and this blog post is definitely reminiscent of a plethora of brash POTUS tweets. I’m constantly embarrassed for Dr Hamilton, but Menzie’s posts are like a car (Trump?) wreck and I just can’t turn away.

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        rtd: I know you don’t like me commenting on Mr. Trump. In fact, last year you dismissed my focus on Mr. Trump:

        Better yet, why pay special attention to anything this nut job [Mr. Trump] says?

        You’ll excuse me if I think your judgment about what is important or appropriate is poor. If you start your own blog, you can decide what you think is important.

        1. rtd

          I have ZERO problem with you commenting on Trump. It is HOW you comment and I’ve made it clear for years that HOW you comment is my issue with your blogging (although apparently not clear to you which is somewhat excusable given your apparent difficulty with reading comprehension. Hell, this is despite in the same comment section from which you selected my quote, I clearly state: “Menzie, I’m saying you’re not being an astute reader & you’re (again) not objectively assessing the topics of your posts.”) Go back to your spreadsheets of comments from your favorite economists (your definition – not mine) and find my comment about Summers and Furman dissecting the administration’s claims. Be like them. Be better but you’re unable. You comment below about how you feel it’s okay to resort to the lowest common denominator (Trump) and this makes you as bad as POTUS… you’re his equal.
          Given that Trump won, I’ll concede your point a/b my comment as I never imagined (hoped) Trump would win. However, I would’ve made the same claim about Bernie Sanders (if he weren’t already a legislator) given his many outlandish views.
          I do think Tump is a nut job and I do think you mirror many of his traits. I’m not saying you’re a nut job but this post is pretty nutty……..

          1. baffling

            Menzie has the right to discuss any topic however he feels is appropriate on HIS blog. You want a different discussion, create your own blog and have at it. If more people spoke up about the injustices in the world, like Menzie, it would be a better place.

            As i recall rtd, we have already had a discussion where you have acknowledged the inappropriateness of trump and his followers, but were found lacking in calling them out on this blog. Your silence is support. Even in this case, you would rather spend time criticizing Menzie rather than criticizing trump for his behavior. That is telling.

          2. rtd

            Your recollection is truly baffling as it’s untrue. I have called out Trump. If you were specific about what *you* feel I should call him out on, I’d be happy to respond. The thing is that mostly everyone knows Trump and his supporters are inappropriate. On the other hand, Menzi sees it appropriate to act in a similar fashion as he sits atop his high horse. Given Menzie background, I’m disappointed in his behavior as a subjective and childish blogger who is constantly sloppy with info. See, I don’t feel that two wrongs make a right – as opposed to Menzie who feels it okay to be “following Mr. Trump’s lead, and using the language he uses” (this based on Menzie’s own words and repeated behavior). I just hate seeing economics being brought down to such a low level.

        2. pgl

          People are always telling Paul Krugman what he should and should not blog about. Of course they do not do this in the comment section of Krugman’s blog. Rather they use the safe haven of Mark Thoma’s blog to fire their rage at Krugman’s choice of topics.

          Yes – these people could start their own blogs. The rest of us could then simply ignore what they post.

          1. bill billson

            “People are always telling Paul Krugman what he should and should not blog about. Of course they do not do this in the comment section of Krugman’s blog. Rather they use the safe haven of Mark Thoma’s blog to fire their rage at Krugman’s choice of topics.”

            There is nothing safe about Mark Thomas’ blog, as he practises a heavy
            banning hand on anyone who is a constant conservative.

            In fact, in 2014 or 15, I saw the few conservative commentators all banned
            right after the new year.

            I called it the Thoma’s New Year Massacre.

            PGL, I know it is difficult for you but try telling the truth.

          2. ilsm

            I feel badly for Krugman.

            He is afflicted with damaging, stagnant grief over Clinton losing [to Trump] it manifests in lowering himself to “Fox and Friends” level of dialog.

            Certainly several blogs should address this calamity while a medical professional would be more useful for the poor fellow.

            Krugman is functioning below the level that the faux (TDS) pshrinks claim for Trump.


    2. pgl

      Is Trump derangement syndrome the same thing as Krugman derangement syndrome? Given all the right wing effort to excuse Trump’s obvious put down to all of Africa, I would think you would spend more time asking these clowns to simply own up to what he really said. Of course the DACA deal was likely killed by Stephen Miller’s efforts so let’s stop pretending that Trump really cares about this issue.

  5. Lord

    I think he would at least have to define which countries those were, which he seems unwilling to publicly reveal.

    1. pgl

      Now the big issue is whether he really said S***hole as he may have said S***house instead. Like that makes any difference. It is clear he wants all new immigrants to be white people.

  6. Bruce Hall

    For those who may have missed this, here is a summary of current immigration law. Those who wish to enter the country must:
    – be in the country legally;
    – have the means to sustain themselves economically;
    – not destined to be burdens on society;
    – of economic and social benefit to society;
    – of good character and have no criminal records; and
    – contributors to the general well-being of the nation.
    The law also ensures that:
    – immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
    – foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
    – foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
    – foreign visitors who enter under false pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
    – foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned or deported;
    – those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.
    Confused? Support this completely? Think it is immoral? Want it repealed? Perhaps that is because this is Constitutionally-required Mexican immigration law. http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/lillpop022707.htm

    Could it be that Mexico simply wants the U.S. to have an immigration policy that allows Mexico to get rid of citizens who don’t meet Mexico’s own standards for becoming a citizen?

    Of course, that was from 2007, so Mexico might have changed their immigration enforcement to match that of the U.S. under previous administrations. Nah.

    1. PeakTrader

      What happens when demand for those visas far exceeds supply? Don’t know why you still believe the War on Drugs and Prohibition were failures – demand fell substantially, in both cases, resulting in trillions of dollars in lower social costs, including reduced violent and property crimes. Just because they didn’t completely eradicate drug and alcohol use doesn’t mean they were failures.

      1. PeakTrader

        I see, you say “…visas are always available on demand…” and no Wall and border agents are needed. So, basically unsecured or less secured open borders hoping everyone will follow the law and when the visas become too expensive, the other 10 million people who want to be in the U.S. will move in and demand amnesty.

        1. Steven Kopits

          Let’s take this in its parts.

          “…no Wall and border agents are needed”

          Let’s start with segmenting the migrant market into three parts.

          ‘Black Migrants’: Hard core criminals including murderers, rapists, violent assault, manslaughter, etc. These are guys who all of us would readily acknowledge as a material danger to the community. Let’s say this is 3% of the potential migrant population.

          ‘White Migrants’ – Those without criminal records of any sort. Let’s say this is 30% of the target market.

          ‘Gray Migrants’ – These are migrants may be situationally criminal, including illegal entry into the US, fraudulent use of others’ identity or social security number (to pay taxes!), possible fraud related to welfare services, coerced drug mules at border crossings, breaking and entering to evade border patrol, etc. These are people who qualify in the strict sense of the law as criminals, but most of us would agree are not otherwise threats to the US. We can debate where the line should be drawn. The majority of illegals fall into this category, if for no other reason than that they are in the country illegally.

          At present, we have about 80,000-100,000 such migrants trying to enter the US every month. We are comingling these classes, such that a small number of hard core criminals are hiding among a vast sea of migrants primarily interested in those menial, distasteful and hard jobs.

          This in turn conflates Border Patrol’s security role with a humanitarian mission. Almost all of their function is interdicting berry pickers and hotel maids, saving a good number of them from death; and catching a few bad guys in the mix.

          I want Border Patrol to be purely in the security function. I want them to be able to assume that any crosser is a bad guy potentially to be treated with, as they used to say, ‘extreme prejudice’. That can only be achieved if we allow the White and Gray segments of the migrants to come in legally. I can penalize the Gray set, for example, by charging them $2 / day more for their visa for a period of time. But the intent here is to allow in all the people whom you’d be sorry to shoot in the desert, through legal means, subject to a market clearing price and some proportionate penalty, as the case may be.

          Under such a scenario, illegal crossings in the desert would amount to that, say, 3%, or about 3,000 a month or 100 per day–against which we are currently deploying 17,000 agents (not all front line). If crossers know that Border Patrol is going to take an aggressive posture, then that 3,000 will further decline to perhaps 50 / day (it was something like that back in the Bracero days).

          Does it make sense to build an $18 bn wall to keep out 50 guys a day? I would say no. Instead, we want a highly mobile, highly aggressive Border Patrol complemented with superb in-Mexico detection, which the Mexicans will grant us. A siege strategy is inappropriate; instead, we want mobile cavalry. Hence no wall; and hence why we can operate with far fewer than 17,000 agents.

          1. Steven Kopits

            Actually, the Prohibition gives us interesting insights into this question. One of the problems of Prohibition was that it took away tax revenues from state and local governments–hence there was a pecuniary interest in repealing the law from the state governments’ perspective.

            Keep in mind that the premise of market-based immigration is that there is a wage differential between Mexico and US which are today arbitraged by border jumpers. Instead of using a physical barrier, we are trying to erect a monetary one, such that the migrant pays the US government in cash for crossing the border, rather than spending that sum, effort and risk on trying an illegal crossing. We’re converting a volume-based rationing into price-based rationing. This is absolutely bread-and-butter, basic economics.

            Now, a price-based system would bring the Federal budget about $30 bn a year. That’s a nice piece of change, and once it shows up, it will be its own constituency for its own perpetuation.

            The risk to the system, as to the Bracero program, is that it will be seen as ‘exploitative’. This is not an insignificant risk, but market-based immigration to my mind, is far, far preferable to the tens of thousands of rapes, and forced cases of prostitution and labor we see today.

        2. Steven Kopits

          “…everyone will follow the law and when the visas become too expensive, the other 10 million people who want to be in the U.S. will move in and demand amnesty.”

          The key is the number of visas issued. If these are insufficient, as they are today, then you are correct. Migrants will return to desert crossings and then Border Patrol won’t be able to enforce aggressively. That is true and is the central problem of the immigration policy as it works today.

          On the other hand, there does appear to be a market-clearing demand level for unskilled Mexican labor. We know this because the illegal population did not increase during the Great Recession, for the reason that there was no work. If there were no demand-clearing level, then the illegal population should just have continued to rise–but it didn’t.

          It is true that it will take some time to find the right level of visa issuance, but after that, you can essentially manage the market using the visa price, which will tell us about prevailing supply-demand conditions. More or less, the system can be run with something very much like an airline reservation system. (You can subscribe one in the cloud, for example.) This system, by its nature, will tend to issue visa numbers a little low, because the US government is a monopoly provider of legal access to the US labor market. If anything, the software will tend to run the market a little tight, ceteris paribus.

          This is a next-man-up system, just as is the reservation system at Southwest Airlines. Don’t want the visa? The next guy up can buy it. It is profoundly unsentimental. No one says, “I deserve amnesty to fly on Southwest.” In this system, if you want to work in the US, hey, get your smartphone or hop on the internet and buy a visa for as many days as you want. Want to stay in the US, buy some more days. Want to bring your family? Buy some more days.

          But here’s the thing. These costs start to add up. And over time, the incumbent US migrant population will be increasingly exposed to competition from Mexicans in Mexico. And the Mexicans in Mexico have a lower cost base. This in turn will tend to make migrant labor more seasonal and lower the permanent population. Indeed, many male migrants — who primarily work in construction and landscaping in our area — are effectively unemployed but trapped in high cost New Jersey (the horror!) in the winter. Many would leave if they could, and come back when there is need for their labor. I am guessing the permanent migrant population would fall by 8-12%, although the seasonal peaks could be higher than currently.

          By the way, this was the experience in the Bracero program. Only after more strict immigration control did we have a surging illegal population. Black markets create a premium to border jumping and prevent exit at the same time. (Same thing as capital controls.) US immigration policy literally created the undocumented community.

          In this program, amnesty has no meaning. If you want to work in the US, go buy a visa and work. If you can’t afford a visa, find someone to buy it for you. Cant’ do that, you’re going to have a hard time finding a job. Go back to Mexico. But hey, if you find a job, you can come back tomorrow. Just buy a visa. There is nothing permanent here.

          Such a program can be linked to other immigration programs, but the program does not intrinsically lead there. For example, you could process the DACA folks through this program, eg, if you hold a visa for five years, you can receive residency, etc. Importantly, however, this program ends the whole amnesty issue. You can come and go from Mexico as you please, stay as long as you want. You just have to buy a visa for those days you are in the US. But there are no permanent holders of visas, just as there are no permanent holders of seats on Southwest Airlines.

        3. Steven Kopits


          Ironically, the primary proponents of enforcement will be the visa holders themselves. If I paid $4,000 for a visa, I’d be damned if I’d let my employer hire someone who got in for free.

          Again, it comes down to the number of visas. If they cover the market, then the dynamics will insure compliance. On other hand, if the number of visas are insufficient, then you would have a mixed number of visa and non-visa holders working, as has been the case forever. (There are plenty of agricultural workers in the US on legal visas, even now. There just aren’t enough visas, so employers round out their needs from the black market.)

          In any event, if the numbers of visas are adequate, then the visa holders themselves will drive compliance. Further, employers will also tend to comply. If getting a visa is easy and quick, have your worker get one on the spot. If he can’t get a visa, you’re on notice that there is some other kind of problem with this person.

      2. Steven Kopits

        So, in this model, the US sets the volume of visas, the Mexicans set the price. It is market-clearing and therefore there is no excess by definition.

        Now, finding the market-clearing level is a bit of art, but we have history on this. Basically, history shows that US employers will take what they can get legally, and source the rest from the black market. This is a knowable number, and certainly you can work your way to the appropriate level by iteration. (All these visas would be <1 year, and I am guessing the average tenor would be three months. It would be possible to tighten and loosen quite visa volumes and conditions quickly as necessary.)

        Mexicans in the black market are typically in jobs that are, as I write, too hard, too menial or too distasteful for Americans. Many of these jobs would be exported. We don't make sandals or shirts or lawn chairs in the US anymore, because these are too low value-added jobs for our economy.

        Working in food processing is similar. Have you ever been in a poultry processing plant? It is really unpleasant work. If we take the Mexicans out of those Alabama facilities, then those facilities will move to foreign countries and we will import our chicken, just like we import our TVs. So we can import our labor or import our chicken. If we import our labor, then about 85% of the value-added stays in the US (the balance being remittances); and about 60% goes to Americans (the remainder in wages to Mexican laborers). If we instead import the goods, then almost all the value will be exported Take your pick.

        (I'd add that the Dreamers do not compete in this segment. They are one step up, so if you want to claim competition from Mexicans, the competitors are rightly the Dreamers, not their parents.)

        Black markets inflict horrendous ancillary costs. For example, I encourage you to watch the Frontline episode from 2015 (re-aired last night, coincidentally) called 'Rape on the Night Shift', detailing sexual abusive of female janitorial workers. The vast majority of this arises from illegal status of these workers. They have little recourse to the law as they fear deportation and therefore have to endure, in many cases, repeated raping. This can only have gotten worse under Trump.

        I could go on and on listing the veritable atrocities arising from IRCA. The vast majority of these can be eliminated virtually overnight with a legalized, market-based system.

        As for the 'success' of the war on drugs and Prohibition: Last year, the US saw more than 64,000 opioid deaths. Is that success as you see it? And if I believe Vox, most of these arise from the war itself. Here's how I understand the dynamics: people get hooked on prescription opioids and migrate to heroin when their prescription runs out–because heroin is cheaper than cigarettes. (That's success, Peak!)

        But here's the kicker. Heroin is being cut with fentanyl. Fentanyl is cheaper than heroin, and it's 50 times more powerful. Therefore, adding just 2% fentanyl to heroin will double its potency. Just 8% fentanyl, and it's 5x more potent. Often, the purchasers of heroin — who take heroin in their own customary doses — are unaware that they are using something much more powerful, resulting in overdoses and deaths.

        If heroin and fentanyl were legal and regulated (or at least heroin), then the rate of addiction would probably be somewhat higher, but the rate of death by overdose far lower. The very illegality of these drugs is the driver of morbidity.

        Now, I am profoundly unhappy about legalizing even marijuana. I absolutely don't like it. But that's not the point. The point is identifying the policy with the lesser negative effects. And here's the bottom line: Black markets are profoundly destructive and have negative impacts that spread far beyond the ostensible problem at hand. The rapes of women janitors — typically illegal migrants — are a direct result of US immigration policy.

        So, you may think that drug policy was a success, but when heroin is cheaper and more readily available than prescription drugs, and when more people are dying annually from drug overdoses than died fighting in Vietnam in total, I am hard pressed to agree with you.

        1. PeakTrader

          You didn’t answer my questions. Using your analogy, in your article, what if the marginal price is too high for a seat on open borders airlines? What will others waiting for a flight do? You made flights on coyote airlines much cheaper – why wouldn’t they catch a flight with them? The War on Drugs wasn’t about prescription drugs – it reduced demand more than supply of illegal drugs, which is why heroin prices are lower. Legalizing and regulating drugs would increase demand and not eliminate the black market – it would increase social costs much more than any revenue.

          1. PeakTrader

            If you look at actual data, rather than the propaganda saturated on the internet by libertarians, drug users, and lazy writers, you’ll find the War on Drugs has been a huge success.

            “The rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly one-third the rate it was in the late ’70s. More recently, there has been a 40 percent drop in current cocaine use and meth use has dropped by half.”



          2. PeakTrader

            With limited visas at market prices, you may extract more money from poor immigrants, but that doesn’t seem to be a good idea. And, it doesn’t solve the demand problem, particularly with weaker border enforcement. We need to tighten border security, and increase the penalty for illegal border crossings and visa overstays – we need to spend more money on enforcement. Using 1990s data, we spent $20 billion a year on the War on Drugs to prevent and reduce $300 billion a year in social costs – we need to spend more, including on rehabilitation.

          3. Steven Kopits

            I did answer it.

            Historically, US employers will source Mexican labor legally to the extent it is available. They will source the remainder from the black market. That’s true today, and has always been true.

            If we don’t have enough visas, then the visas available will be sold at whatever market value they have, and the remainder of the jobs will be filled form the black market, as they are today.

            There are two or three good reasons why we would want enough visas to cover the market. For example, with a sufficient number of visas, we can drive the bad apples out of the US by depriving them of employment opportunities. If we cover only half the market with visas, then bad apples — let’s say a murderer on the run — could still obtain employment in the black half of the market. In any event, as I have stated, the key is to find the market-clearing number of visas. That is entirely feasible on an iterative basis, just a breweries figured out how much beer to produce after the end of Prohibition.

          4. Steven Kopits

            “The rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly one-third the rate it was in the late ’70s. More recently, there has been a 40 percent drop in current cocaine use and meth use has dropped by half.”

            There are supply-side interventions and demand-side interventions. I am certainly not opposed to demand-side intervention. We can identify a demand-side intervention if 1) demand is falling and 2) the price of the illicit good is low. This is true, for example, of sweetened sodas where consumption has fallen even as prices have remained low. It is also true for crime rates in general and teenage births, and not only for drugs. Society is changing — but keep in mind these changes may be directly linked to demographics and a slowing GDP growth rate.

            If we were speaking of supply-side intervention, then we would expect to see reduced consumption behind extremely high prices for illicit drugs. The war on drugs has been primarily, to my view, about interdicting supply — the analog of building the wall. As prices for illicit drugs are running near historical lows, we are left to conclude that supply-side interventions have largely failed.

            I would add that 64,000 opioid deaths, to my mind, makes a mockery of the notion that the war on drugs has been a success. If that’s success, what does failure look like to you?

            I’d also note in that CATO study that marijuana use does indeed tend to rise with liberalization–but it doesn’t go crazy and remains far below alcohol use. At the same time, we can see teenage marijuana use declining in certain states. So it’s a mixed bag–and that’s exactly the point of the CATO report. Let me add that I think this study is excellent. https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa799.pdf

            Finally, migrant labor is not comparable to illicit drugs in very important respects. We are talking about letting in berry pickers, hotel maids and day laborers doing jobs that Americans don’t want to do. They are a credit to the economy, unlike the drug trade. I have used the comparison because both are involved in black markets. Migrant laborers, however, are coming to help us, not hurt us.

          5. Steven Kopits

            “And, it doesn’t solve the demand problem, particularly with weaker border enforcement.”

            I have not called for weaker border enforcement. Just the opposite.

            In the current system, we are comingling ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘gray’ migrants coming over the border. Indeed, the current system is actively converting white to gray migrants.

            As the system stands, about 80,000 migrants are trying to cross every month, of which about 40,000 are getting through. Of this 40,000, let’s say 3% are hardcore bad guys. Another 10-20% are situational bad guys. Today, the coyote business is dominated by the Mexican drug cartels, and these drug cartels may well require migrants to carry drugs as mules. Thus, rather than facing 3% of crossers involved in the drug trade, the Border Patrol may be facing 15-25% of the crossers involved in the drug trade, because that’s simply how the system sets up.

            If we can channel the white and gray portions of the market to official crossing points, we can eliminate that 10-20% of the situation drug trade because they can’t be coerced into carrying drugs. If I can enter the US at will for a fee, then drug cartels have no leverage on me to force me to carry drugs for them. On the other hand, if I am crossing in the desert, then the cartel guide can say, “You have to carry 40 lbs of pot across the border or you can die here in the desert.” Obviously, the migrants are going to carry the drugs.

            Therefore, as it stands, the Border Patrol is chasing 80,000 people a month, of which, say, 2,500 are genuine bad guys, and another 8,000-16,000 are bad guys because of immigration policy. And they have to chase yet another 60,000 men and women who are landscapers and hotel maids. And they have to chase all of them equally, because they can’t tell which is which. It’s an impossible task, and the reason I felt my forecast for a doubling illegal immigration in 2018 looked supportable.

            Now, in the proposed system, 40,000 of the 80,000 don’t bother to try to come to the US, because the price of the visa is not attractive. There just aren’t enough attractive employment opportunities to warrant the visa fee and the trip to the US.

            Of the other 40,000, 37,500 will cross at official border crossings at their leisure. The remaining 2,500 bad guys will want to use the desert. But now, there is no place to hide. Border Patrol will assume anyone coming through the desert is a bad guy, and will take action accordingly. So will, say Arizona state and local police and Arizona citizens. In this case, we can bring the full force of Border Patrol to bear on just these 2,500 bad guys, of which perhaps half will decide that there has to be a better way.

            Thus, we are left with, say, 1,500 bad guys crossers a month, and this should reduce the flow of drugs across the desert by perhaps 80-90%. (But don’t get too happy. The drugs will find another route.)

            So, far from calling for weaker enforcement, I am calling for much stronger enforcement–but using a different structural approach.

  7. PeakTrader

    Steven Kopits, your reply to my question seems irrelevant. Say, there is a limit of 100 visas or with unlimited visas, the 101st visa is too expensive at the marginal market price. What will the other 1,000 or 10,000 people, who want to enter the country, do? You don’t want a Wall and you want to reduce the 17,000 border agents substantially. Don’t you believe that makes it easier and cheaper to enter the country illegally?

    And, regarding the War on Drugs, my 1990s estimates are conservative. Studies show when drugs are perceived as safe, or are decriminalized or legalized, drug use increases. If the rate of drug use continued after the War on Drugs began, that would be a failure. However, the War on Drugs stopped it and reversed it. Don’t know why you keep confusing prescription drug abuse with the War on Drugs.

    1. Steven Kopits

      “Say, there is a limit of 100 visas or with unlimited visas, the 101st visa is too expensive at the marginal market price. What will the other 1,000 or 10,000 people, who want to enter the country, do?”

      Migrants come for the jobs. That’s a central assumption of the entire approach, and I think reasonably supported by the evidence. If there are enough visas to cover the jobs, then migrants will buy visas at whatever the market price is, because the price is set literally by the marginal migrant. It’s an ordinary market.

      If there are not enough visas, some migrants will come in by border jumping–just as they do today.

      The point is, if there aren’t jobs, they won’t come. That’s the entire lesson of the Great Recession and consistent with the entire record of illegal immigration, certainly since 1990. If the visas cover the jobs, then there is no incentive to come to the US, if someone is coming for a job–as long as a visa has a positive value. And I think we can a agree that a US work visa is worth at least $0.01 no matter what.

      If they are political refugees, or students, or want to emigrate to the US, or are just crazy to live in LA no matter what the economics, then those people will not necessarily respond to — and certainly do no belong in — a market-based work visa program. I am not attempting to change or disrupt any US immigration program beyond work visas, in this case, specifically H-2As. Indeed, you could run this program parallel to the current H-2A system if you wanted to.

      You’re assuming Mexicans come to the US willy-nilly. They don’t. Coming to the US is expensive, dangerous and uncertain. I think Mexicans come when they get a call from their cousin Hector working at a Tyson plant in Alabama who says they need 30 more guys at $12 / hour. Come on over–it’s lots better than Mexico. That’s how I think the system works. It is demand — not supply — driven. That’s the lesson of the Great Recession, and the historical track record of immigration flows if you check the data. Mexicans come when there is work.

  8. Steven Kopits

    “Don’t know why you keep confusing prescription drug abuse with the War on Drugs.”

    As I understand it, the 64,000 opioid deaths are primarily the result of fentanyl-laced heroin. Both of those are high priority drugs in the war. Heroin is cheaper than a pack of cigarettes or black market pain killers.

    You’re arguing that opioid deaths, heroin, and fentanyl don’t count in the war on drugs. You’re saying black market pain killers are not part of the war on drugs. OK, fine, but we’re going to disagree on this matter.

  9. Steven Kopits

    As for the Wall.

    I am saying we can reduce crossings in the desert by 97% with a work visa program.

    Why would I build a wall to stop 50 people a day? It’s not the Middle Ages. A wall is not interdiction. It is delay. A thirty foot wall will not stop any prepared and determined person from getting over, under or through it. At best, it can delay the transit until the Border Patrol arrives.

    Today, we have satellites, drones, tracking aircraft, ground sensors, you name it. The point is to be able to interdict faster than jumpers can cross. We can do that with a forward-deployed (in Mexico) sensor network, a non-wall barrier to slow vehicles, and fast attack helicopters.

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