A Rational Policy for Immigration

by Daniel Q. Kelley


American civilization is worth defending. It is characterized by:

  • The freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights.
  • The implied responsibilities = acceptance of the rule of law.
  • Economic opportunity.
  • Economic prosperity.

Immigrants are more than welcome when they contribute to the above, as they obviously have in the past. Our first responsibility, however, is to our fellow citizens. As Patrick Buchanan says: this is a nation, not an economy. Every adult citizen who wants to work should be able to earn enough to support a family, and not just a small one. The mantra that citizens do not want to do the jobs that immigrants do begs the questions: At what pay? Who can raise a family in dignity at $5 per hour, which is $10,000 per year? It is becoming increasingly clear, as Paul Craig Roberts and others have discussed, that low-skilled immigrants, esp. illegals, depress the wages of all workers. Those most adversely affected are, ironically, Hispanics who have been residents (legal and illegal) for only a few years.


America needs a young and growing population in order to, as a minimum, defend itself and maintain its standard of living (especially that of its seniors). How many immigrants should we allow to be part of that growing population? I don’t know. But it’s possible to make a useful if not precise calculation of the numbers and types of immigrants that America can and should annually invite to be residents and citizens in order for us to realize the above principles.


  • We must control our borders in order to maintain the rule of law, to keep out terrorists, and to stop being a laughing stock.
  • Unfortunately, we need a national ID card to identify legal residents and citizens.
  • We have to enforce our existing labor laws, placing the onus on employers rather than on the poor people who make such sacrifices to come to this country. If there were stiff penalties for hiring illegals and not paying the minimum wage, the flow of illegals would dry up in a few years. We should not, and need not, round up all illegals and deport them.
  • But we should spend the money to hunt and expel the few who are criminals (aside from being illegals) and free loaders. There should be no government services for illegals. An exception is emergency health care, but after treating illegals, we should deport them.
  • Periodically we need to adjust the flow of immigration and, probably, the minimum wage. Econometrics can present the tradeoffs among the five important factors: growth in GDP, employment of current residents, level of the minimum wage, number of immigrants, and skills of immigrants. There is a non-economic consideration: for a given number and profile of existing immigrants and proposed new ones, how well are the latter likely to assimilate—and help the existing first and second generation immigrants assimilate? The Congress should debate the tradeoffs among all these factors and set policies on them every few years.
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