Reducing Illegal Immigration

  • January 29, 2024
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Jeffrey Miron

What policies, if any, can reduce the flow of illegal immigration?

The libertarian answer is expanded legal immigration. Libertarians believe this would benefit the United States, the sending countries, and the immigrants.

The more popular answer is roughly the opposite: stricter bans on immigration via guards or border walls.

Numerous examples, however, suggest that banning something (drugs, guns, prostitution, abortion) has only a modest impact on its prevalence.

Thus, without expanding legal immigration, the US can only curtail illegal immigration by reducing the demand to migrate here.

Fortunately, the US has two options that fit the bill. The first is repealing the War on Drugs, which is responsible for much of the violence in Latin America. Absent this chaos, fewer people would attempt to migrate.

The second is the elimination of trade restrictions against Latin America (and other countries). This would raise wages and improve economic conditions south of the border, again reducing the flow of migrants.

Happily, both policies make sense independent of immigration policy. Two “win‐​win” options, if we only have the sense to adopt them.

This article appeared on Substack on January 29, 2024.