The key elements of Rand Paul’s immigration plan: a) securing the border, b) expanded high-skill, entrepreneur visas with total numbers determined by a bipartisan panel, c) no national ID card or mandatory E-Verify, and d) a route to legalization for illegal immigrants.
I guess that last point is particularly controversial because of Paul’s Tea Party support. But what really struck me is that aside from rejecting both the national ID card “forcing businesses to become policemen,” the Paul plan doesn’t seem to be very libertarian. While he wants more immigration, his path to legalization is more restrictionist than Marco Rubio’s path to citizenship for illegals. Plus it seems overly bureaucratic and political for a libertarian. Look at this elegant pro-market plan from economist Gary Becker which really reduces the role of government:
For many years I have argued that the best way to reform America’s (and other countries’) immigration policy would be to allow all immigrants to enter if they can pay a given monetary fee. For illustrative purposes I have used the figure of $50,000, but the actual fee would be set by the supply of immigrants and America’s willingness to accept immigrants.
Loan programs should and would be developed by companies, and also by the federal government, that would allow immigrants to borrow much of the money needed to pay the immigration admission fee. Immigrants would repay these “immigration loans” over time from the higher earnings here compared to their earnings in their countries of origin. There could be scholarships and discounts on the fees for particularly desirable immigrants, but the fee structure should not be made too complicated.
This approach of using immigration entrance fees would not only make overall immigration policy more sensible, but it would also go some way toward resolving the illegal immigration question. Immigrants who have been in the United States for a long time, and have done reasonably well and are raising families, hate living under the cloud and opprobrium of being here illegally. Many, probably most, of them would be eager to buy their right to citizenship by paying even sizable fees, especially if loans are available to help finance these fees.
Paul’s outspoken libertarian beliefs are really what make him interesting as a national political figure. His immigration plan seems like a missed opportunity to advance the argument.