Immigration: Government Can Only Regulate Legal Markets

Details about the Boston bombers are surfacing by the minute, but many opponents of immigration reform are already using it as an excuse to oppose reform. There is no reason to assume that continuing the status quo immigration policy will prevent future terrorist attacks.

Legalizing the peaceful and otherwise law-abiding unauthorized immigrants here will allow law enforcement to focus on legitimate national security and crime threats. It is more costly for the government to weed out criminals and national security threats when there is such a large and relatively peaceful unauthorized immigrant population. Shrinking the size of that immigrant black market quickly and cheaply through responsible legalization, and allowing more immigration of workers in the future, will channel scarce government resources toward legitimate security and criminal screenings and away from enforcing economic protectionism. Every minute that a government official currently spends raiding workplaces and checking whether immigrants will affect the wages of technology workers or Washington lawyers is a waste.

Removing peaceful people from the immigration black market and channeling future immigrants into a legal system—after security, criminal, and health checks—is likely to increase safety, not diminish it. The number of permitted immigrants should be determined based on the demands of the market, not the whims of politcs. The government should shed its economic protectionist role in immigration enforcement and instead devote its resources to weeding out the terrorist and criminal needles in an otherwise peaceful and productive haystack.