Congress should create a new Don’t Restrict Immigration, Tax It (DRITI) visa that would be available to most foreign‐born adults with restrictions based on current inadmissibility criteria concerning public safety and health. DRITI visa applicants would have to pay modest deposits equal to the cost of removal. Deposits would be placed in DRITI accounts, which would have two special rules: no withdrawals except by account holders physically present in their countries of citizenship and no withdrawals that bring the balance below the initial deposit except with the surrender of the DRITI visa. Destitute DRITI immigrants would then, instead of welfare, have a right to be sent home at the cost of sacrificing their DRITI deposits and retiring their DRITI visas.
The deposit requirement would exclude some poor people. But it would not create an incentive to immigrate illegally, because a DRITI deposit would usually be much less than the financial, let alone opportunity, cost of illegal entry and would be reimbursable in the immigrant’s home country if he returned permanently. In this way, a DRITI visa could be expected to practically eliminate adult illegal immigration because virtually all foreigners aspiring to enter the United States would prefer to come using a DRITI visa rather than illegally. Moreover, the natural punishment for illegal immigration would be less drastic and consequently easier to implement. Illegal immigrants, if caught, could be fined and issued DRITI visas. Employers who now employ illegal immigrants would employ DRITI immigrants instead.
Once in America, DRITI immigrants would be as limited as lawful permanent residents in their activities. They could work, get driver’s licenses, and otherwise freely participate in the American economy and society as well as enjoy the protection of their rights by the government. But they would not be able to officially participate in civic life through voting or other political activities, serving on juries, or receiving federal public assistance.
Most importantly, DRITI immigrants would be subject to two special taxes and charges in addition to their current taxes:
- 20 percent of their pay would be withheld from each paycheck and sent to the federal government as a DRITI tax.
- Another 20 percent of their pay would be withheld and deposited in their DRITI accounts.
DRITI accounts would encourage DRITI immigrants to maintain ties with their home countries and/or eventually return there with capital to invest. The funds in a DRITI account would promote international development and incentivize DRITI immigrants to return home lawfully. But DRITI accounts could also serve as a pathway to citizenship. If an account reaches a certain value, say $80,000, the DRITI immigrant could trade it for a green card and the chance to eventually naturalize. This is earning citizenship since, after the initial deposit, only withheld wages could be deposited in DRITI accounts. Those who assimilate into American culture would tend to stay and naturalize, while those just wanting wealth would tend to go home.
DRITI immigrants would also pay income, payroll, property, and all other taxes like citizens do, with income after DRITI withholding serving as the income tax base. However, they would be ineligible for refundable tax credits. Like many illegal immigrants today, they would pay Social Security payroll taxes without becoming entitled to benefits. Generally, DRITI immigrants would probably keep about $0.50 per $1.00 of earnings.
DRITI revenues would be huge. Gallup polls indicate that 150 million people or so would immigrate to the United States without any immigration restrictions.104 In the long run, other estimation techniques in economic models suggest that a billion or more immigrants would come under a regime of pure open borders over a very long time.105 DRITI taxes would dramatically lower those estimates by charging a price. As a back‐of‐the‐envelope calculation, I assume that 45 million DRITI immigrants could arrive within the first 10 years, with labor force participation rates of 65–70 percent and average wages of $30,000 per year. Without changing any other laws, that would translate to $180 billion in extra revenue from DRITI taxes per year, plus more from the surrendered DRITI accounts of those who become citizens and more still from currently existing taxes. Tax revenues would increase dramatically as more DRITI immigrants arrive.