Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A FEDERALIST APPROACH TO IMMIGRATION

Good job, Colorado:

State lawmakers approved a measure late Monday that would force a million people receiving state or federal aid to verify their citizenship, part of a package of bills dealing with illegal immigration that Democrats called the toughest in the nation.

The measure would deny most non-emergency state benefits to illegal immigrants 18 years old and older — forcing people to prove legal residency when applying for benefits or renewing their eligibility. The measure passed the state Senate 22-13 and the House 48-15. Both are controlled by Democrats.


It's a good idea to deprive immigrants of all taxpayer-funded benefits, to make sure that immigration is a fiscal positive, and to dispel the myth that immigrants generally (as opposed to a tiny minority of them) are parasitic.

More generally, it might be a good idea for social policy regarding immigrants to be left largely to the states:

At least 30 states have passed laws or taken other steps this year to crack down on illegal immigrants, often making it harder for undocumented workers to find jobs or receive public services.

Acting while Congress struggles to set policy regarding the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, states have enacted at least 57 laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and a USA TODAY analysis. Among major themes of the state legislation: fining businesses that hire undocumented workers and denying such companies public contracts if they don't verify the legal status of employees.

"The trends ... have leaned toward the punitive side," says Ann Morse, an immigration expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The No. 1 topic has been employment in terms of deterring employers and employees."


That way, states where opposition to illegal immigration is strong can adopt more nativist labor-market policies, while more dynamic states can take a more libertarian approach. States can play a "laboratories of democracy" role, and later on, social scientists can see which approaches worked better. States and cities, being closer to voters, are in a better position to evaluate the externalities associated with immigration.

This is not to say that I personally approve (morally, that is) of anti-immigrationism even at the state level. But it does less harm there than at the federal level.

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