Bryan Caplan  

The Value of the Right of Legal Entry Into the U.S.

PRINT
Politics and Tribalism... Immigration and Crime: Tell Me...
If you let the U.S. deport you "voluntarily," you retain the right to legally enter again at a later time.  For some people, of course, this is an important right.  For most people facing deportation, though, the right of legal entry simply isn't worth much.  Here's why.

The overwhelming majority of people the U.S. deports are from Latin America.  Since they're low-skilled, it's almost impossible for them to legally immigrate unless they already have close relatives in the U.S.  More shockingly, though, it's almost impossible for low-skilled Latin Americans to get legal permission even to visit the United States.  Here's how the U.S. State Department explains its approach:

The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
  • That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
  • That they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
If you know a way for a poor Mexican agricultural worker to meet this burden of proof, I'd like to hear it.

But if the legal right to return to the U.S. is such a tiny carrot, why do so many people accept "voluntary" deportation?  The main reason, I'll warrant, is that they'd rather just go home than await the American kangaroo court at the end of the line.  Sigh.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (11 to date)
sumtya writes:

Even for highly skilled people, the stress is enormous. The amount of time and effort people take, sometimes several weeks, looking for and organizing documents that help overcome beyond any doubt the presumption of immigrant intent is breath-taking. The mental preparation for a stressful and hostile visa/passport control interview is comparable to what goes into preparing for a major examination.

In India and presumably other countries that send a large number of visitors as well as immigrants to the US, there is a large industry that caters to such preparation - from selling folders and organizers for neat arrangement of easily accessible paperwork, to coaching for overcoming presumption of immigant intent, practice interviews and training in presence of mind.

If highly skilled, sometimes internationally accomplished individuals face this plight, yes, a Mexican agricultural worker has no chance.

8 writes:

The State Department is forced to act an immigration enforcement because ICE and the other departments aren't allowed to do their jobs. Putting aside theory for reality, if the United States cracked down on illegal immigration, the State Department could issue a lot more travel visas. Millions of foreigners are not allowed to visit or study in America because of illegal immigration.

John Thacker writes:

Similar qualifications exist for student visas. If you're coming to get a university or graduate degree, you must also show that:

  • Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
  • Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
  • Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study.

@8:

Your airy theory is divorced from reality. As Bryan demonstrated, using real figures instead of your theories unsupported by facts, there has been a crackdown on illegal immigration in recent years, and we have seen no increase in legal visa.

8 writes:

That's not a crackdown, that's like the police force doing a few SWAT raids and claiming their winning the war on drugs. Numbers matter, the number of illegals is estimated to be well over 10 million. When it looks like the illegal population is headed towards zero (not that it will ever get there), then there will be something like a credible enforcement policy in place.

Go read a State Department website for a foreign embassy. A Chinese, for example, must provide evidence that they do not intend to stay in the country, by proving "strong ties" to their home country. State Department treats tourist and student visa applicants as if they intend to be permanent residents.

8 writes:

By the way, the theory I meant is Bryan's position on immigration. Even if I agreed with him, I don't think it's remotely politically feasible. The choice is whether to the foreign population is comprised mostly of legal immigrants, students and tourists who apply through embassies, or immigrants, workers and students who cross illegally.

PrometheeFeu writes:

I think Bryan there are a number of other issues. First, legal processes are very high stress situations and are profoundly depressing. You rapidly realize that you are facing this gigantic machinery which can crush you with little thought and no remorse. You realize that you have to deal regularly with a bunch of uniformed thugs whose role is to destroy your life. There is also a good chance that you will have to spend some time in prison. Furthermore, you probably are terrified at the possibility of returning to your job since immigration officials might come and arrest you there. Can you imagine the humiliation of being arrested in front of your co-workers? So you basically have lost your income at that point. Finally, as I understand it, deportees are charged for the costs of implementing their deportation which reminds me of the Chinese practice of charging the price of the bullet to the family of executees. At that point, you might as well leave the country on your own terms having the time to say your goodbyes to friends and family.

Quite honestly, this country's immigration policy is despicable and it's time it changed. When it comes to immigration policies, the old adage is reversed. The Republicans stab you in the front while the Democrats stab you in the back. As Bryan pointed out, while Bush was quite happy to put up a wall at the border and increase border patrols, Obama and Clinton were quite willing to kick people out breaking up families and condemning people to poverty despite all their speak of Dream Act and "path to citizenship". I suppose it's a mistake to ever trust a liar.

John Thacker writes:

But 8, your position is purely a theory, whereas in reality there has been a crackdown resulting in no actual extra slots. Your theory is not politically possible either, IMO. It turns out that cracking down on immigration results in doing so for all forms.

It appears that you're the dreamer with a politically infeasible dream.

ThomasL writes:

Given how easy it is to overstay a visa, their basic direction makes some sense.

Now, you could object to the entire concept of a visa, but if they made it easy-as-pie for anyone that asked for a visa to get one, why wouldn't people use it as a cheap way to immigrate?

After all, for the vast majority of illegal immigrants, the hardest part is getting here, not staying here.

I know you would prefer open borders, and I think there are some interesting argument to be made for open borders. But if you have closed borders, it makes no sense to have an "open" visa, or to complain that the lack of an "open" visa is a flaw.

Nathan Smith writes:

Thanks for highlighting the contradictions between the integrity of the legal system and the crazed social-engineering vision of the government controlling who enters.

You can have (a) the rule of law, or (b) migration controls. Not both. Take your choice.

To put it another way, migration controls are an existential threat to American freedom. We've created a monster. One of these days, it may turn on us.

8 writes:

John, think of it this way. The American public will accept 15 million immigrants. If the current legal immigration population is 10 million and the illegal immigrant population is 15 million, there will be no new slots until more than 10 million illegal immigrants leave.

However, there is the added problem of unemployment. Adding more immigration will be unpopular and remain that way for years to come. So coupled with the current policy that is far out of line with popular sentiment, I anticipate a shutdown of immigration and deportation of most illegal immigrants will be on the table, if not the official policy, within a few years.

Evan writes:

@ThomasL

I know you would prefer open borders, and I think there are some interesting argument to be made for open borders. But if you have closed borders, it makes no sense to have an "open" visa, or to complain that the lack of an "open" visa is a flaw.
It's a little dangerous to suggest that any time a government adopts a policy it has to follow through with it to its utmost, no matter how harmful that policy is. The same type of argument could have been used back in the 1850s to support the Fugitive Slave Act (this is not to suggest migration controls and their advocates are nearly as bad as slavery or slavers, it's just the first example to come to mind).

@Nathan Smith

Thanks for highlighting the contradictions between the integrity of the legal system and the crazed social-engineering vision of the government controlling who enters.....
To put it another way, migration controls are an existential threat to American freedom. We've created a monster. One of these days, it may turn on us.
I've pointed out before that most of the welfare state is a threat to our freedom, if we adopt the logic that any behavior that increases your odds of using welfare state services ought to be regulated. Migration controls, fast food police, smoking bans, mandatory seatbelt laws, they're all just the tip of the iceberg.

Once you start thinking of your fellow human beings as burdens, and start thinking that any time they impose a greater burden on you that you have a right to take away their freedom, there's nowhere to stop.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top