Why Immigration Quotas Are Bad for America

June 6, 2018

by Jonathan Decker


Yesterday, Politico reported that a discharge petition filed by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) is now only 3 signatures away from forcing a House vote on DACA. For our economy’s sake, let’s hope they obtain those final signatures fast.

A strange cognitive dissonance exists among members of the Right on the subject of immigration. Republicans tend to attack policies such as price controls and import quotas for their arbitrary nature, and they often mock the “infinite wisdom” the government feigns to have when they dictate terms in the marketplace.

Yet somehow, conservatives too often fall into the trap of believing a government which is inept at running the post office, Amtrak, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, is somehow expert at determining the appropriate supply of workers at any given time. Like our import allotment for sugar, immigration is just another arbitrary government quota.

To put it more bluntly: I have the same desire to cap the number of people who can work in the United States as I do to cap the number of people who can work in New York City.

Would New York be the richest city in the world if its government placed extreme limits on the number of people who could migrate there in proportion to market demand? Imagine these limits compounded over years or even decades.

As the iconic Henry Hazlitt wrote in Economics in One Lesson, “What is harmful or disastrous to an individual must be equally harmful or disastrous to the collection of individuals that make up a nation.” Related back to my example, a policy that would be harmful to New York City (i.e. capping the number of workers) would clearly be harmful to our country.

America, it’s time to legalize work.

For those who wrongly believe immigrants are a net-drain on the economy — there’s a future column in the works for you. But in order to avoid biting off too much at once, I’ll end this article with a final anecdote.

Perhaps the most common argument I hear against DACA is (paraphrasing) “when my parents/grandparents/great grandparents immigrated to America, they did it the right way.”

Next time someone makes that argument to you, please ask this follow up question: How long did it take them to get a visa?

When I asked my grandfather, who immigrated from Switzerland in 1947 aboard the Marine Falcon, he said it took him “probably two or three months” to obtain his.

While circumstances (even back then) differ based on when one immigrates to America and which country they are coming from, it is worth noting that today it takes many 5 to 10 years to get a visa. Suffice it to say: many who came in the “right way,” like my grandfather, did not experience a wait time remotely comparable to that.

If ones ancestors were told it would take them a decade to come to America, might they have chosen to enter the “wrong way” too?

In a land of such incredible opportunity and prosperity, who would blame them?


Jonathan Decker is the Chief Economic Correspondent for TheNationalPulse.com.

Archive: Jonathan Decker