Monday, April 22, 2002

Immigration auction???

The following ideas/questions are meant to stimulate discussion about US immigration policy. The questions do not necessarily reflect what I think a fair and principled immigration policy should be, but I am interested in what response these questions might get.

Imagine that the a law was passed that created an auction for 120,000 additional annual legal immigrants to the U.S. (in addition to those currently permitted by the system). People from all over the world were allowed to bid, with the top bidders awarded legal immigrant status (presuming they do not have a criminal record, etc.) In order to give people an additional incentive to bid high, imagine the top 10,000 bidders were allowed in immediately, the next 10,000 in one month's time, etc.

It has been reported on that Chinese would-be immigrants have paid as much as $60,000, endured great suffering, and risked death for the chance to live in the U.S. illegally. That would suggest, obviously, that much higher bids would likely be made in the proposed auction for legal status (I don't think 120,000 is so large a number relative to those who would seek to immigrate to the U.S. that the price would be lower than that currently payed to the snakeheads. I would think there would be demand from China alone for many more than 120,000 places.)

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the average price for each immigrant status is $100,000 (Would anyone bid $1 million--perhaps as a symbolic gesture?) That would raise $12 billion annually, which could be used in any number of worthy ways. (Feel free to argue that my average price estimate is way off, either too high or too low...)

Again, I am *not* arguing that adding this auction to our current immigration policy is an ideal solution. But isn't it better than our current policy absent the auction? Who loses from the addition of the auction (other than the snakeheads)? Would the fact that people from around the world are willing to bid such large sums for the right to live and work in the U.S. make Americans value their citizenship more highly?

Also note that I am not the first to suggest such an idea. I am not claiming this is a novel or brilliant idea, but I am just looking to stir the pot (the melting pot...) a little.