Trump's Immigration Policies: My Default Reaction
By Bryan Caplan
Vox voxplains leaked drafts of Trump’s executive orders on immigration. Reading the fine print, it’s not as bad as I’d expect, but of course this is only the beginning. The Vox analysis seems careful, except for this:
Libertarians sometimes suggest “building a wall around
the welfare state” instead of the country — restricting access to public
benefits to US citizens. This executive order proposes that President
Trump, who’s already building a wall around the country, build one
around the welfare state as well.
Legal immigrants currently get access to some public
benefits in some circumstances. But the federal government can bar
someone from coming to the US, or from becoming a permanent resident, if
there’s any evidence he or she will become a “public charge.”
When libertarians like me or Alex Nowrasteh advocate building a “wall around the welfare state,” we absolutely do not mean “exclude foreigners likely to use public benefits.” We mean “admit them, but don’t give them public benefits.” Trump’s order does precisely the opposite, and it’s rather unfair to hint that libertarians provide any intellectual inspiration for what he’s doing.
Looking forward, the short-run best case scenario for immigration is that Trump writes a vast number of largely symbolic and easily evaded orders to create the impression of nativist activism. The bad scenario is that he makes repeal of the Glorious Lasting Accidental Liberalization of 1965 one of his top three legislative priorities. Why? Because this would probably lock in sharply lower immigration for a generation or more. The 1965 act liberalized immigration by accident, and the awesome results have never been popular. If it were repealed, I seriously doubt the Democrats would dare to reinstate it the next time they regain power. But frankly, Trump seems too mercurial and myopic to care about fundamentals, so I only give this scenario a one-in-three chance.
In the social media age, observers tend to equate silence with approval, or at least disinterest. At least in my case, you shouldn’t. By default, please assume I think all of Trump’s immigration policies are terrible. But I won’t be blogging about the latest immigration news unless I can also provide some novel analysis – or someone proposes a bet.