Daniel J. Mitchell
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I’ve been peppered with all sorts of questions about immigration this week. Many of them deal with the Heritage Foundation study, including the “dynamic scoring” issue and Jason Richwine’s resignation.

I’m also getting asked about other aspects of this debate, ranging from the desirability of a border fence to what I think about skills-based immigration vs. family-reunification immigration.

The short answer to just about every question is that I don’t know. I’ve never studied the issue and I’m not knowledgeable enough to give competent answers. As I remarked in my one interview on the subject, I like immigration but want people coming to America for opportunity rather than welfare.

Not exactly bold stuff, I realize. Heck, everyone from John McCain to Jeff Sessions presumably would be willing to publicly endorse those sentiments.

But I don’t want to dodge the issue completely, and one reader posed a question that got me thinking. She asked me to name the strongest arguments for and against amnesty.

I won’t pretend that these are the strongest arguments, but I will tell you the arguments that I find most compelling.

The most compelling argument for amnesty is that it’s a recognition of reality. Simply stated, the illegals are already here, any kids born in the US already are citizens, and there’s no practical way of getting any of them to leave. What’s the point of pretending otherwise?

I realize that’s a very practical argument, which distinguishes me from some fellow libertarians who make the moral case that people shouldn’t be constrained by government-imposed borders. But that argument doesn’t sweep me off my feet since it implies that everybody in the world has a right to come to the United States.

The most compelling argument against amnesty is that it will make America more statist. I’m not an expert on voting patterns, but I think it’s safe to assume that immigrants will have below-average incomes for the foreseeable future and that they generally will be likely – once they get voting rights – to support politicians who want to make America more like Europe. I’m 99.99 percent confident that this thought has crossed Chuck Schumer’s mind.

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Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.