David Brooks of the New York Times has a plan that will finally—finally!!—end America’s decades-long, ongoing, never-ending immigration crisis. Hallelujah! Someone has finally come up with a “comprehensive immigration plan” that will resolve America’s immigration woes. If only Brooks had come up with it sooner.
In his Times column last week entitled “Our Disgrace at the Border,” Brooks pointed out the thousands of Latin American refugees stacked up at the Mexico-U.S. border seeking to escape violence in their homelands or simply trying to improve their economic well-being. He then lamented, “And there is no prospect of a plan being put in place from either Republicans or Democrats.”
So, Brooks came up with his own immigration plan. Asserting that the “U.S. cannot take in everybody who wants to come,” Brooks says that “the first task is to set priorities.” What are those priorities?
The victims of violence and persecution get top priority, then those being systemically denied their basic rights because their country has become a failed state, then those seeking economic betterment.
Then what? Brooks’ plan then calls for implementing those priorities:
Build new detention centers at the border; expand the capacities at the ports of entry; expand the number of judge teams, to speed through the backlog; create an orderly release procedure coordinated with humanitarian agencies; increase the number of counselors so refugees can navigate the system; vet children in their home countries for refugee status so they don’t have to make a fruitless trip.
And then? Brooks says:
Over the long term, you help build better police and justice systems in the home countries. You cooperate with Mexico to jointly tackle this challenge we face together. You might shift to a more skills-based immigration system while increasing the number of refugees we take in each year.
Wow! What an ingenious “comprehensive immigration reform plan.” If only someone had come up with it before now. What are President Trump and Congress waiting for? Brooks has presented them with the immigration solution on a silver platter. Why are they stalling?
Except for one thing: It won’t work. It can’t work. It’s incapable of working. Even if Brooks’ “comprehensive immigration reform plan” were to be adopted in its entirely and even if he were made Immigration Czar to carry it out, America’s decades-long, never-ending, ongoing immigration crisis would continue.
That’s because there is no conceivable “comprehensive immigration reform plan” that will bring an end to America’s immigration crisis. Once one comes to that realization, he gives up trying to find such a reform plan.
There is a simple reason for this phenomenon: America’s system of immigration controls is a socialist system. A socialist system is an inherently defective system. It cannot be fixed. It cannot be made to work. Just ask anyone in Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, or the former Soviet Union.
Thus, America’s immigration system is not “broken,” as conservatives and liberals often claim. Broken implies the possibility of fixing. America’s immigration system is instead inherently defective. Defective means no possibility of fixing.
A system of immigration controls is based on the concept of central planning, a core feature of the socialist paradigm. A government body of politicians and bureaucrats plans, in a top-down, command-and-control manner the movements of tens of millions of people in a highly complex labor market.
As part of this process, the planners assign a quota of immigrants to each country, based on what the planners assess is the amount and nature of labor that is needed in the United States. They also decide qualifications and criteria for entry — e.g., education levels, proficiency in English, and so forth.
Inevitably, the planners come up with a scheme that is totally contrary to the natural laws of supply and demand that govern human nature and behavior.
For example, let’s say that farmers desperately need people to harvest their crops in Oregon. If they don’t get them, the crops rot in the fields. The farmers send out a message: We need workers, fast. How do they send that message? Through the price system. The price of labor skyrockets to, say, $50 an hour. Workers in Mexico see that the price for farm labor has suddenly gone from $4 an hour to $50 an hour. They don’t need to know why. All they have to do is pack their bags and rush up north to take advantage of the enormous financial opportunity.
That’s the way a free market works. It harmonizes people’s interests through the price system. In a free-market system, the price system serves as an intricate information-transmitting process that harmonizes people’s interests.
Central planning destroys that complex and harmonious system. Suddenly, the planners are substituting their judgments for the judgments in the market economy. But all they do is produce chaos, or what Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.” The planners think that they have the requisite knowledge that can substitute for the constantly changing valuations of millions of people. They have what Friedrich Hayek called “the fatal conceit.”
That’s why there are thousands of people stacked up at the border — because of central planning. Brooks is wrong. The United States can permit any number of people to enter the country, just as Virginia can permit any number of Americans to enter Virginia. As more people enter Virginia, prices start rising, dissuading other people from moving into Virginia. If Virginia imposed immigration controls on people from other states and relied on central planning, there would immediately be thousands of Americans stacked up at the Virginia border, trying to get in. There would be an ongoing, never-ending immigration crisis at the Virginia border, just as there is at the Mexico-U.S. border.
In fact, think of the immigration crisis if our 19th-century American ancestors would have chosen a system of immigration controls instead of a system of open immigration. All those thousands of immigrants who were quickly processed at Ellis Island and let into the United States would have instead been stuck there for years, just as immigrants are today at the southern border.
Finally, there is the police state that comes into existence to enforce the immigration controls. Frustrated and angry that the system isn’t working, officials resort to ever-increasing police-state measures to make their system work. Brooks alludes to this phenomenon in his plan by calling for more “detention centers” — i.e., more prisons — and for “better police.” Maybe he is referring to the highway checkpoints, warrantless trespasses onto privately owned ranches and farms, roving Border Patrol checkpoints, boarding of Greyhound buses and demanding to see people’s papers, raids on private businesses, separation of children from parents, Berlin Walls, eminent-domain stealing of people’s property, and other totalitarian police-state measures that come with a system of immigration controls.
David Brooks’s “comprehensive immigration reform plan” will not work and is incapable of working. The same is true with every other immigration reform plan.
The only thing that works is freedom and free markets. And it’s also the only thing that is consistent with moral and religious values.