Immigration, part II:
Yesterday I considered how we might think about immigration reform. One key problem was our limited ability and willingness to treat immigrants on a harsh and differential basis. This problem resurfaces in a number of guises.

Let us now consider option number 3 (see the link for the full list), namely taking in many immigrants and then trying to regulate their behavior. We could try something like the following:

a. Give them all electronic bracelets and track them
b. Build American life around hard-to-forge identity cards
c. Make many of them live in Nebraska, thus limiting crowding and assimilation problems

Of course you might need some combination of a. and b. to enforce c. But if you could implement the right combination of these ideas, many of the afore-mentioned costs of freer immigration would go away.

Western Europe has implemented some version of b, but keep in mind that the idea might work less well in America, even putting aside civil liberties concerns. We have more immigrants, more territory, and a less regulated economy. If cards were required, many immigrants would end up living "off the grid," so to speak. Attempts at regulation could increase rather than decrease control problems. You can stipulate the cards by law, but employers will simply hire uncarded employees. Cards don't matter much if people are willing to break the law in the first place. After all, isn't a valid visa or green card already a carded "solution"?

When it comes to the other options, we are unwilling to create two classes of people within U.S. borders: the controlled and the uncontrolled. It is unappetizing, to say the least, to stop a Mexican from moving out of Nebraska. A Mexican might prefer a controlled existence in the U.S. to life at home, we are the ones who object. If we are to opt for control, we need a method of control that is politically acceptable and compatible with basic liberties at home. Furthermore the enforcement problems are daunting. If we can't keep Mexicans from moving illegally from Tijuana to Texas, we can't keep them from moving illegally from Omaha to Texas.

So I will rule out option number 3, namely taking in immigrants but making greater efforts to control their behavior ex post. Soon I will turn to some options that might work.