Pay Illegals to Leave

August 23, 2010

Market-based solutions are the vogue in public policy. Throwing money around judiciously, exploiting people’s love of cash rewards has proved an effective measure in dealing with previously intractable problems. The problem of illegal immigration and especially the backlog of illegal aliens within US borders offers the opportunity for such a solution.

Even if our border control is strengthened and new illegal immigration is stopped, there still remains a reservoir of over ten million illegal aliens who have entered in the past. Forcibly deporting them will prove a difficult and expensive task.

So let’s pay illegal aliens to leave. Let’s pay them a lot of money, because you need to give a big incentive to make someone leave this great land of ours. Since most illegals come from poor countries, and are here mostly to make money, a big pay-off would satisfy their reason to be in this country. Also, their governments, faced with repatriated citizens with fat banks accounts, will have less to complain about.

To those who claim deporting illegal aliens is an injustice, the payments would go a long way to mitigating the alleged injustice.

Let’s offer each illegal $10,000 to leave, if they promise not to come back. If they come back illegally, they are jailed, and will face serious fines – perhaps billed to their government. We’d need some safeguards to only pay off those who have been in the country for a while – let’s say a year. And those with serious outstanding criminal warrants would be ineligible.

Certainly this would need to be a short-term program, accompanied by the strictest border patrols to stop opportunists. It’s designed to purge the reservoir of illegals, accompanied by stronger border control to stop a renewed influx. This is a temporary ad hoc approach, not a long-term solution.

And it would be expensive. Let’s say that we also offer them free passage home, and taking administrative costs into account, the actual cost might be $20,000 per head. So let’s say this program is wildly successful, leading to 10 million repatriations – $200 Billion dollars. It’s a big chunk of change, but if it works, it’s well worth the money.

It’s not fair, and it’s not morally right, but it would be effective. And finding and deporting aliens costs a heck of a lot of money per head anyway.

This article was written by the owner and publisher of American Rattlesnake, Michel Evanchik. Tomorrow Gerard Perry, Editor of American-Rattlesnake will be posting his thoughts on this proposal.

Note: the first published version of this article was an incomplete draft. This is the correct final version, substantially the same in content but with prose more golden and true.

Tags: cash incentives, , , , repatriation

3 Responses to Pay Illegals to Leave

  1. Dan Hand on August 23, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    A) If it were possible under international law, or even through bilateral agreements, to bill foreign governments for the costs that their citizens impose upon us as a nation, then those foreign nations (e.g., Mexico) would not be blatantly encouraging their own nationals to come to the United States, by hook or by crook, so that they can send back remittances in the billions of dollars per year. It would no longer be worth it to those foreign (mostly Third World) countries.

    B) What would happen under such a plan is that the illegal aliens would take the money, then sneak back into this country and pick up where they left off, because the jobs and welfare incentives would still remain here. If those incentives were removed, especially by having a foolproof national ID and a mandatory screening for all job seekers, illegal aliens would begin to self-deport in droves, due to an inability to support themselves and their burgeoning families here.

    C) What is the net present value of a stream of illicit income earned in the United States over a lifetime of work, versus being permanently unemployed in, say, Mexico? I do not believe that even $10,000 would come anywhere close to the NPV for such illicit employment here, even if one were to adjust for the different amounts necessary to live a comparable lifestyle in the United States versus in those (mostly Third World) countries of origin.

  2. G. Perry on August 23, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Good points-I’ll address them in tomorrow’s post. It should be noted that not everyone who comes here illegally does so because of economic deprivation, although there is a strong correlation between how well an emigrant’s economy is doing and whether or not that person decides to come to the U.S. For example, the amount of illegal aliens from Ireland decreased substantially during the economic boom of the “Celtic tiger.” Likewise, a lot of Brazilian illegal aliens are returning to their homeland, now that they see a chance to capitalize upon the emerging economy that now exists in their country.

  3. Michel Evanchik on August 23, 2010 at 10:50 PM


    I think your points are valid ones.

    The United States should impose sanctions on countries, such as Mexico, that encourage their citizens to break our immigration laws.

    This plan, or indeed any plan, to address the existing population of illegal aliens is unworkable until entry into this country is strongly enforced.

    Let us consider the problem of recidivism. Recidivism might prove to be a net positive. The United States would be left holding the moral high ground, and this is essential both for domestic public opinion and international relations. If the carrot does not work, then the stick must follow.

    Ultimately, what is most important is that we recognize that solving our immigration problems are substantial ones, that require solutions that employ both the carrot and the stick. We must get foreign nations too discourage their citizens to come here illegally, and not to complain when we repatriate them. We must also punish their disregard of our laws, through trade, immigration, and visa sanctions.

    Remittances to Mexico were $21 billion in 2009:
    Much of that was certainly from legal immigrants. If we proceed from the arbitrary statistic that half of immigrants from Mexico are here illegally, then about $10 billion is from illegal immigrants. If about 60% of illegal immigrants in the US come from Mexico, then if every illegal alien Mexican took the payout, under the conservative estimate of 10 million illegal immigrants in the US, that would come to $60 billion dollars. So in a best case scenario, in conjunction with strict border and workplace enforcement, this is a pretty good deal. Especially if the Mexican government gets the message that the continued inflow of illegals will threaten the inflow of legal immigrants. Figuring out the net present value (NPV) is tricky, Mexican government bonds are currently trading at about 6.5 %, so let’s call that the floor. At that level, my proposal is only about half of the “fair value” of a payoff. But that’s assuming that remittances from illegals are as stable as Mexican government bonds. And then there is the difficult question of the value of staying in the US illegally versus staying in Mexico legally. It is a tricky question to weigh. Ultimately though, it is a question that can be approached rationally – a figure can be reasoned to the value of staying in the United States illegally. It will differ individually, but there is also an aggregate value.

    Ultimately, this plan is unworkable, indeed it is counter-productive, without stronger immigration and workplace enforcement. But once stronger enforcement is implemented, it may help to mitigate the feeling of ill will that deportations will cause both from supporters of illegal immigrants domestically, and from the native governments of illegal immigrants.

    Also, we must recognize that deporting a lot of people will act as a negative shock to those countries that depended on their remittances. This plan would mitigate this shock. And since the payments would be in dollars, ultimately the funds would boost American exports.

    What is needed are solutions that consider the good and the bad realistically. This plan, imperfect and incomplete as it may be, attempts to address the problem coherently.

    We must increase the costs of being here illegally and we must decrease the benefits. And one way to increase the costs is to offer a reward for self-deportation. Stay put and they miss the big payout.

    Michel Evanchik


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