FacebookTwitterPrintEmailAddThis ShareCONTACT: Franz BrotzenPHONE: 713-348-6775E-MAIL: [email protected] Rice economist advocates comprehensive immigration overhaulAs Congress prepares to vote this week on one aspect of immigration reform, an economist at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has proposed a comprehensive solution to the issue of millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.Dagobert Brito, the George A. Peterkin Professor of Political Economy, called for an immigration policy based on pragmatic grounds, concentrating on the question of what is good for the country but that is also fair to the current undocumented immigrant population. Brito’s compromise solution is centered on the adoption of a biometric Social Security card that contains personal information that cannot be counterfeited, along with strict enforcement of hiring laws.Brito’s proposal is described in a working paper posted on the Baker Institute’s website, http://bakerinstitute.org/publications/BI-pub-BritoImmigrationReform-092010.pdf.The new Social Security card, Brito argued, would discourage illegal immigration because it would deny access to the formal labor market to immigrants without documents. The plan would also mitigate the economic destabilization of a sudden mass deportation by spacing out the repatriation dates of current undocumented immigrants.Such a gradual rate of repatriations would be achieved, Brito wrote, by using the biometric Social Security card to register all illegal immigrants but granting them temporary resident status, accompanied by a grace period during which immigrants with illegal documents could obtain and submit a valid Social Security card to their employers. They could also file any claims for political asylum or other causes that may block their deportation.After the grace period expires, employers would be required to accept only the new biometric Social Security cards; the government would implement a fast-track system of deportation for those undocumented individuals who did not register.Under this system, illegal immigrants would have only two choices: 1) register and receive temporary legal status with the opportunity to participate in a lottery that offers the possibility of repatriation at a later date or 2) fail to register, which would be a violation that carried the penalty of immediate deportation. The only burden of proof on the government would be to prove failure to register, Brito wrote. He also urged careful drafting of the legislation to minimize the burden on the immigration courts without violating constitutional rights.The final step of Brito’s plan would involve assigning repatriation dates by lottery. He suggested these repatriation dates could be spaced over a period of two to 10 years. Such a time frame would mitigate hardship on affected immigrants and minimize disruptions to the labor markets. Furthermore, spacing repatriations over several years means that sufficient resources would be available to enforce the law at a reasonable cost. Subsequent lotteries could be used to offer permanent resident status to those individuals who meet desired qualifications.Brito concluded that an immigration plan based on a secure biometric Social Security card would remove incentives for people to immigrate illegally to the United States by denying them access to the labor market. It would also benefit immigrants by bringing them under the umbrella of law, thereby protecting them from criminal and economic exploitation. Finally, the data collected from all immigrants through the cards would facilitate the formulation of “a rational and well-informed immigration policy.” To speak with Brito, contact Franz Brotzen at [email protected] or 713-348-6775.