Gary Becker: Immigrants Should Pay

In a new interview with The Telegraph, the Nobel economist Gary Becker offers an economist’s solution to immigration reform: charge immigrants for citizenship – $50,000 per immigrant to start. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about it because you look like you’re discriminating,” says Becker. “But people feel very strongly about immigration. So I think it’s a good time now to be proposing a more sensible policy than what we’ve seen in any country.” Becker also suggests raising the retirement age (to reduce entitlement spending) and believes that “the center of economic gravity is gradually moving to Asia.”[%comments]

Eric M. Jones

Why don't we just take them in and let them work off the charge? Sort of Indentured Servitude.


I assume there is sarcasm in your statement. However, it happens everyday in the US (just without the benefit of citizenship in the end).


Give us your rich ... Lady Liberty would be appalled.


And you think we have a problem with illegal immigrants now. I thought we lived in a free country built on immigrants.


Already most workers on non-immigrant visas pay for your social security and medicare without really getting the benefits. Way to alienate them!


This is actually very reasonable. The biggest problem with illegals isn't that just that they broke the law to get here. The problem is that they come here and work under the table and take advantage of the American social safety net. Charge them for green cards and split the money between the state and the federal governments. Everyone wins. Still doesn't solve the problem of our home grown leaches.

Jay Omega

I believe that went out, although not explicitly in those words, with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution...


This is something I've been saying for years. The current cash price of a Coyote to run a migrant illegally across the Mexican border is well over $10,000. Factor in the cost of risk of death, injury, or theft, and factor in the income and status lost by being illegal. Immigrants are already paying a high price, but it's mostly going to middlemen, criminals, and deadweight losses. Transfer it as a fee to the US government, and immigrants could walk across the border in dignity and safety.


This is a great idea. It'll keep those immigrants in Asia. Which makes perfect sense, because that's where the center of economic gravity will eventually be located--probably because people who would otherwise be immigrants, remain in their home countries. I'm convinced that this recommendation is part of a conspiracy by the Great Gary Becker to simply make his prediction about the center of economic gravity come true so he can have a voice outside of pointless, pedantic, academic journals.


That's the stupidest proposal I've ever seen on immigration. That's taking the status quo and making it worse - who would want to be a legal immigrant?

This country depends on immigrants, but turns a blind eye on immigration policy. How about having a better way of letting people into the country legally, i.e. on the basis of potential benefit to society?
Why can't we make it easy for chemistry PhDs to stay, and discourage the seventh generation welfare collectors from ever entering the country?

pat hulser

Wouldn't it be easy to see that if you were charging that kind of cash to get a green card to work legally, there would be even greater incentive to be here illegally to get around it. Letting them work it off might affect it somewhat but again, even that would be an incentive to remain illegal. Think - well you only get part of your salary but you get to enjoy all the United States has to offer. Oh, by the way, can we see your papers?


I looked through the interview. He looks at other peoples wishes to immigrate as a chance to raise some revenue. He is in clearly in love with Nobel Prize and other awards and his attitude "I am so smart compared to every one else" comes through.

Unfortunately, Mr. Becker may have published an important work getting him the prize but he is not smart enough. Putting 50000 dollars fee will make legal immigration close to impossible. The illegal immigration - the problem - will continue and may even increase. Most foreigners who can afford the fee do not have an interest in immigrating to US and working hard to make it here - they have a near royal life style in their native countries.

With legal immigration near zero - US will feel the loss of its working age population which is needed to support our increasing non-working elderly population. Unfortunately, social security taxes were never put into trust fund!

Do Nobel prize winners just shoot off whatever comes to their mouth? I thought politicians did that.

Just goes to show you that people whom you believe to be smart are not really as smart as you may give them credit for. That goes even if they have won Nobel prize!


Belinda Gomez

Or let companies who hire them (high-tech, etc.) pay the entrance fee. But this rate is too high for hardworking, but unskilled people who nevertheless can make a big contribution to the country. Perhaps there should be a sliding scale, and they should be required to attend language and citizenship classes.

Mary, NY

You just hate immigrants. I entered this country legally and work honestly. You mean I would have to pay 150,000 dollars for me and my children to be citizens on top of two college tuitions? You just want immigrants to be economically stranded (sort of what Fidel Castro does with its population keeping them poor) or not having the right to vote at all. Maybe a measure like yours is what republicans need to win elections with such a right radicalized base. Shame on you. You do not have any concern for the dignity of the human race.


Way to go Shilpa #5

Andres Ferraro

In that article Becker pegs the solutions to social problems on individuals. There's more than individuals in the world - we have corporate entities. Should I believe there is no equally good answer to the retirement challenge by tweaking some aspect of corporate governance instead of raising the retirement age?

And I'm sure some green-card seekers would be *delighted* to pay $50K in exchange for courteous, friendly and expedient service in its issuance.

Now seriously, where does he think the rest are going to get $50K? A loan, of course, the worse off the person, the more shark-like the conditions. So those $5 Billion annually are not going to come from increased production, import money from other countries or even ole-fashioned saving which he hopes would slow down immigration - those $5bn will come from the financial growth of lending - shady and shaky lending - the kind that falls apart during a crisis and makes things even worse.


Richard B.

I believe this option already exists for "investors", but the price is much higher ($1MM). I hear Canada makes it easier for investors to immigrate. Not sure if there is reliable data, but it would make for an interesting economics paper on countries competing for investors who are shopping for citizenship.

Blue Cliff

Actually this is a very sensible suggestion. I infact am of the opinion that the figure should be a minimum of $500,000.00 for a family of upto 4 and a chunk of this money should be necessarily used to buy a home.

There should be some qualification requirements to be met, like a college degree, competence in english, a maximum age, clean criminal record etc, a minimum bank balance in addition to the buy-in amount.

even if 10000 people take up this offer, it will bring in $5billion dollars of money, create a demand for housing, and a set of people who are likely to be good educated citizens, grateful and wanting to make the best of the opportunity to live in America.

And 500,000 is peanuts. In urban India that much money wont even buy you a 2 bedroom condo (eg in central mumbai, in the downtown areas, prices are fours times that figure)


I find it sad that some of these comments seem to suggest that legal immigrants DON'T pay for green cards, which I can assure you is most definitely not the case. It costs anywhere between $1000 and $2500 all told to get your Green Card, and that's IF you qualify. Add on top of that an additional $600-700 for citizenship.

You think illegal immigration is bad now? Put this kind of plan in place and you'll be longing for the halcyon days of 2010.


@Ulf - the illegals will still remain illegals, just because there is a hefty fee on a green card doesn't mean the illegal immigration problem is going to go away. It is all the legal ones that would stay back home rather than come to the US!