Let States Issue Immigration Visas—a Federalist Response to GOP Governors’ Migrant Busing Stunts
The Republican governors of Arizona, Florida, and Texas have been busing recently arrived Latin American migrants to Democratic “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis even had 50 Venezuelan migrants flown to the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard. So far, this policy has mostly amounted to political theater, using migrants as props. But, despite the cynical motives of the Republican governors, the idea of giving migrants a chance to go to states that welcome them is a good one that could alleviate many flaws of America’s immigration policy.
Liberal sanctuary states support expanded immigration to such an extent that they refuse to cooperate with most federal efforts to deport undocumented migrants. More conservative state governments often prefer a more restrictive immigration policy.
Both red and blue states can benefit from a policy allowing state governments to issue visas and work permits to immigrants not otherwise eligible for legal entry under federal law. State-based visas would enable state governments to take in immigrants who can fill needed slots in the economy, refugees fleeing poverty and oppression, and anyone else whom they might wish to welcome. Particularly at a time of massive labor shortages in many parts of the economy, such added migration would be a great boon to receiving states. Even some red states have recognized the need for additional immigrant labor in areas of their economies. For example, GOP members of Congress from rural states have sought to pass a bill increasing guest-worker visas for agricultural laborers.
A system under which states could grant visas without federal approval would enable them to swiftly secure as much labor as they wish – and also to help people fleeing oppression. The present US refugee system is slow to the point of sclerosis, admitting a record-low of 11,411 refugees in fiscal year 2021. Letting states do their own refugee admissions would enable far more people to escape poverty and tyranny, especially if states could partner with private organizations, along the lines of Canada’s successful private refugee-sponsorship program.
Some conservatives claim the negative reaction of destination states to Republicans’ busing of migrants proves that sanctuary jurisdictions are hypocritical, and don’t really want immigrants to come. But the very fact that they embraced sanctuary policies is strong evidence to the contrary. Such laws deliberately make undocumented immigrants more difficult to deport, and thus increase the size of the migrant population. Many sanctuary jurisdictions demonstrated their commitment to their policies by fighting prolonged (and mostly successful) legal battles to defend them during the Trump administration.
Moreover, most of the blue-state outrage over the busing is not about the presence of the migrants themselves (whom charities and local residents mobilized to help) – but over the use of migrants as political pawns and the ways in which some were deceived about where they were going, and enticed with false promises of work permits. A state-based visa system could mitigate such problems by automatically granting work permits and leaving migrants in no doubt about where they are going. Sanctuary jurisdictions and others genuinely want more immigrants, and state-based visas could help them achieve that goal.
Conservative border states and others who seek to alleviate disorder at the border could also achieve some of their goals by such a policy. If state governments could issue their own migration, work, and refugee visas, many migrants would have no reason to cross the southern border in the first place. They could instead go directly by plane or ship to the states that grant them entry. Those that do cro
Article from Reason.com