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December 7, 2010

WSJ Editorial Board Member Advocates For Free-Market Immigration

The free market should govern how many legal immigrants are allowed into the country, a member of the Wall Street editorial board said during a discussion hosted by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau.

Jason Riley, author of the book "Let Them In: The Case For Open Borders," spoke about the ongoing immigration debate and argued for a more lenient guest-worker program that he said would curb illegal immigration while supplying businesses in America with skilled workers.

"An argument for open borders is an argument for allowing supply and demand to control immigration," Riley argued.

Doing so, he said, would allow the limited resources of border patrol agents to focus on finding "the next Times Square bomber," not someone coming into the country to "be a nanny."

Expanding the legal channels for immigrants to come into America through the so-called "front door" will decrease the number of illegal immigrants sneaking into the country through the "back door," Riley said. The immigrants that are attempting to come into America, which he called "economic migrants" are highly motivated to take jobs and are in most cases willing to pay their fair share of taxes.

Riley argued for a guest worker program that would allow U.S.-based companies to advertise for jobs internationally and accept immigrants into the country if no suitable domestic workers are found. Doing so benefits the immigrants who come into the country legally as well as the businesses that have access to the human capital.

He also discounted what he called misperceptions related to immigrants. Specifically, he noted numerous studies which point to immigrants, both legal and illegal, making a positive contribution to the economy, specifically in Texas, the state with the second largest immigrant population in the country.

Also, he said while immigration is often associated with crime, in the decade between 1995 and 2006 the population of illegal immigrants in the U.S. doubled, but violent crime levels in the U.S. dropped by about 25 percent. He said the drug trafficking problem along the Mexican-U.S. border is not an immigration problem, but a drug problem.

Still, Riley did not seem optimistic about leaders in Washington D.C. agreeing on any sort of immigration reform any time soon. What to do about the estimated 10 million or more illegal immigrants already in the country is the major sticking point in the debate, he said.

Riley spoke at the fifth and final lecture presented by the Research Bureau focusing on issues related to urban revitalization. He spoke at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science's Worcester campus.

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