The piece in today’s NY Times about illegal immigrants and Social Security suggests, if one is fine with clearly unfair policies, the following future immigration ideas about immigration: 1) Leave legal immigration caps at their present levels (I have no idea what these are or how they’re set). 2) Make illegal immigration easier (less border patrol or border patrol more targeted at people who are crossing the border for purposes other than simply seeking better ljob opportunities). 3) Make deportation harder. 4) Keep illegal immigrants access to government benefits like Social Security and other types of government benefits as poor as they currently are, or make it even more difficult for illegal immigrants to access these benefits.

According to the figures in the article, illegal immigrants have an extremely positive effect on government revenues because they pay payroll taxes and don’t get anything from the government for those taxes. For a fuller picture, one would also need to examine their impact on state and local revenues. For instance, I don’t know what percentage of illegal immigrants receive educational benefits versus how many in some way pay for these benefits. But while I’m playing heartless devil’s advocate and encouraging the United States government to create an underclass of people who pay the government for services they don’t receive so that others can receive those services while paying a smaller share, I should note that it’s extemely likely that living in the United States as such an underclass is better than the life which they expect to have in their home country. If the above wasn't true, it would be very hard to expain why many risk illegal immigration, unless you want to argue that illegal immigrants are wildly uninformed about what life in the U.S. will be like.

Finally, all of this suggests a point that I've seen Tyler Cowen make once or twice about how a more liberal immigration policy would be more effective at alleviating poverty than an amount of foreign aid of equal cost to the United States government.