I've blogged nearly nothing about immigration, because it seems to me that to have an informed opinion on the subject, one needs to do a good deal of research (research that I don't have the time and inclination to do now, though I hope to one day). My moral and free-market instincts are generally in favor of pretty substantial immigration, but there are enough serious contrary arguments that I'd heard that I don't feel at all comfortable trusting my instincts here.
So instead of expressing my views, I thought I'd briefly just ask the following questions, and ask you to answer them only if you meet both of these conditions:
(A) You are political liberals or moderates who support a considerable level of welfare spending (for medical care, general relief, housing subsidies, food stamps, public higher education, and a variety of similar programs) — I don't insist that you support the most aggressive forms and levels of welfare spending, but just that you support a considerable amount of such spending.
(B) You support relatively open immigration.
I should note that these are sincere questions, ones that I thought are hard questions for pro-open-immigration forces, but not ones that I've concluded are unanswerable. Here they are:
(1) If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here? (As I understand, the current rate with our non-open immigration policy is about one million per year.) Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise? If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?
(2) Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants? I take it that most of us would say that basic police protection ought to be provided. I assume that public K-12 education would be provided for the immigrants' children, too, yes (even if only because you don't want them to be running around on the street, or forming a permanent uneducated underclass)? What about medical care (both emergency and nonemergency), food stamps, university education, and the like? Would you support limiting such programs only to people who are citizens (or who have lived here, say, 7-10 years)? Or do you think that it would be wrong or counterproductive to leave our legal guests without education, medical care, food aid, and the like?
(3) Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years? I'd expect you would, since it's probably not good to have a large cadre of legal residents who nonetheless aren't eligible to be citizens. But if your guess as to question 1 is that many millions would come each year, are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor (perhaps, for instance, socially liberal policy issues, such as gay rights and the like) but that many likely immigrants — from Latin America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and the like — might not favor?
(You can of course argue that we should work hard to assimilate the immigrants and acculturate them to our views; but please explain how you'd deal with the possibility that they not be persuaded by our views, at least in the first generation. You can also argue that we should entrench these policy issues as a matter of constitutional law; but then please explain how you'd keep these constitutional judgments from being upset if the political balance shifts enough, given that a large enough majority can always overcome constitutional judgments in a variety of ways.)
UPDATE: Just to make explicit something that I thought was clearly implicit, but that some of the answers didn't touch on -- if your answer to number 2 is pretty generous, wouldn't that further increase your answer to number 1, and bring in many people who would cost a great deal to take care of? Most immigrants, I'm sure, are quite hard-working, but the more benefits you offer, the more likely you are to get people who come at least partly or even largely for the benefits.
This doesn't make them horrible, just smart: If they have health problems, and several small kids, they might well want to move partly for the health care (if we do provide them free health care) and the education, especially if the government will feed them via food stamps and house them via some sort of housing stipends for the needy. The subsidies may make them dirt poor by our standards, but still much better off than they were in their home country, especially if you include the medical and educational benefits.
Do you think this will be very rare? Pretty common, but fine nonetheless?