January, 2021

The Unintended Consequences of U.S. Asylum Policy

  • Abigail Hall

    Associate Professor of Economics at Bellarmine University
  • Michael A. Coon

  • Cassie A. Bricker

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During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump ran on a platform in which he vowed to fight illegal immigration, famously promising to build a wall along the southern border of the United States. He indicated that he would support more legal immigration, stating, “We’re going to have a big, fat, beautiful door right in the middle of the wall. We’re going to have people come in, but they’re coming in legally.” Despite this rhetoric, the reality of current immigration into the United States is markedly different from the stated policy preference. Although no new wall has been built, its possible construction is frequently discussed along with other policies to further restrict the inflow of individuals into the United States. A variety of new rules and operating procedures have worked to effectively restrict immigration. The “big, fat, beautiful door” has become smaller and narrower than in years past.

The following will explore the origins of contemporary immigration policy in the United States and to discuss the unintended consequences of these policies. Utilizing the tools of economics, we examine how policies and practices pertaining to one group of migrants—asylum seekers—have effectively undermined the goals of U.S. Border Patrol. We show how these policies have led to the inefficient allocation of monetary resources, wasteful actions on the part of U.S. border officials, and made it easier for individual criminals and outlaw groups to cross into the United States. We investigate how alternative policies, namely more open borders, would better align with the stated incentives of U.S. officials, and reduce the number of probable criminal entrants.