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The rhetoric of closed borders: quotas, lax enforcement and illegal migration

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  • Giovanni Facchini

    () (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Università degli Studi di Milano, CEPR, LdA and CES-Ifo)

  • Cecilia Testa

    () (Royal Holloway University of London, Erasmus University Rotterdam and LdA)

Abstract

In 2008, approximately 12 million immigrants lived illegally in the United States, and large numbers of undocumented foreigners resided also in other advanced destination countries. Hence, attempts at controlling immigration flows seem to often fail. If governments are not enforcing their "official" immigration policy, why do they set such a policy in the first place? The purpose of this paper is to address this apparent puzzle, using a political agency framework. We consider a setting in which there is uncertainty on the supply of migrants, and the policy maker who faces elections can be of one of two types. Either he has preferences congruent with the median voter, or he desires a larger number of migrants, because he is interested in the maximization of social welfare or has fallen prey to a pro-immigration lobby. We show that, if the incumbent wants to admit more migrants than the median voter, he might fi nd it optimal to announce a binding quota to be re-elected, and strategically relax its enforcement. The control of migration flows can take place at the border or domestically, and we argue that even if the former is less effective as a policy tool, it might be chosen in equilibrium. Thus, our model illustrates how strategic considerations by elected officials play an important role in explaining both the observed large number of illegal immigrants and lax enforcement.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovanni Facchini & Cecilia Testa, 2010. "The rhetoric of closed borders: quotas, lax enforcement and illegal migration," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2010001, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:nor:wpaper:2010001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Emmanuelle Auriol & Alice Mesnard, 2016. "Sale of Visas: a Smuggler's Final Song?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(332), pages 646-678, October.
    2. Alessandra Casarico & Giovanni Facchini & Tommaso Frattini, 2012. "Spending more is spending less: on the desirability of enforcing migration," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2012006, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.
    3. Russo, Giuseppe & Salsano, Francesco, 2012. "Electoral systems and immigration," MPRA Paper 38497, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Giovanni Facchini & Cecilia Testa, 2015. "The Political Economy of Migration Enforcement: Domestic Versus Border Control," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 61(3-4), pages 701-721.
    5. Casarico, Alessandra & Facchini, Giovanni & Frattini, Tommaso, 2016. "What Drives the Legalization of Immigrants? Evidence from IRCA," IZA Discussion Papers 9666, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Slobodan Djajić & Michael S. Michael, 2014. "Controlling Illegal Immigration: On the Scope for Cooperation with a Transit Country," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(4), pages 808-824, September.
    7. Biavaschi, Costanza & Elsner, Benjamin, 2013. "Let's Be Selective about Migrant Self-Selection," IZA Discussion Papers 7865, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Devillanova, Carlo & Fasani, Francesco & Frattini, Tommaso, 2014. "Employment of Undocumented Immigrants and the Prospect of Legal Status: Evidence from an Amnesty Program," IZA Discussion Papers 8151, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Alessandra Casarico & Giovanni Facchini & Tommaso Frattini, 2012. "Spending More is Spending Less: Policy Dilemmas on Irregular Migration," Development Working Papers 330, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano, revised 27 Mar 2012.
    10. Hakan İnal, 2015. "Voting over law enforcement: mission impossible," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 349-360, August.
    11. repec:ces:ifodic:v:14:y:2017:i:4:p:19271454 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Alessandra Casarico & Giovanni Facchini & Tommaso Frattini, 2012. "What Drives Immigration Amnesties?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3981, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Illegal immigration; Immigration Policy; Political Economy.;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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