“Today’s legal immigration system is drastically different than what it was historically. Post-independence, the U.S. took a broadly liberal approach to welcoming newcomers. “Even when it finally adopted some rules in the late 19th century, immigrants were presumed eligible for permanent residence unless the government showed that they fell into specific and usually narrow ineligible categories,” writes Bier.
Now, would-be migrants have to prove their eligibility based on strict prerequisites that vanishingly few can fulfill. That shift hasn’t reduced demand for migration pathways—it’s just created a black market, much like other forms of prohibition. Rather than looking to a sensible, straightforward, and sanctioned visa application process, migrants of many stripes look to smugglers and illegal entry to reach American soil. This has made their journeys far more dangerous (and, in many cases, deadly).”