When I tell Americans that the immigration process is like dealing with DMV, they laugh. Actually, it’s far worse. Not only do immigration officials have guns and want to invade your privacy with any sniff of nonconformity, they seem to take pleasure in humiliating those who seek to enter the United States.

In almost all cases, approval for either employment or residence in the United States is both unnecessarily time-consuming and expensive. And that is only when a legal route exists.

If you are “unskilled” and do not have immediate relatives residing in the United States, good luck. Your wait time for a green card approaches infinity, and the token gesture of the Diversity Lottery sees one tenth of one percent of applicants successfully immigrate. Even the lottery has education requirements and excludes the very countries where people most wish to come from: Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador, for example.

It’s no wonder then why so many individuals, primarily out of economic desperation, have chosen to disobey immigration laws and come anyway.

The approximately 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States are a symptom of the real problem, a misguided legal process. As they stand firm in defiance, their presence also affirms the impotence of government officials to do anything about it, whether they try or not.

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This month, legislators from North Carolina, home to more than 300,000 illegal immigrants, held a committee hearing on how to address this predicament—primarily out of concern for lost tax revenues.

Unfortunately, these forums tend to be confined to how government officials can better enforce immigration laws, without regard for the content of such laws. Sure, more deportations and a willingness to impose invasive and inaccurate policies such as E-Verify may scare a few individuals to other states, but to what end? Not more tax revenue, that’s for sure.

As Victor Gúzman, chairman of North Carolina’s Republican National Hispanic Assembly, has noted, not only is this push for mass deportation logistically impossible, it would be against the interests of both legal and illegal residents.

“We need them… It’s just the fact that we would be hurting ourselves by doing that, because we need the labor… And they need the work, so it’s a good relationship.”

The irony is that a solution is painlessly simple and in line with the American value that a nation benefits from immigration: open our borders and welcome people here legally. They will both earn better wages and more easily integrate into local communities. And while a majority of illegals already pay personal income taxes, legal documentation would enable all such immigrants to pay taxes in the same manner as everyone else.

Fergus Hodgson is director of fiscal policy studies with the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, a policy advisor with The Future of Freedom Foundation, and host of the Stateless Man show on the Overseas Radio Network. You can follow him on Twitter and send him email.

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