If so many people want to be American citizens, Nobel laureate Gary Becker thinks we should just sell the privilege. He reckons you could price US citizenship at roughly $50,000 to $100,000, he explains, as part of Big Think's “Dangerous Ideas” series. Poor people could get a loan, a lot like a student loan. Anti-immigrant sentiment would vanish, because hey, the would-be Americans would collectively pay billions into the system, and our immigrant population would be composed mostly of skilled workers.
What could go wrong? A lot, says Columbia economics professor Jagdish Bhagwati. First off, it would actually exacerbate the illegal immigration problem, since there would be an even bigger incentive to skirt the legal immigration channels. Second, instead of skilled workers, you might wind up with a bunch of retiring, wealthy Indians, who want to buy free Medicare for the rest of their lives.