Money is a finite resource that exists within the world as property, a marker of wealth and an extension of one’s identity. Society has always faced the challenge of establishing rules regarding what one can and cannot buy with their money. The question is ethical in nature, as there are some things on which money should not be spent. However, in a nearly endless market, there will always exist wants, which suppliers of any degree will try to satisfy in order to make profit. This is the open market system. 

However, what if the product that someone is looking for is morally or illegal? This may not always stop buyers and sellers from committing their actions, but it does open the debate for what products may be open to the market. Thanks to the rapid acceleration of markets into areas of life concerning healthcare, war, politics and education, the logic of simply selling material goods is slowly being abandoned. If markets were to operate on their own, we could see the sale of anything, from an apple to a child, treated as valid within an open market. Human greed opens these doors and promotes the sale of anything.

It is my belief that it is morally wrong for countries to sell citizenship to those looking to immigrate, contradicting the proposal made by Gary Becker in his article “Selling the Right to Immigrate.”  Selling citizenship would place a price on what it is to be a citizen and only rewards those who can afford it. As a whole, there are two issues I believe exist when a country tries to sell the right to immigrate. First, it undermines the immigration process as a whole by enabling people with wealth to bypass the process almost entirely. Second, the sale devalues the importance and meaning of citizenship.

The opportunity for the wealthy to take advantage of any social system is unbound given their resources. Regarding immigration, selling green cards could hinder those without great wealth who are  trying to enter a country legally. 

The waiting time involved in the immigration process is critical for the validity and success of the system. There are multiple steps and, in the end, one might wait less than a year or wait several years and still be turned away, according to FileRight. Not to comment on the efficiency of the system, but if one were to forgo this multi-year process thanks to their wealth, would that not be a failure of the system as a whole? Those who pay  would, in theory, not be as thoroughly examined, nor would their intentions be questioned to the same degree that anyone else’s in line would be. This would create a precedent for an unfair playing field dictated by the wealth of those seeking to live in a new country.

In terms of citizenship, paying for faster immigration would start to break down the importance a country places on good citizenship. Those who pay may see no need to be a good citizen, as they simply bought their piece of America. They have no true ties to the country and therefore may not uphold the values on which we pride ourselves as Americans. 

Despite this, it is still hard to see the open market for immigration as all bad. Consider for a moment the counter argument:  If a country can deny the right to immigrate, then it should also offer the option to purchase the right of immigration. This is on the grounds that the market would not change the immigration process, nor would it corrupt the values the country places on citizenship. The capital investment that wealthy individuals would spend in the process of selling immigration rights could be used for the common good. Furthermore, a more selective immigration process based on economics could potentially benefit the country.

This argument acknowledges that some may be turned away regardless, but leaves the feeling that anyone who pays will get in. This would not be the case with the sale of immigration rights, as the only major difference between paying and not paying would be an expedited process. Rather than waiting a few years, the application processwould take a month, but those who pay would not necessarily be guaranteed entry. The process would remain as it is currently but would offer benefits to those who could afford it, like an airline’s first-class seating system. 

On the idea that paying to enter would devalue citizenship, the open market for immigration could go as far as supporting the country in countless ways. The economic investment that would be put into the country could potentially be massive, given that the only cost on our end is the conceptual right of legal entry. Regardless of the price tag, more money could be brought into the country both through the sale of immigration rights and due to the fact that more wealthy individuals would pay for America’s infrastructure rather than another country’s. Every action an individual takes after being granted entry is of their own design, but imagine the actions a wealthier person would take as opposed to those of someone not as financially well-off. The wealthier person might own a stake in a housing project and help supply construction jobs, or maybe become an investor on Wall Street. Either way, they are paying for the country in a great way, and if that contribution does not qualify as a value of being an upstanding citizen, then I would be hard pressed to find a contribution that would.

However, where the argument for placing a price on citizenship fails is when one considers that selling the right to immigration cheapens the value of citizenship. This would set the precedent that our government sees holding wealth as an indicator of a good citizen. This is where citizenship is undermined, as economic contribution is not the whole of what it means to be a citizen. A precedent could be set which makes true American citizens question the value of their actions. Furthermore, the notion of admitting people with vast amounts of wealth is risky given what they may do with that wealth. These people could potentially use their funds to sway elections or influence local politics in such a way that is counter-productive for the country as a whole. What value does the well-being of a country mean to someone who purchased their right to live there? 

Immigrants are a part of life within any country, and immigration offers much for both immigrants themselves and the country to which they are moving immigration offers much for those who are looking to immigrate and to the country to which people are coming. It offers the ability to boost the economy and expand society, increasing the number of people in the workforce and academia. For immigration rights to be on the open market, however, damages the integrity and value of the system, as well as discouraging others who may not be able to afford immigration from trying to immigrate at all. Immigration rights are something that money should not buy.