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

  • Political Science


Despite restrictive migration policies, large numbers of undocumented migrants reside in many destination countries. If official migration targets are not enforced, why are they devised? To address this puzzle, we develop a political agency model with uncertainty on the migrants' supply, where an elected official can either have preferences congruent with the median voter, or prefer a larger number of migrants. We show that, if the incumbent prefers more migrants than the median, he might find it optimal to announce a binding quota to be re-elected, and strategically relax its enforcement, or choose an ineffective instrument like border control.

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