14.4.06

CONTEMPLATING IMMIGRATION. The immigrants-rights protests and assorted commentary have not slipped my mind. First I get the technical papers off to the journals and then I sit down and attempt to make sense out of some of that commentary. For today, a few observations on a Northern Star article.
"The major problem the current U.S. immigration policy [has] is its lack of clarity. The policy is not very clear, and it's not enforced. To begin the process of solving immigration, we will need to first solve our own policy deficiencies," said Michael Gonzales, director of the NIU Latin American Studies. "Plus, border security is not the answer to decrease immigration. To solve this problem we need to fix the economic conditions in the countries that are experiencing massive emigration and make them better for the people."

There is concern the immigration system as a whole needs some reworking.

"The immigration system is broken," said Gabriella Lemus of League of Latin American Citizens.
I disagree. United States policy is consistent with the behavior of a rich country facing a somewhat elastic supply of potential providers of cheap labor subsidies to its underground economy. The relatively ineffective border enforcement and the periodic debates about "guest workers" are consistent with a policy of probabilistic amnesty that's sufficiently tempting to keep the cheap labor coming without turning illegal immigration into a net sink of public benefits.

A tougher question that I haven't tackled yet is the role of emigration in fixing the economic conditions in the source countries. Perhaps remittances are a source of funds for such countries, but the onus is on their governments to provide the transparent institutions that might turn the remittances into a source of local income. Perhaps sufficient out-migration of people will induce local employers to offer workers more. But "we need to fix?" Send Winfield Scott and Ulysses Grant back into Mexico City for another bout of nation building?

No comments: