Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Illegal Immigration - A Different Take

With the passing of Arizona SB1070, the issue of illegal immigration has once again been thrust to the forefront of the national discussion. With an estimated 10 million-plus undocumented immigrants in the United States, despite the wishes of politicians on both parties, the issue is certainly not going away anytime soon. The poor economic conditions of the last two years, and the increasing drug-related violence near the border has exacerbated the issue.

The political solutions offered in the U.S. are predictable on both sides. On the left, calls for "comprehensive immigration reform" largely consist of large-scale amnesty of illegals currently residing in the states. On the right, large-scale deportation, and reinforcement of the border wall are the primary solutions offered. Of course, these are over-simplified generalizations for the sake of brevity.

However, the one proposal I have not heard from either side, is large-scale aid to Mexico, to help improve economic and living conditions south of the border. Now, I can hear the critics already..."Trust the Mexican government with billions in aid? Ha!" Admittedly, the Mexican government does not have the best track record of prudent fiscal management. The nationalization of the oil industry in 1938 could have potentially made the modern Mexican state a model of prosperity and development in Latin America. Instead, Pemex has become the honeypot of the political elite.

Some would say that giving aid to Mexico for internal self-improvement is tantamount to rewarding bad behavior, as the Mexican government has openly flouted U.S. immigration policy, and has in fact encouraged its citizens to migrate northward, whether by legal or illegal means. Remittances from the U.S. represent 3 percent of the entire Mexican GDP, and surpass direct foreign investment by nearly 30 percent.

Clearly, this is a dysfunctional relationship. Improvement of living conditions in Mexico would likely reduce the influx of illegal immigration. But simply giving Mexico a carte blanche with no strings attached would not accomplish anything substantive, other than increasing Mexico's dependency on the U.S. either directly or indirectly.

The aid would need to be supervised, as well as multi-faceted. The key areas I would direct the aid would be infrastructure, security/defense, and education. I am not enough of a scholar of global economics or diplomacy to make any definitive recommendations in terms of which domestic or international agencies should be in charge of meting out the aid. But supervision and direction would be key to making these initiatives effective.

I want to hear your thoughts. Are my proposals too far-fetched? Long overdue? Hopelessly naïve? Please leave your comments below.