Those Left Behind

There’s certainly a lot of discussion about immigration (esp from Latin America) this week. Today Marc Cooper blasts off on ostensible liberals who, frightened a bit by the political mass of the recent marches are suddenly sensitive to the pressure immigrants put on our labor movement.

It’s certainly a conundrum – a problem that has to be considered in five or six dimensions to be considered honestly. And I’d like to add one more just because the problem is obviously too simple as it’s formulated today.

The question is the intermediate- and long-term impact of this kind of migration not on the U.S., but on the source countries.The truism is that our American waves of immigrants have been more desperate, hungrier for freedom and success, more flexible, less rooted in authoritarian oligarchy. And that one of our strengths as a nation is the constant refreshing of our fat and lazy population with new, hungrier blood.

I’ve seen this directly from our side of the border as my sons raised their game in high school to compete with immigrant children who didn’t have nearly the sense of entitlement that native children seem to have. I’ve seen it directly in my lunch with Sumi, an Indian immigrant who I believe is destined for grand things.

The question is what is the impact in Mexico or Guatemala?

How much easier is it for kleptocracies to stay in power when those who don’t like them or can’t manage to find a place under them are simply pointed to the border?

How much easier is it for corrupt local officials to preside over a sagging economy when everyone east because of dollars sent home from the United States?

I know this is walking a path somewhere between Marxist “immiseration” and Moynahan’s “benign neglect”; but trust me, I’m personally not calling for either.

I am calling for a recognition that the answer to our immigration problem (as well as a lot of other ones) is a strong, free, prosperous Mexico (and El Salvador, and Guatemala, etc. etc.) that can make lives in Mexico for the people who today feel like they have no choice. And any policy needs to be considered with that goal in mind as well.

12 thoughts on “Those Left Behind”

  1. “I am calling for a recognition that the answer to our immigration problem (as well as a lot of other ones) is a strong, free, prosperous Mexico (and El Salvador, and Guatemala, etc. etc.) ”

    ‘First, somehow get ahold of a million dollars.’
    We have no idea how to force prosperity on Mexico, El Salvador, etc. The best we can do is nudge them diplomatically. The Soviets locked up their best and brightest for decades better than we could ever hope for Mexico, and though I suppose you could argue they eventually got the upperhand, its probably more accurate to say the system was so rotten it would have collapsed faster without the able bodied and minded to prop it up. And even so they dont seem much better off for it, at least by Western standards.

    Free trade isnt just about commerce. Historically it is ideas and invention that came down the spice caravans. Think about it, millions of Mexicans come to work in America. If they are allowed to freely travel back and forth they are gaining a _working knowledge_ of a successful industrial society. This is light years more effective than lecturing the Mexican ambassador about the importance of a stable currency.

    There is a very insipid and false impression of illegals in this country coming from Mexico. Think of the numbers that cross the border yearly- if they were coming to stay Mexico would be empty by now. They come to work, they go back, then they come again. Most of these folks arent squatting, theyre commuting. Now as long as that is illegal there are a whole host of problems. Make it legal, however, and I would argue the ability to transmit ideas, capital, and experience back to Mexico is in the long term interest of this country and probably unfufillable in any other way we have at our disposal.

    Legalize drugs and put the corrupt cartels out of business and we really might see some favorable change down south.

  2. Number of immigrants in 1986 — 2 million
    Now — 12-20 million.

    At a certain point we can’t take everyone. Simple as that.

    More to the point, the protests have morphed (inevitably) to an expression of Mexican Sovereignty over US soil.

    Michelle Malkin and Mickey Kaus have the details on US flag upside down and beneath the Mexican flag. Reconquista and La Raza are openly expressed.

    You can’t have two systems and special privileges for Mexicans. Any more than Sharia and man-made law.

    You can’t expect Americans to embrace those coming into this country who decisively reject American values.

  3. One add back OT: the remittance regime in Mexico like the Philippines entrenches the system. Cut that off and you’ll see reform. Enable it and you’ll just get more refugees from poverty.

  4. Mark, I think you’re spot on.

    This reminds me of a conversation that I had recently regarding the admission of Puerto Rico into the US as a state. I had argued that doing so would not only benefit both Puerto Rico and the US as a whole, it would also provide a terrific model for attracting economic development in Latin America and the Carribbean as well as help cure the immigration woes in the US.

    Much like the requirements for entry into the EU or into NATO, if the US could present a set of conditions for US statehood – commitment to a market economy and civil law, indications of economic development, etc – it would offer an incentive for developing nations in Latin America and the Carribbean to follow. Opening up their markets, privitizing their industries, and gaining entry into FTAs would allow these nations to develop economically.

    To those conservative who are hell bent on putting a stop to immigration, I say this: These people are looking for America, either they bring themselves to America or we bring America to them.

  5. I humbly submit that at some point, there are some problems in the world that are not the responsibility of the United States to solve, or even worry about. And the result of emigration from less wealthy nations to the United States is definitely one of them.

    And on the topic of immigration, I generally support it. I’m pretty unmoved by the idea that “we can’t take everyone,” from a labor perspective because my background and personal experiences leave me with almost no sympathy for the modern labor movements.

    I do, however, begin to develop a bit of a bad attitude when people express the opinion that immigration to the United States is in some sense a natural right. It isn’t. Asserting that it is will tend to raise hackles on a lot of people who are otherwise supportive of it. (Not to mention, try to suggest that you have a natural right to emigrate to, say, Canada, and see what that gets you…!)

    And finally, the only difference between Mexican immigration and immigration from any other source is the geography of the situation. It’s relatively easy to control, say, Irish immigration, because there’s a great big body of water in the way and you can turn ships away at port. And it’s a lot easy to assimilate, say, Chinese immigrants because even though you’ll get Chinatowns in a lot of locations, they’re small islands with cultural pressures on all sides pushing inward.

    Mexican immigration is different because the geography is different. There’s hundreds of miles of nothing by way of borders, which makes it much tougher to control the flow. And because of that, you can get a sufficient density of immigrants sitting in a zone right next to the source population, that assimilation is more difficult.

    Any successful address of the immigration situation/problem must take that geography into account. If you don’t, then it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to achieve: it won’t work.

  6. Immigration issue- why liberals fault, of course. Forget the fact that neo cons have been in control of our gov for years now. Forget the fact that Bush has been pushing for amnesty, since he took office. Forget the fact that Bush has stated, repeatedly, that immigrants fill jobs that Americans do not want. Must be the liberals fault.
    Things going poorly in Iraq, blame the media. That does not work, blame Saddam, the guy we have had in custody, for years. Forget the fact that we went in with too few troops. That our military is too small for the current need. Forget the fact that more immigrants were on the streets of LA this weekend, than we have AD members of the Navy and Marine Corps combined.
    Forget the fact that this administration fostered a policy of Democratic Nation building in an extremist climate. Will this administration take responsibility for any mistake, ever? Doubt it. Future Presidents can deal with it. Just ask them.
    Forget the fact that these jokers have used Religion to divide us. There must be a “War on Christmas” or a “War on Christianity”…their version of it of course! Just ask Delay, it is why he got indicted. No room for an Episcopalian like me. Have to support the South Dakota Sodomized raped religious saving herself for marriage virgin exception, to truly be a christian. Of course. Maybe next week we can have another emergency session and re incarnate Teri Schiavo, not to late to save her, you know. Just mail them another check.

    You have to wonder, if the under manned version of our Armed forces we have today, over extended and promoting an elected extremist Islamic Gov, is a vision of foreign policy that would inspire Ronald Reagan….naw! You do not have to believe me, just listen to his NSA, Retired General Odem..or Kissenger, Zinnie,
    Scowcroft …etc…etc..etc.

    Must be a liberal we can blame, somewhere.

  7. Mexico’s southern border is tight as a drum. They have fences and their military patrols it. They do everything that their government and illegal alien supporters attack the U.S. for wanting to do. They don’t have open borders with their poor neighbors Honduras and Guatemala, yet they expect us to open up the gates and let everyone in. Their government openly advocates their citizens entering the US illegally. They publish pamphlets and maps on how to enter and what to do once you have entered.

    And why does our “friend” to the south do this? Nearly 20 billion in remittance payments each year have become the number one cash flow for the Mexican economy, surpassing oil and tourism. Secondly, the ability for a socialist state like Mexico to offload its least skilled, least educated onto another nation to take care of. Mexico’s government and economy are one full of fraud, corruption, and nepotism. Roughly 30 wealthy families control the nations wealth. There is no middle class, and there probably never will be. Their culture is one that puts little expectation to learn or better ones self, yes they may work hard, but it is rarely the type of work that will provide a comfortable life.

    Knowing all of this, and its generally accepted conventional wisdom, it boggles my mind how any politician in the US could support yet another round of amnesty. When I hear blowhard democrats on the floor of the Senate comparing a wall on the US border to the one in Berlin (a flawed analogy, Berlin was meant to keep people in), my blood boils. Shame on anyone who supports amnesty. When even Paul Krugman comes out against the “guest worker” plan you know its not good.

    I won’t even begin to touch on the fiscal impact that illegal aliens present on the nation, it shoudl be common knowledge. Sadly some in “power” insist that illegals are a net benefit, when there is zero evidence to support that conclusion.

  8. True, the problem for the rest of the world’s countries is that the best usually leave towards America…

    … but sometimes, just sometimes, they return and bring new ideas with them. The crash of putting them in practice in a different environment is unavoidable. A few times something is won.

    I agree that the solution to U.S. problems with Mexican inmigration is to bring _America_ to the Mexicans. When a new European country enters the EU, inmigration stabilizes as European companies build new facilities there.

    Commercial treaties and the requirements to apply for them (Civil Rights, an independent Judicial Branch, small government involvement in the Economy, corruption tackled…) might be a start point.

  9. “I am calling for a recognition that the answer to our immigration problem (as well as a lot of other ones) is a strong, free, prosperous Mexico (and El Salvador, and Guatemala, etc. etc.) that can make lives in Mexico for the people who today feel like they have no choice. And any policy needs to be considered with that goal in mind as well.”

    Wasn’t NAFTA supposed to do this?

  10. AFAIK Free Trade removes obstacles that hinder economic development, triggering new business oportunities. It is a key environmental variable, though not the only one.

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