Thinking Reasonably About Immigration

I agree with much of what Jacques Delacroix has to say about immigration in this post at Notes on Liberty. I’m not as convinced as he that America needs immigrants. I could be persuaded if wages started growing rapidly in the fields in which large numbers of legal immigrants are being imported. I think the reality is that we are bringing in just enough legal immigrants to keep wages from rising.

And here’s a passage with which I strongly disagree:

Three: At the risk of exposing here my ignorance, I must say that I am not aware of any serious research on the following proposition: It might be cheaper, more lasting and less destructive of our social fabric to repair the three nearby countries that are flooding us with poor people than to try to handle humanely their fleeing population at the border and inside the US. I refer, of course to the so-called “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala which has a total population of about 32 million. GDP/capita in those countries are about $ 4,200, $2,700, and $4,000. An investment of $1,000 for each citizen of those God-forsaken countries would cost about 32 billion US dollars. Such investment is almost certainly beyond these countries inhabitants’ present capacity to save.

While I agree that we should be providing more aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, I think that “repairing” them is beyond our power. There is no amount of money that the ruling elites in those countries would not gladly absorb without changing anyth8ing. I think that what we need to do is a lot more complicated and delicate than that. We’ve got to pay those ruling elites enough to allow us to spend some money on very small scale local projects to improve conditions in those countries. I have no real hope of our being able to do that.

7 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    We cant invade other countries and give them liberty and a functioning country. We cant really fix other countries and not sure we can fix our own. We could certainly try to at least not make those other countries worse with our own policies. Our drug laws drive some of the problems in those countries. I think our immigration laws and unwillingness to do the kinds of things that might help probably make things worse. We need work plan enforcement not performance idiocy like walls across the entire border.


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Fernando is a friend of mine who fled sustenance living in rural Mexico years ago. Almost all of his siblings and cousins did the same. They reassembled in Boulder Co. to run a successful restaurant and later opened up one here and elsewhere.
    I asked him what he thought should be done about immigration. He immediately said that the US should occupy Mexico, it’s too corrupt to heal itself.
    I said I think you overestimate the US.
    The cartels already operate on American soil, and probably already corrupt our police and courts.
    Drugs are the problem, or rather drug profits.
    Who ever has the solution raise your hand.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    As proof.

    The secretary of state and the vice president both issued warnings and condemnations of the El Salvadoran governing party’s removal of judges from El Salvadaor’s constitutional court on Sunday.

    Amusing sidenote, there were a few snide twitter remarks on where the condemnations from the secretary of state and vice president were when certain members of Congress were proposing similar things for the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Anyways, it is correct the U.S cannot force its vision on those countries short of occupying those countries. The delicate balance envisioned requires the assistance of Mexico, where US presidents have been struggling to find the correct policies for and attention to for at least 20 years.

  • Our drug laws drive some of the problems in those countries.

    There’s an assumption buried in that statement—that drugs are the only possible revenue source for cartels. As long as we have laws that prohibit anything not just recreational drugs there will be business opportunities for organized crime and if we legalize everything (including human trafficking, the sex trade, and sex with minors), they’ll get into protection.

    Argue drug legalization on its own merit, not as a method of reducing the power of criminal gangs.

    The delicate balance envisioned requires the assistance of Mexico, where US presidents have been struggling to find the correct policies for and attention to for at least 20 years.

    I have little hope we’ll find a winning formula there. As long as Mexico is unwilling to act like a Westphalian state, we shouldn’t treat it like a Westphalian state. I see no likelihood of that view catching on.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Soon the cartels may be bootlegging menthol cigarettes.

  • Good one. IIRC blacks are the main market for them.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Quite seriously, and because the stability of neighboring nations is a security issue, is it possible, in theory at least, to to make financial investments in individual Mexican states based on evidence of clean government?
    Can we pick the thing apart, financially isolating or disregarding those areas that are corrupt, just as American tourists and retirees select locations deemed safe, and avoid those deemed unsafe.
    This would seem entirely natural when practiced by tourists or business.
    Let Federal foreign aid do the same, bypassing Mexico’s central government and investing in those areas we see as salvageable, encouraging other areas to emulate them.
    Just a thought.

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