Two-Way Migration

I’ve seen this reported for the last six months or so but a high-profile article in the New York Times may push the point home:

PHOENIX — The signs of flight among Latino immigrants here are multiple: Families moving out of apartment complexes, schools reporting enrollment drops, business owners complaining about fewer clients.

While it is too early to know for certain, a consensus is developing among economists, business people and immigration groups that the weakening economy coupled with recent curbs on illegal immigration are steering Hispanic immigrants out of the state.

The Arizona economy, heavily dependent on growth and a Latino work force, has been slowing for months. Meanwhile, the state has enacted one of the country’s toughest laws to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, and the county sheriff here in Phoenix has been enforcing federal immigration laws by rounding up people living here illegally.

“It is very difficult to separate the economic reality in Arizona from the effects of the laws because the economy is tanking and construction is drying up,” said Frank Pierson, lead organizer of the Arizona Interfaith Network, which advocates for immigrants’ rights and other causes. But the combination of factors creates “ a disincentive to stay in the state.”

I’m sure that some may bemoan this as a sign of the plight of poor Mexican economic refugees but I see it somewhat differently. First, it’s exactly what you’d expect in a free market for labor between the United States and Mexico and I think that the situation between Mexico and the United States can be looked at as a free market from the Mexican perspective. Labor flows to where the opportunities are. But, more importantly, it’s a message to my fellow citizens who are concerned about an unending flow of immigrants, legal and illegal, from our southern border. Demographic, economic, legal, and other circumstances working in combination can work to stem that.

I also believe that it would really be in our best interest to encourage the serious economic and social reforms that Mexico really needs to produce more economic growth there. We haven’t seen a great deal of that from the Bush Administration and, unfortunately, I can’t see that happening under either an Obama or Clinton Administration, either.

4 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    It might be implied in the NYTimes piece, but it strikes me as significant that Arizona is one of the states hit hardest by the subprime lending problems and so when we are talking about a “weakening economy,” we are talking about specific trends that tend to contract construction, regardless of the presence of immigrant construction workers. The more explicit economic message in the piece, the reduction in the population is weakening the economy, is no doubt also true.

    But the remedy being bandied about, a guest worker program, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of a contracting housing market.

  • Irving Schaffer Link

    Why not bill Mexico for the US public funds outlays to Mexican refugees. Mexican taxpayer’s are relieved of providing any safety net for its peoples. They just expect us to foot the bill. Let Mexico pay the costs. Why not? Mexican refugees can vote in Mexican elections. They want the votes but not the bills.

  • Add that to the enormous list of topics we have to discuss with Mexico. Others include improving elementary schools, mandatory English in Mexican schools, and legalization of fee simple ownership by Americans of land within 50km of the border or a body of water.

  • I.O. Dutton Link

    I agree completely with PD Shaw’s comment and would add that I think it is utterly idiotic to propose creating incentives for people to stay when there isn’t work for them. They are sane to go back to a country where they have citizenship if they can’t financially benefit from living under threat of deportation. At least this way they can plan for their move. And why would they want to stay if they do construction and we know the construction industry is faring poorly for the forseeable future? This is a natural market adjustment.

    The hope would be that if they really want to be here they would make the investment in citizenship here by applying for legal entry while back at home waiting out the revival of the construction industry. But then that would require that they have some investment in wanting to actually be Americans, income taxes and all, and not just desire to take what they can whenever it’s good for the taking.

    Lastly, I note that when I have traveled in other countries for extended periods, I always had to be really careful about the dates on my visas. If I overstayed I could face imprisonment and then deportation, plus heavy fines! And even though I benefited from the corruption in some countries by being able to pay agencies to sponsor visas for me that didn’t require I fly in and out of the country as frequently as a tourist visa would have required, I still couldn’t go past 6 months no matter what. Certainly not 24 years! And we are talking about countries where I not only did not work and take any jobs from their citizens, but the whole time I was there I was spending money I had earned here in America! America is unbelievably generous in its dealings with visitors (legal and illegal) and that is taken advantage of. How would I be treated if I was in Mexico illegaly?

    There is so much talk about our economy needing illegal immigrants. It is supposed that there would be terrible inflation if they weren’t weighing down the cost of labor. But does anyone think of the poor people whose jobs they are taking who would otherwise be in the bottom tier of the US labor market? Those places they live would be lived in by someone. Those apartments aren’t going to sit empty the next year. If the rental costs are kept the same, that means Americans could afford to live in those same apartments with similarly low incomes, earning the minimum wage, paying taxes, and bringing home the same after tax income as the illegals. There would be no inflation caused by that.

    I simply cannot understand why so many politicians continue to pander to the advocates of illegal immigration to America. Trying so hard to earn the votes of their legal relatives? Well you know how that ends? You grant citizenship to illegals (as all of the presidential candidates except Huckabee are requesting) and you’ve got an even bigger block of votes you’re worried about losing later. How about taking a stand for reasonableness NOW.

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