Helping Mexican Economy Key to Ending Illegal Immigration, Says Expert
- Tuesday, January 30, 2007
"If you solve the Mexico problem, the rest becomes much easier to deal with. That is the heart of the problem," said Doug Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University.
Massey was joined at a Capitol Hill press conference by Jeffrey Passel, a demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center. According to Passel, the number of illegal immigrants has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years and is probably now approaching 12 million.
About 56 percent of them are from Mexico, he said. As many as 85 percent of Mexicans who enter the United States each year do so illegally.
"There is a very strong relationship between availability of jobs in the U.S. and the flow of illegal immigration," said Passel, adding that undocumented aliens comprise five percent of the workforce in the U.S.
Massey said the goal of undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. is not to live in the country permanently but "to use the U.S. labor market as an instrument to raise money to solve an economic problem at home."
"We've tried this experiment over the last 20 years of trying to integrate the North American economy without including labor, and it has backfired," he argued. "It has resulted in a record number of illegal people working in the United States."
Massey said the policy was one of "contradiction."
"It's not because there was an increase in the inflow. It's because there is a decrease in the outflow," he said. "The decrease in the outflow is due to our own border policies."
Massey advocated "amnesty" for those who entered the United States as minors and a path for earned legal immigration status for other illegal immigrants in the U.S. To disincentivize Mexicans from crossing the border illegally, Massey said, the U.S. should help their home country to raise its economic outlook.
He also questioned expensive border enforcement strategies, like the building of a border fence.
"Rather than spending $3 or 4 billion per year on border enforcement, I think the United States would do much better by taking some of that money and translating it into other areas of national security and the war on terror," Massey said.
But many believe strongly in the need for stricter law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexican border.
"It is often said that our borders are our nation's first line of defense," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who proposes extending the San Diego border fence through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The fence has been authorized and partially funded.
"Through the implementation of additional border fencing and its accompanying infrastructure, our borders will truly be our first line of defense and not our greatest vulnerability," Hunter said in a statement.
"Based on our experiences in San Diego County, we know that border fencing works," he said. "Since fence construction began in 1996, crime rates have dropped dramatically, vehicle drug drive throughs have been eliminated and apprehensions have decreased as a result of fewer crossing attempts."
Massey said he doubted the fence extension would be built. "Even if they did they would have to use illegal labor," he told Cybercast News Service .
"Putting more money on the Mexican border is useless, is counterproductive," he said. "We're wasting our money on enforcing our border with our largest trading partner who poses no conceivable security threat and is in fact a close ally."
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