Bienvenidos a México

Immigration: The Long-Term Solution

 

It’s little mystery that so many Mexicans and Central Americans wish to immigrate to the United States: our country is a significantly better place to live than much of Latin America. It’s freer, it’s safer, it’s wealthier, it’s less corrupt, and its welfare programs are far more functional. In contrast to comparisons with Canada and most of Western Europe, this isn’t a matter of marginal differences: there’s a fundamental difference in quality and length of life.

So long as this disparity exists, people will be willing to break our laws and risk their lives to come here. Our (limited) ability to stop them will demand a great deal of expense and effort on our part and force us to do a number of ugly things, like sending indignant-but-eager-to-work people back to the squalor, dysfunction, and danger they left. As a nationalist — no, not all libertarians are open-borders advocates — I think these efforts are necessary even as I lament them.

While securing borders is a necessary first step, the best long-term solution is for Central America to become a place worth living in, both for the ambitious individual and the family just trying to get by. It will be no easy task: building the social and cultural institutions that have allowed for our economic and cultural flourishing is an arduous and lengthy process.

The success of the project has to be the ultimate responsibility of individual Latin Americans. These kind of social problems are extraordinarily difficult — if not impossible — to solve from on high, and it’s doubly true for those outside the society in need of fixing. If the people of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador want to improve their lives, they’re going to have to lead the effort and do most of the work.

That said, we may be able to offer some assistance and insight and should advertise our willingness. “We” of course, doesn’t only mean the government of the United States, but should also — indeed, overwhelmingly — refer to the people, institutions, churches, and businesses that make up its society. As Dennis Prager has pointed out, the values and practices that have made America and similar countries successful are thoroughly exportable and adaptable to other cultures.

The specifics of how best to do this is a topic for someone with much greater knowledge of business and Latin America than I. However, there do seem to be things we could stop doing that impede this process.

  • Demagoguing free trade and encouraging economic nativism. If American companies hire illegal immigrants because their labor is cheaper and their eager to work, then it stands to reason that — in some cases — it should be more economical to relocate a single factory to Mexico or Guatemala than it is to have thousands of Mexican and Guatemalans sneak into the country and be eternally subject to prosecution and deportment. This sort of thing should be applauded, not condemned.

Stopping this sort of thing would be a good start, but true change will take time, effort, and sweat and can’t be dictated. If anyone knows about individuals or programs working to bring Central America out of poverty — whether American-based or, infinitely better, native to the region — please share them in the comments.

Photo Credit: Flickr user citalan_carlos.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I agree with the premise that it is in our interest to improve the cultures and politics south of the Rio Grande. It seems prudent to prioritize Mexico and extend our efforts gradually south from there. Financial aid could be blown about carelessly like the federal budget in general, but otherwise should be left to private investors and organizations. Whatever individuals and private organizations can accomplish on their own, government should leave be, to avoid waste and corruption.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: it should be more economical to relocate a single factory to Mexico or Guatemala than it is to have thousands of Mexican and Guatemalans sneak into the country and be eternally subject to prosecution and deportment.

    If American companies could provide their goods and services for less cost by stationing in Mexico, there are probably reasons other than patriotism or protectionism that they are not already doing so. What is the legal climate like in Mexico right now? Are contracts reliable? What are the union demands? Most such concerns are for CEOs to negotiate with Mexican officials and workers. If our own government has a role, it is primarily to withdraw tax penalties.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: improving conditions for their co-religionists from Latin America in Latin America.

     There are numerous charitable organizations and programs directed at supplying the poorest people with means to support themselves. But, like our efforts to help Africans, most merely treat symptoms of corruption and war without seeking to end the oppression. 

    • #1
  2. user_313423 Inactive
    user_313423
    @StephenBishop

    Tom.

    You seem to equate quality of life with GDP. Obviously you are not considering PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) but let’s assume that the US would still be top of the table I note that in world terms the US ranks eighth. Do you have any figures for the number of American citizens who are leaving the US for the better life in one of the top seven?

    • #2
  3. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    Tom, you reminded me of something.  Sure enough, we finally approved the Columbia free trade agreement.  About time.  The thing only languished for half a decade.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States-Colombia_Free_Trade_Agreement

    • #3
  4. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

     these efforts would be much better directed by improving conditions for their co-religionists from Latin America in Latin America.

     

    Well, obviously, this is the crux of the immigration debate.

    The current situation creates a conflict between a bad immigration system and the individuals living within it. It’s one thing to say that stopping illegal immigration is a good thing, but it’s another to say that we shouldn’t help individuals  once they get here. 

    The church, like it or not, makes a decision. We help the immigrants in front of us, no matter how they got there. Who is my neighbor? is the needy person standing in front of you.

    You might argue that helping immigrants simply encourages more. But in the process, you’re asking me to abandon my Christian responsibility to a needy individual because … we can’t control the border and we have a Democrat party and president who make self-serving, reckless political promises no matter what forces they unleash. Don’t ask me to stop being Christian just because you can’t get the Democrats to stop being craven liars.

    That’s where the problem is. Fix that. 

    • #4
  5. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Stephen Bishop: [B]ut let’s assume that the US would still be top of the table I note that in world terms the US ranks eighth. Do you have any figures for the number of American citizens who are leaving the US for the better life in one of the top seven?

    Not quite what you had in mind, but there’s this.  A couple of points, though:

    • I intended the GDP-per-capita as an illustration of the difference, rather than the sole measure.  The non-monetary differences are substantial as well and at least as important.
    • The highest reported GDP-per-capita is Macau, at $142,564.  The US average is about a third of Macau’s, $53K.  Mexico — the second highest in Latin Central America — is about a third again of the United States’.  I’d wager the gap between the US and Mexico is much more significant in terms of quality of life.
    • #5
  6. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    KC Mulville: You might argue that helping immigrants simply encourages more. But in the process, you’re asking me to abandon my Christian responsibility to a needy individual …

    Well, part of the problem — apparently — is that your responsibility isn’t being invoked because the government is paying for the overwhelming majority of of these charities’ bills, and there’s an argument to be made that some of this is rent seeking, in effect if not intent. I’d imagine that a lot of charities would make smarter decisions about these sort of things if they weren’t being shielded from the true magnitude of the problem by the government throwing money at a solution.

    That said, I agree with you that it’s morally unsettling to send anyone back to a place they fled; doubly so for kids.  Attempting to secure the border will slow the problem, but it might also lead to more deaths.  That’s why I think making Mexico and Central America better places to live is the best long-term use of our charity.\

    • #6
  7. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Tom- I agree with you completely about the importance of free trade, but I don’t think making it easier to move factories to Latin America will have much effect on immigration. Outside of agriculture and construction, industries that cannot be relocated abroad, most illegal immigrants from Latin America are not engaged in production. They are primarily employed in the service industry.

    As for religious charities, I agree that it would be in our national interest if they would direct their activities to the immigrants’ home countries, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen. Religions (particularly the Catholic Church) are transnational institutions. You can’t really expect them to act in the national interest.

    • #7
  8. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Well, part of the problem — apparently — is that your responsibility isn’t being invoked because the government is paying for the overwhelming majority of of these charities’ bills

     No. That’s not what the cited website demonstrates. This same explanation is true of other churches, but I’ll speak for the Catholic church that I know.

    Because of tax and legal complications, there are dioceses, parishes, churches … and then auxiliary organizations that have quasi-legal status and carry out the church’s mission on general terms, but aren’t the same thing as the Catholic dioceses. Many of those quasi-legal organizations take government money, like Catholic Charities, but that is completely different than the church as a whole. Catholic Charities does take government money to do charity, but that doesn’t mean that the whole charitable mission of the church is being run by Catholic Charities. 

    That’s why you can’t make blanket statements like my responsibility for my neighbor is not invoked because government is “paying for the bills.” No, there’s a lot more going on. 

    • #8
  9. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Demagoguing free trade and encouraging economic nativism. If American companies hire illegal immigrants because their labor is cheaper and their eager to work, then it stands to reason that — in some cases — it should be more economical to relocate a single factory to Mexico or Guatemala than it is to have thousands of Mexican and Guatemalans sneak into the country and be eternally subject to prosecution and deportment. This sort of thing should be applauded, not condemned.

     So American workers’ choices are to be screwed out of their jobs by offshoring, or be screwed out of their jobs and their country by immigration. You’re such a ray of sunshine, Tom.

    • #9
  10. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    I think a primary problem in Latin America is insecure property rights.  This is an unfortunate side effect of left wing communism and right wing kleptocracy.   This probably makes it much more attractive to setup business in the US and import the labour via illegal immigration rather than risking substantial capital south of the border.  I am not sure how you go about fixing that.

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: While securing borders is a necessary first step, the best long-term solution is for Central America to become a place worth living in, both for the ambitious individual and the family just trying to get by.

     I also believe this is the best answer. Great post.

    • #11
  12. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    Carey J.:

    So American workers’ choices are to be screwed out of their jobs by offshoring, or be screwed out of their jobs and their country by immigration. You’re such a ray of sunshine, Tom.

     Well said. I find it extremely tiresome to read endless apologia for illegal immigrants and their normal human tendency to act in their own self-interest- but when any American suggests we act in the same manner we are immediately condemned as nativist or protectionist scum deserving only contempt and derision.

    I want to hear about solutions for the problems of the United States, not yet more endless suggestions of what we can do- at great expense- for the billions of foreigners in other countries.

    I wish them all well, but they are not Americans, and we do not owe them a better life.

    • #12
  13. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Xennady:

    Carey J.:

    So American workers’ choices are to be screwed out of their jobs by offshoring, or be screwed out of their jobs and their country by immigration. You’re such a ray of sunshine, Tom.

    Well said. I find it extremely tiresome to read endless apologia for illegal immigrants and their normal human tendency to act in their own self-interest- but when any American suggests we act in the same manner we are immediately condemned as nativist or protectionist scum deserving only contempt and derision.

    I want to hear about solutions for the problems of the United States, not yet more endless suggestions of what we can do- at great expense- for the billions of foreigners in other countries.

    I wish them all well, but they are not Americans, and we do not owe them a better life.

     Most of the people pushing for open borders are politicians pandering to immigrant communities for votes, or businessmen looking for cheap workers for jobs that aren’t exportable, such as agriculture, construction, and service industries such as restaurants and hotels. In other words, people who don’t really give a damn about anyone but themselves.

    • #13
  14. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Carey J.: Most of the people pushing for open borders are politicians pandering to immigrant communities for votes, or businessmen looking for cheap workers for jobs that aren’t exportable, such as agriculture, construction, and service industries such as restaurants and hotels. In other words, people who don’t really give a damn about anyone but themselves.

    The supposed deleterious effects of immigration are often assumed to be true and as it turns out the actual empirical evidence is slim, to none:

    Link
    Link
    Link

    • #14
  15. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    FloppyDisk90:

    The supposed deleterious effects of immigration are often assumed to be true and as it turns out the actual empirical evidence is slim, to none:

    I can only shake my head in amazement.

    Over my lifetime I’ve watched California go from solid Republican to Democrat one-party rule because of immigration, with vast and deep consequences for the fate of the United States and the entirety of American governance- yet I’m supposed to believe it’s just crazy talk to think there are any deleterious effects from immigration.

    No sale.

    • #15
  16. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Xennady:

    FloppyDisk90:

    The supposed deleterious effects of immigration are often assumed to be true and as it turns out the actual empirical evidence is slim, to none:

    I can only shake my head in amazement.

    Over my lifetime I’ve watched California go from solid Republican to Democrat one-party rule because of immigration, with vast and deep consequences for the fate of the United States and the entirety of American governance- yet I’m supposed to believe it’s just crazy talk to think there are any deleterious effects from immigration.

    No sale.

     I was unclear:  I meant to say “economic deleterious effects.”  By all means, if you have contrary evidence dealing with the economic effects, “I’m all ears.”

    • #16
  17. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    FloppyDisk90:

    I was unclear: I meant to say “economic deleterious effects.” By all means, if you have contrary evidence dealing with the economic effects, “I’m all ears.”

     

    It’s just fascinating to see that you completely ignored my comment about California and American governance to demand that I produce evidence of bad effects of immigration.

    Elephant in the room, meet Floppydisk. Watch where you step, because he can’t see you.

    Since you are at this site I presume that you believe it is better for the nation to be governed by conservatives- or at least Republicans- than Democrats, at least in general.

    One the effects of mass immigration has been a political left that is much stronger than it otherwise would have been, gifting us with Barry Obama and the one-party state of California.

    Obviously this has consequences far beyond economics , but I assume you also believe that the economic policies desired by folks such as Obama and Jerry Brown are rather less than optimal.

    So it seems to me that if you really want conservative economic policies as a whole you should oppose further mass immigration.

    • #17
  18. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Xennady

    It’s just fascinating to see that you completely ignored my comment about California and American governance to demand that I produce evidence of bad effects of immigration.

    Elephant in the room, meet Floppydisk. Watch where you step, because he can’t see you.

    Since you at this site I presume that you believe it is better for the nation to be governed by conservatives- or at least Republicans- than Democrats, at least in general.

    One the effects of mass immigration has been a political left that is much stronger than it otherwise would have been, gifting us with Barry Obama and the one-party state of California.

    Obviously this has consequences far beyond economics , but I assume you also believe that the economic policies desired by folks such as Obama and Jerry Brown are rather less than optimal.

    So it seems to me that if you really want conservative economic policies as a whole you should oppose further mass immigration.

    Well, despite immigration, CA still manages to have a GDP larger than most countries, so in other words, you have no empirical evidence on the economic harm that you attribute to immigration.

    • #18
  19. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    FloppyDisk90:

    Well, despite immigration, CA still manages to have a GDP larger than most countries, so in other words, you have no empirical evidence on the economic harm that you attribute to immigration.

     Sure. I just wonder what that GDP would be if the place was better governed. I suspect it would be much higher.

    I also note that time hasn’t stopped, and the consequences of poor governance compound over time.

    Cuba didn’t the tropical hellhole it is now in a day, and Detroit didn’t become Detroit that quickly either.

    We simply don’t know what the end result will be from the endless mass immigration and open borders demanded by the political class, but I doubt it’s going to be the warm and wonderful multiculti paradise many seem to envision.

    I think we’re hurtling towards a complete systemic collapse politically if not otherwise, but I confess I may have read too many grim history books.

    • #19
  20. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    An tax on exported agricultural goods to counter the federal subsidies would go a long way to undoing the damage that dumping government subsidized products have on local markets internationally.  It will help both the illegal immigration problem, AND the narcotic problem (vicariously the corruption, violence, etc problems).

    • #20
  21. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    One of the problems we need to realize we are dealing with in terms of the place of the United States in the global community is our own media.  

    People around the world watch the television programs and movies and the commercials we export from which they get a false notion of an all-wealthy America.  Then our wonderful news media and education establishments, in addition to most of the previously mentioned television shows, pump out the notion that we’re evil.  What a great combination!  

    So the poor people in South and Central America are coming to a place they know only through those sources.  They do not realize they are facing poverty here.  And because we are so evil, they don’t care about taking advantage of us in any way. 

    I don’t have a solution, but I do think I would launch a PR campaign in South and Central America that attempted to correct that image, perhaps showing some pictures of our homeless populations.  They would still think we were evil, but at least they wouldn’t think we were all rich and that they would be too if they could just get here.

    • #21
  22. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Thank you, Tom, much to think about, here.  Yes, indeed the long-term “answer” would be for people’s home countries to be more attractive.  (Which sounds sort of platitudinous, doesn’t it?)

    • #22

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