One in twenty American workers are in the US illegally. Adding wives, children and other family members, estimates for undocumented immigrants range between 9 and 11 million. More than half of those are Mexicans, and despite a trebling of spending on border security, the number of illegal border crossings continues to rise.
In my first 2 posts, I looked at the forces that drive Mexicans to America.
In this final post, I will propose some humane solutions to America’s illegal immigration challenges.
All along, my primary question has been this: Does America have a moral duty towards Mexico, and if so, what polices should we implement to balance internal security on the one hand with a humane response to Mexico’s economic challenges on the other?
If we’re serious about reducing illegal migration, we should begin talking about more ambitious plans to reduce the north-south income gap. —Andrés Oppenheimer, Miami Herald
Give freely without begrudging it, and the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some among you who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share your resources freely —Deuteronomy 15:10,11, NLT
The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both. —Proverbs 22:2, NLT
On the way to the Tucson International Airport is one of those public art tragedies that give art a bad name. Cities like Chicago get Picasso. Cities like Tucson get Purpleoid.
Purpleoid is a purple, androgynous figure speckled with flashing bits of mirrored glass. Its body is bent into a pose that suggests this artist flunked his human anatomy classes. It holds aloft in its outstretched arms a purple globe—Fragile Humanity. And inscribed at the base of the statue are these immortal words: Together We Rise.
I keep praying that a renegade semi will take the thing out. So far, no luck.
Together We Rise conjures up visions of Soviet-era murals depicting stern-faced workers marching in lockstep to bring glory to the Motherland. Like it takes a village, it’s a phrase guaranteed to give conservatives heartburn, or worse.
But Together We Rise has more than a kernel of God’s truth in it; it means that a community is stronger than an individual.
Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. … A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. —Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT
Better law enforcement will not end illegal immigration. The demand for American jobs will continue to overwhelm our resources, just as our best interdiction efforts have failed to win the “war on drugs.” Only by reducing demand can we hope to solve either of these problems.
If good jobs could be found in Mexico, Mexicans would stop coming to America.
If Mexico is to to develop a sustainable economy, it will need massive help from an economic partner. Andrés Oppenheimer looks to Europe as an example:
We should take a page from the European Union, where the richest countries decided five decades ago to help build schools and roads in the poor neighboring countries in exchange for commitments of responsible economic behavior, and all of Europe benefited. —Andrés Oppenheimer, Miami Herald.
Mexico doesn’t need more World Bank loans. Mexico doesn’t need charity. Mexico needs investment. Mexico needs technology transfers, training and capital. And, Mexico needs protection from the global erosion of prices for its agricultural products, especially coffee and vanilla.
We should use the US tax code to create incentives for US investment in Mexico. I’m talking enterprise zones that benefit rural Mexicans, not just those living in Mexico City and Monterrey. I’m talking tax credits for importing Mexican-made products. I’m talking about strategic economic partnerships between US corporations and Mexico that will put Mexico on the map as a global economic power.
Jobs are leaving America for China, India, and the Pacific Rim. As a matter of US strategic policy, doesn’t it make better sense to send those jobs to democratic Mexico instead of the People’Â’s Republic of China?
Wouldn’t customer support centers be easier to manage in Hermosillo than New Dehli? Couldn’t semi-conductors be manufactured with the same quality in Mexico as in Ireland? Perhaps not today, but with an investment in education, training, infrastructure, and the right mix of incentives, the answer could be yes five or ten years from now.
Even if these programs have the desired effect, America will still need Mexican laborers. If they leave their homes to come here to work, they should receive the same rights and protections that every American worker does. That will only happen if they are working legally.
It is time to create a new Bracero Program (see part 2 of this series) that will grant 3-year, multiple-entry visas to guest workers, their spouses and children.
If their labor is important to us, a humane nation will make certain that they are able to obtain pre-natal care during pregnancies, pediatric care for their children, and basic medical care for adults. Such benefits will raise the cost of Mexican labor and the services they provide, but an affluent nation can afford to be generous its poorest workers.
I believe we do have a moral duty to help Mexico, a duty forged in years of mutual support, struggle, cooperation and genuine friendship.
For too long, the discussion of undocumented immigrants has focused on border security. That dog won’t hunt any more. To solve the immigration crisis, we need to talk instead about how to lift Mexico out of the poverty that is destroying the hopes and dreams of its youngest and brightest men and women.