Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A radical proposal for immigration

Radical doesn't really, originally mean extreme. It comes from the Latin word "radix" which means "root". Radical means getting to the root of a problem. In this case, let's look at what the root cause of out of control immigration from Mexico and Central America and see what can be done to control it. No one in the current debate is talking about it.

Why are so many people from Mexico and Central America streaming into the United States? Because they are desperately poor and they see prosperity and opportunity in the United States. There is almost no place else on earth where the developed and underdeveloped worlds meet so closely as the US Mexico border. On one side there are lawn sprinklers, soccer moms and SUVs. On the other side there are dusty desert towns with barefoot children begging for coins. The only other border that stark is the one between North and South Korea. Some Americans would like to see our border as fortified as the inter-Korean one, but for the time being, you can walk or drive across the US Mexico border. It's not so easy to cross the Korean border.

This is very similar to what is happening with Africans trying to get into Europe via the Canary Islands, or even Turkey trying to join the EU. But the borders between the developed and underdeveloped world are not so stark between Europe and Africa and Asia around the Mediterranean. The relative prosperity fades out even within countries (as in Italy or the former Yugoslavia - although we should keep in mind that factor is divisive in those countries) as much as it does between countries, and there are no economic borders as stark as that between Texas or California and Mexico.

The Hispanic population in the United States, which is mostly Mexican, is disproportionately young. The half the population was less than 26.0 years old, compared with 35.4 for the population at large (and it was even higher for the non-Hispanic population). In part this was because the Hispanic population was largely immigrant (which also explains the fact that there are more Hispanic men than women, the opposite of the case with the population at large), but this is more a result of fact that the Hispanic population, even the Cubans in Florida, is from underdeveloped countries, with high birth and death rates, especially infant mortality. This leaves a demographic pyramid that is wide at the base, narrow at the top, rather than the rough cylinder that is the population of the developed countries.

In underdeveloped countries children are not just the expensive hobby they are in the US, Europe and Japan. They are their parents Social Security and old age pension. It is not just sentiment that makes people have children there. It is naked, cold self interest. The only way to stop Mexican population from hemorrhaging into the US is to develop Mexico, and give the Mexican people the individual, personal self-interest in controlling their population that people in developed countries have now.

Can one country develop another by either foreign investment or foreign aid? I suppose if it could be done it would have been done somewhere, but it hasn't been. However, the United States has a very serious national security interest in seeing that Mexico becomes developed, and Mexicans become prosperous. This would mean not only investment, but the ability of Mexicans to collectively bargain, in their own country, for better remuneration from their employers, to raise Mexican living standards to the level of those in the United States.

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