We are Having the Wrong Immigration Debate
According to Immigration scholar Doug Massey (Princeton), we have done exactly the wrong things about immigration from Mexico and, under pressure from the Republicans, are about to repeat ourselves. Indeed, rather like the “voter ID fraud” issue, with immigration we are mostly attempting to solve a problem that does not exist at all. The difference is that with immigration, there is a real but different problem. The whole story is very interesting and well worth a look at Bloomberg, but here is the heart of the matter:
According to Massey, the rise of America’s large undocumented population is a direct result of the militarization of the border. While undocumented workers once traveled back and forth from Mexico with relative ease, after the border was garrisoned, immigrants from Mexico crossed the border and stayed.
“Migrants quite rationally responded to the increased costs and risks by minimizing the number of times they crossed the border,” Massey wrote in his 2007 paper “Understanding America’s Immigration ‘Crisis.’” “But they achieved this goal not by remaining in Mexico and abandoning their intention to migrate to the U.S., but by hunkering down and staying once they had run the gauntlet at the border and made it to their final destination.”
The data support Massey’s thesis: In 1980, 46 percent of undocumented Mexican migrants returned to Mexico within 12 months. By 2007, that was down to 7 percent. As a result, the permanent undocumented population exploded.
In recent years, the net inflow of new undocumented immigrants arriving from Mexico has fallen to zero. Some of the decline is due to the U.S. recession and a falloff in construction, which employed a lot of migrant workers. But some is due to an improving economy in Mexico, where unemployment is 5 percent and wages have been rising. “I personally think the huge boom in Mexican immigration is over,” Massey said.
Yet the political debate over immigration is stuck in 1985…. “Listening to the Republicans, you’d think waves of people are crossing the border,” Massey said. “But illegal migration stopped four years ago and has been zero since.”
In other words, the problem really is what to do about the ones who are here now (I wonder who’s been saying that?) and not throwing billions at more border security (who could it be who wants that?).
This country is so f***ing dysfunctional!