Sunday, May 14, 2006

Solving the illegal immigration issue, short- and long-time (and why they won't happen soon)

Bush is planning to announce that he's sending National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border to catch illegal immigrants trying to come to America.  It's a damagogic appeal to his conservative white base, hoping to keep their interest strong enough to turn out to vote for Republicans on November 6.

He would be more effective if he sent out some federal police to bust a few growers and builders using undocumented immigrant labor.  Or bust a few good white suburban homeowners using undocumented nannies or yard workers.  But that ain't gonna happen.  It's the same brtually cynical game: use the immigrant issue to get the nervous white folks worked up, but make sure that businesses get their essential supply of undocumented workers.

The basic elements of solving the immigration problems are well known: impose effective employer sanctions against hiring undocumented immigrants; provide a convenient legal mechanism to allow the required number of workers to immigrate legally; and, enforce laws on wages and working conditions that will prevent immigration from driving down salaries for American workers.

But a package like this will not get passed in Congress any time in the foreseeable future.  Because the Republicans will go to the wall to prevent effective employer sanctions from going through.

There's an additional issue affecting immigration that's a longer-term dilemma: the radical disparity in income between the US and México.  Peter Dale Scott highlights this issue in Politicians Must Offer a Solution to the Immigration Crisis, Not Just a Fix New America Media 05/08/06:

Any solution must address the root cause of poverty in the Third World, and particularly Latin America. Current U.S. policies facilitate the movement of wealth from these countries into New York banks. As long as this continues we must expect that the poor to follow as well.

It is no accident that, as columnist Jason Vick wrote last month in the Collegiate Times, "The income gap between Mexico and the United States is the largest between any two border states in the world, and most of the neighboring Central American states are far poorer than Mexico."

The NAFTA Treaty was expected to create conditions that would increase job opportunities and income in México.  But it didn't work out that way:

The United States was not the original cause of this poverty in the former Spanish colonies. But current U.S. policies are aggravating it. Not just in Mexico, but around the world, the market fundamentalism of the so-called "Washington consensus" on economics enforces programs that result in capital outflows from the world's poorer countries. Chief among these policies are fiscal conservatism, trade liberalization, privatization and free capital movements. ...

Scott emphasizes that the inability of less-developed countries to effectively limit capital flight under international trading rules is a key element in causing wide gaps in income within and between countries:

It is true that direct government assaults on the problem of poverty, such as development aid, are often inefficient at best. But government deregulation of capital movements that benefit the wealthy must be recognized as a significant cause of illegal immigration into this country. ...

To reduce illegal immigration, our politicians must raise their eyes beyond barriers and border patrols, and begin to regulate the root problems of wealth and poverty in the world.

But that kind of vision is not likely to animate policy in the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

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