March 31, 2006

Immigration Issues II

Carroll Andrew Morse

Earlier in the week, I noted an asymmetrical aspect of the immigration debate

An overlooked aspect of the immigration debate is how the United States is consistently assumed to be the only country involved; it’s the United States and an amorphous sea of non-citizens. The post-patriotic commercial elites driving the debate on the Republican side could earn some popular support by asking the countries sending immigrants to America to make some changes to accomodate the US.
Today, at his National Review Online blog, David Frum finds some possible areas of accomodation. Frum describes how the Mexican economy is actually more dependent than the American economy on illegal immigration into the US, and how Mexico's dependency is at least partially the result of Mexican government policies...
Follow the money: In 2005, Mexicans in the United States remitted some $20 billion home. That's 3% of Mexico's entire national income.

Remittances have surpassed tourism, oil, and the maquiladora assembly industry to emerge as the country's top single source of foreign exchange…

Remittances have cushioned Mexico's failure, but they cannot achieve Mexico's success. Only internal change in Mexico can do that. Mexico desperately needs foreign investment in its energy industry, a rationalization of its tax system, and free-market reform of its labor laws...

In the context of an immigration reform in the American interest - meaning a restrictive immigration reform - the US should of course help Mexico find substitutes for any reductions in remittance income. One good place to start would be the energy industry, which could contribute much more to Mexican wealth if Mexico abandoned its 75-year-old protectionist policies.

So how about tying the scope of a “guest worker” program to the degree to which Mexico opens up its energy industry to American investment? Then, America could help Mexico modernize its economy and regularize the flow of immigration and capital between the two countries.