Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is the “Fence” the right answer?

I have to agree with those who say that illegal immigration is a problem in this country. I’m not sure the magnitude of the problem is quite what the proponents of the “Fence” would have us believe, nor do I think the “costs” of the problem take into account the “benefits”—both to American businesses and households and also to the visitors themselves and their families who depend on their meager earnings for survival. Hardcore anti-immigration pundits tend to forget that the immigrants come here to work, to earn money to feed their families and themselves, and that the immigrants are human beings. Compassion rarely figures in the discussion.

But I think it should. Furthermore, prohibition rarely works--it only leads to black markets and back alleys. Criminalizing drug abuse hasn’t been effective in reducing the problem. What we’ve done is create fabulously wealthy smugglers and dealers and filled prisons with drug users and minor distributors. We’re on our way to doing the same with immigration. (And I can’t help but think that there is a racial element here as well; if the illegal immigrants were white—-Canadians, say—-would there still be an uproar?)

As with many of our societal problems, the way to deal with this issue is to go back to the source, to treat the cause of the problem and not the symptoms. (This is how we should be dealing with terrorism, drug abuse, abortion, and so many of our current problems, by the way.) Why do immigrants come here illegally? It’s simple: they come from incredibly poor countries with little or no hope for meaningful employment. For the vast majority, they don't want to break U.S. law, they just want to feed their families. They can find work here. They can’t find work at home. If they could find work at home, they would much rather stay there—-where the culture and language are familiar, where their friends and families live, where they aren’t treated like dirt by their wealthy, unwelcoming hosts. It’s pretty simple.

So the solution to the problem is not to build a fence. It’s to build economies. What we ought to be doing is helping Mexico and the other countries of origin improve their economies so that jobs and opportunities are created at home. If the work is available at home, most will choose to stay there rather than coming to the U.S. This is easier said than done, of course, but shouldn’t we at least give it a shot, instead of just accepting the Fence and becoming everything it implies?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sing it brother, sing it out loud!