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World Association of International Studies

Post More Thoughts on Immigration
Created by John Eipper on 05/08/15 3:47 AM

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More Thoughts on Immigration (Timothy Brown, USA, 05/08/15 3:47 am)

I agree with Richard Hancock (6 May) on the importance of the Hispanic vote. The problem the Republicans have is strong resistance from that party's traditional base, which insists that those who entered the US illegally should not be rewarded for what they did, and that, before immigration law is reformed, the US-Mexico border must be sealed against further illegal immigration. A few years ago, I published the attached articles in the Hoover Digest and the Washington Times recommending how today's multi-billion dollar black market in foreign workers can be transformed into a cash cow of benefit to everyone--except those that put politics first and country second.

One preliminary comment. Sealing a border is not possible. In Vietnam mine fields, free fire zones and artillery barely slowed the Viet Minh down; the Nicaragua Sandinista government efforts to seal that country's northern border against Contra forces entering the country using the same tactics--mine fields, free-fire zones cleared of their civilian populations and saturation patrolling, and all their efforts barely slowed down Contra units infiltrating or exfiltrating that country; the Berlin Wall proved insufficient; and even today's totalitarian North Korea has not been able to seal its border with China.

As for illegal/undocumented/informal immigration to the United States from Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean, the origin of this problem does not lie in the United States but in the countries of origin of the workers. One half of the problem is the relative poverty of their home countries, social immobility, inefficient and unjust governance, and their consequences are one side of what propels workers to seek work outside their home countries in spite of the difficulties, real dangers and expenses involved. But the problem has a second side. Despite all this they would not come to the US if there were no jobs here waiting for them. And the existence of those jobs depends on there being enough American employers that are willing, even eager, to break the law by employing them. Put simply, American employers willing to break the law are the magnet; the illegals workers are simply the "iron filings" this magnet attracts. Put simply, illegal immigration is a $300-400 billion Black Market in which willing workers sell their labor to employers willing to break the law. The solution lies in transforming this Black Market into a legal cash cow.

We've long intellectually accepted the idea that the problem lies in the poverty and mis-governance in the "Third World" and that, therefore, we should help poor countries prosper. We've tried to solve this problem by sending them billions of dollars in foreign aid. Over the decades, I was directly involved in the management of $250-350 million of this aid. And, to put it bluntly, at its very best it barely works, mainly because it's administered from the top down because about ninety cents out of every dollar is spent at the top to get the remaining ten cents to the poor at the bottom. In private, AID officers describe the entire foreign aid process as "taking money from the poor in rich countries and giving it to the rich in poor countries."

And, efficient or not, even at its biggest and best, foreign aid alone has failed to develop a single country. But there is another flow of money from rich to poor countries, remittances--the money that workers (both legal and illegal) in richer countries directly to their families in poorer countries. The amount of money foreign workers send back home dwarfs the amount of foreign the richer world. A few years ago the global total of foreign aid was running about $40 billion a year, while remittances were running closer to $400 billion a year, or ten times more. And not just that, but as little as ten cents out of every foreign aid dollar ever reached those most in need, while about 90 cents of every dollar of remittances reached the poorest of the poor.

So, my proposed solution. Harness remittances to the development process by legalizing the hiring of non-immigrant foreign workers, controlling their employers here and the using the visa/permit process already being managed by our consulates abroad to control the movement of foreign workers. I'm attaching here a more detailed set of recommendations in hopes at least some of my fellow WAISers will find them interesting.

JE comments:  Another prong of Tim's solution is to set up savings funds for the non-immigrant workers, which would then be used for development in the countries of origin.  This strikes me as a very sensible idea.  Further reading below:


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  • Immigration and Remittances; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/08/15 4:58 PM)

    Gary Moore responds to Tim Brown (8 May):

    Regarding Tim's impressive proposal on immigration, as I imagine he knows,
    there are already extensive Mexican immigrant groups in cities like Chicago that specifically
    channel earnings/remittances into development of their hometowns. Some great projects
    have been completed in the Mexican countryside that way. It's an instructive lesson.
    But a drop in the bucket...?

    JE comments:  Perhaps more like a steady drizzle.  I've come across many small businesses in Mexico that were originally capitalized by overseas remittances.

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