Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Should I Stay or Should I Go?"

  • There are powerful forces at play behind the flow of peoples between countries. At core of these forces are the individual incentives that the immigrant decides is of greatest importance to himself. Be it economic, political, or personal, each migrant who moves to another country is incentivized to do so. That is, the incentive to leave is greater than the incentive to stay or not to go.
  • When determining whether to enter a country legally or illegally, the role of incentives still holds true. "If I sneak across the border, what is cost/benefit relationship to myself?... am I better off waiting to migrate legally or is the short-term incentive of heading north illegally greater?" These are questions which people from Mexico and Latin America ask themselves when deciding upon a course of action. As we debate the
    issue, it is paramount that we understand this mental process and carefully develop our solutions around one that will incentivize the individual to come here legally.
  • The majority of Mexicans who are considering their own options are incentivized economically. The monetary benefits of coming to America, be it illegally or not are greater than the benefits of staying in Mexico. These economic benefits include free education for their children, free health care services (emergency rooms), plentiful work opportunities (service based economy), and higher wages. Furthermore, the economic incentives of an "underground" labor pool where people are paid in cash facilities the movement of funds back to their native country and families.
  • In order to dissuade an individual from coming here illegally, the counter-forces to the aforementioned economic ones must be stronger. If free education is an incentive, then it should be more difficult to access as should be health services. If it is relatively easy to obtain a job as an illegal immigrant, then it should be made more difficult to do so as should be the transfer of funds back to their families. Positive countervailing forces should also be considered. The increased quotas available for immigration from regions such as Latin America is one. If there is an obvious need for more people then our INS infrastructure should support an inflow of persons equal to what our economy demands. This in itself should shift a portion of the illegal inflows to legal channels. Finally, if real benefits and real costs are realized by choosing between legal and illegal means of entering America (currently the line is blurred), then the government should communicate those realities to potential immigrants through the use of media and an active consulate.
  • Ultimately, the immigration reforms needed must produce a force stronger than current economic forces which encourage . Economics, the rules and forces associated with it are extremely powerful. The law of economics has brought down empires and has caused conflicts since the beginning of time. If our immigration policy is going to work, then we must acknowledge the economic forces at play and realize that a lax policy of sticks and carrots will not work.


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