May 3, 2006
America's immigration policy is more consequential for what happens to Mexico's political and social stability than it is for our economy or cultural integrity, says Stephen Haber of the Hoover Institution.
To understand why, says Haber, we need to take into account that the large-scale immigration of Mexicans to the United States is a recent phenomenon:
- Until the 1980s, Mexicans migrated to the United States at very modest rates -- on the order of 50,000 people per year.
- In the 1980s it surged to roughly 200,000 people per year, and in the 1990s it went through the roof, averaging 500,000 people per year.
- The reason is that the Mexican economy collapsed in the early 1980s, and since then Mexico's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), adjusted for inflation, has grown at a staggeringly slow 0.7 percent per year, less than one-third the U.S. rate.
What would happen to Mexico, asks Haber, if we were to suddenly cut off the escape valve provided by immigration to the United States?
- Unemployment and underemployment, already major problems, would increase dramatically.
- Remissions from immigrants, which total some $18 billion per year and are the lifeblood of many rural communities, would dry up.
- The widespread frustration felt by the population caught between rising crime and diminished economic expectations -- which fuels the populist presidential campaign of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- would almost certainly become more acute.
There is no scenario in which these developments would be positive for Mexican political and social stability. And there is no scenario in which a politically and socially unstable Mexico is in the interest of the United States, says Haber.
Source: Stephen Haber, "Mexican Wave," Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2006.
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