NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Opening The Border With Mexico

September 15, 2000

Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox has broached the idea that the Mexican-American border should someday be opened to free passage of citizens between the two countries. His suggestion was couched as a long-term goal, but it was nevertheless received with little enthusiasm in the U.S.

But some analysts see it as not all that far-fetched, given Mexico's continued economic progress.

  • Since 1996, Mexico's economy has been roaring with annual gross domestic product growing at an average of 5.1 percent.
  • In this year's first quarter, GDP rose at a rate of 7.9 percent.
  • Such heady growth has pushed unemployment down from a high of 6.3 percent in 1995 to 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2000 -- although Mexico defines unemployment more narrowly than the U.S. does.
  • Consequently, Mexican immigration to the U.S. fell from a high of 163,572 in 1996 to 131,575 in 1998 -- although illegal immigration trends are not easy to determine.

Growth could offer Mexican workers so many attractive opportunities that crossing into the U.S could lose its allure. After all, picking up stakes and moving to the U.S. involves a number of inconveniences and risks. Among them: separation from family and friends and the disadvantage of not speaking English.

It is seldom recognized that an open border could have the effect of luring Americans of Mexican descent back to Mexico to take advantage of greatly increased economic opportunities as they reconnect with family and their own roots.

Source: Merrill Matthews Jr. (American Conservative Network), "An Open Border With Mexico? Maybe, If Its Economy Grows," Investor's Business Daily, September 15, 2000.


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