January 30, 2004

Perspective

A Sticky Issue

By Andrés Lozano

I derive much pleasure from reading and listening to both sides of the immigration topic. It is amusing because they do not hold antagonistic, but merging views. Normally intelligent and educated persons propose and defend stances in a manner they would shun in other issues. The reason is simple: one side does not want to be perceived insensitive to the plight of the working poor arriving and the citizenry of such backgrounds; the other does not want to be held accountable for the abrupt change of the national identity. The outcome is that both employ a sort of Orwelian newspeak to put forward their proposals, muddling instead of clarifying issues. Actually, both sides hold right views, while being oblique in their way of stating them. Therefore, it is my intention to do away with such code-laden language, being in the advantageous position of being a Mexican-American with close bonds to both sides and hardly tilted towards any of their approaches.

Firstly, by definition, immigration is a good thing! Had immigration not been the mainstay American feature, ‘the buffalo would still be roaming.’ Secondly, prosperity-at-home schemes available now, effectively replace the need for the wholesale emigration of the past. Lastly, nations do have an inherent right to protect their national character and features from abrupt change.

The US is a blend of kindred majority European backgrounds and assorted different minorities melting at a slower pace. That is, to avoid stifling, the critical mass better absorbs the influx when done leisurely. Present day immigration should blend smoothly unto the best and most advanced civilization the world has ever known, improved and updated with the rich heritage brought by new arrivals. Simultaneously, other countries should not impoverish and bleed themselves white as a result of the uprooting of priceless manpower and wits needed to apply prosperity-at-home projects. An excellent example is what happened in previous stages of the very recent European integration process: Migratory barriers were eased and finally dropped in the more prosperous member countries at the same rate new countries in the union prospered. Let us face it, when Mexican prosperity approaches that of Canada, border movements will be as uneventful in the Southern as they are presently in the Northern checkpoints. Moreover, when the terrorist threat is stamped out of the face of the Earth, checkpoints will not even be necessary.

Though puzzled with certain aspects of the President’s migratory initiative, it is a step in the right direction. It leaves the door opened to immigration in the great American tradition, yet stems rampant inflow, detrimental at both destination and source. It is a terrible deal for countries to foster emigration in order to maintain a precarious and unfair domestic status quo. Thus, immigration should be subordinated to prosperity-at-home initiatives, whereby US immigration allocations adjust relative to effective and measurable improvement undertaken at the labor exporting sources. If this motivation is not factored into the deal, shortsighted bureaucrats and politicians at source will continue fostering emigration to alleviate domestic pressure for change and as a handy revenue-making tool. Several countries already are workers-abroad-revenue-junkies. Workers’ transfer of funds is fast becoming the main source of their foreign revenue, a dire and flimsy situation, and a risk laden short-term fix for all parties in urgent need of retooling.

When enacted into law the immigration reforms, the US Administration should constructively engage its opposite numbers within the labor exporting countries and allot flexible immigration quotas, linked to verifiable domestic prosperity reforms adopted at each source. A crude enticement? You bet! An excellent one for that matter.

Political parties at the source countries can and should play a defining role. Yet, firstly, must pledge to adopt sorts of no-mischief-pacts among them, multipartisan agreements immune to and insulated from political bickering. Commit to undertake and carry through prosperity making actions, recognizing emigration as a safety valve, not an end in itself. For instance, in Mexico there is growing consensus among political players, which are the core reforms required to succeed, and not much antagonism on how to accomplish them. Unfortunately, a grand posturing tradition and a short-term benefit bias precludes partakers from moving ahead in a joint effort and not short-circuit each other in the process.

In Mexico, timing is on the side of reaching a joint prosperity pact fairly soon. The American immigration reform enactment will overlap with the start in earnest of the 2006’ Mexican political campaign. Both in sync with the time political hopefuls will look to refurbish their images among the Mexican electorate, tired of unending petty squabbling among their elected officials gridlocking Mexico’s growth. Thus, outright incentives for all the Mexican parties to do well and look better are going to be in place just at the right time.

Andrés Lozano can be reached at: alozanoh@msn.com

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