Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Border militarization breaks the circle

Detail from a mural by Joel Bergner.

Douglas S. Massey makes the point in the Washington Post.

[O]ur attempts to stop the flow of Mexican workers into the United States through unilateral enforcement have not only failed miserably, they have backfired. Heightened border enforcement has not deterred would-be immigrants from entering the United States, nor has it reduced the size of the annual inflow. What it has done is channel migrants away from traditional crossing points to remote areas where the physical risks are great but the likelihood of getting caught is small. As a result, the number of deaths has risen to around 460 people a year while the probability of apprehension has fallen from a historical average of around 33 percent to around 10 percent.


Paradoxically, [border enforcement] has discouraged them from going home once they are here. Having faced the hazards of border crossing, undocumented migrants are loath to do so again, and instead they hunker down for the long term. As migrants stay away from home longer, they increasingly send for spouses and children.

Rather than remaining a circular flow of temporary male workers, migration from Mexico to the United States has produced a settled population of permanent residents and families...

Much as many employers may think otherwise, migrants are not inanimate spare parts.

As long as they cannot feed themselve and their families in their home countries, they will keep coming to where they can make a living. If this rich country really wanted to stop the influx of desparate people, we would invest in economic development for Mexico and other sending countries. But we'd rather have nannies and dishwashers -- and complain.

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