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Wednesday, June 14, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP: Mexico’s migrant-smugglers hike rates

None of the Mexicans hoping to reach the United States could pay the $3,000 the smugglers demanded to hide them in a car and drive them across the border, a trip that just weeks ago cost $2,000.

The sharp increase in smugglers’ fees is due to the arrival of National Guard troops at the border and plans by Washington for even greater border security, all of which will make the sometimes deadly trip into the United States even more difficult and dangerous. The higher fees have convinced some to cancel plans to sneak into the United States, while others have decided to go it alone.

Mexican and U.S. authorities are already seeing a drop in illegal migration, although it isn’t clear if that will last.

Border experts argue the downturn may be temporary while smugglers search for new routes through deadlier terrain and migrants come up with the money to pay the higher fees.

This will almost certainly be the case-as it has been the previous pattern. As I noted before, the sad irony of increased security is that the Coyotes tend to be the ones who profit from it:

Smugglers’ fees jumped in 1994 after the U.S. sent more agents to what were then the busiest illegal crossing points along the Texas and California borders. The measures funneled migrants into the hostile Arizona desert, making smugglers even more valuable and transforming them from an underground network to a booming illegal industry.

In the past 12 years, the average price for helping migrants move north through the Arizona desert increased sixfold, from $300 in 1994 to $1,800.

Suddenly, smugglers are charging as much as $4,000, migrant rights activists say.

And, one suspects that the migrants will find a way to find the cash.

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Monday, May 22, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Yesterday morning I noted that Jerome Corsi had written a ridiculous piece in which he claimed the Bush administration was secretly seeking to dissolve the borders with the Canada and Mexico to create a North American Union.

In the piece he made the egregious error of stating that Canada wasn’t in NAFTA. Here’s the original paragraph:

Secretly, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy to expand NAFTA to include Canada, setting the stage for North American Union designed to encompass the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. What the Bush administration truly wants is the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada. [emphasis mine]

However, a commenter at Arms and Influence noted that there was a redaction.

And so, here’s the new paragraph:

Secretly, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy to expand NAFTA politically, setting the stage for a North American Union designed to encompass the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. What the Bush administration truly wants is the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada.

Like the World Net Daily revisionism from last week, there is no note on the Corsi piece indicating that an error had been corrected.

Given that many blogs will post updates when they fix typos or make other minor corrections, is it too much to ask any online publication to do the same?

Of course, given the magnitude of Corsi’s original error, the editors should have pulled the whole piece.

The whole thing is ridiculous.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

From the New Mexican comes a le ngthy piece on training the border patrol: Call to the border: Artesia’s Border Patrol Academy gears up to double security. It includes the following tidbit:

Congress has called for a near doubling of the Border Patrol, from its current force of 11,500 to 21,000 within five years. That would make it the largest federal law-enforcement agency in the country, outstripping the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency, according to Infotrac, a nonpartisan research center at Syracuse University.

The majority of agents, about 9,000, are stationed along the southern border of the U.S..

Update: I just realized that I had posted far more than I intended. The post has been edited as I intended.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

One of the items that is often ignored in the immigration debate is that of remittances from workers in the US to Mexico.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an excellent piece on this topic today: Give and take across the border / 1 in 7 Mexican workers migrates — most send money home. The numbers in question:

Last year, Mexico received a record $20 billion in remittances from migrant workers. That is equal to Mexico’s 2004 income from oil exports and dwarfing tourism revenue.

Arriving in small monthly transfers of $100 and $200, remittances have formed a vast river of “migra-dollars” that now exceeds lending by multilateral development agencies and foreign direct investment combined, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

Now, the initial response may be that that is money that should stay in the US economy. However, if the money in question is helping to under-gird the Mexican economy without the US taxpayer having to give that money in direct aid to Mexico, this is a substantial benefit. Further, much of that money will find its way back into our economy, given that Mexico is our second largest trading partner.

Beyond dollars and sense, if security is the reason that one is worried about the southern border, consider that the worst thing that one could imagine in terms of potential terrorism would be a failed state to our south.

As the article notes:

“We want Mexico to look like Canada,” said Stephen Haber, director of Stanford University’s Social Science History Institute and a Latin America specialist at the Hoover Institution. “That’s the optimal for the United States. We never talk about instability in Canada. We’re never concerned about a Canadian security problem. Because Canada is wealthy and stable. It’s so wealthy and stable we barely know it’s there most of the time. That’s the optimal for Mexico: a wealthy and stable country.”

What isn’t wanted, Haber said, “is an unstable country on your border, especially an unstable country that hates you.”

Exactly. And if further economic integration with the US through vehicles like NAFTA and immigration, then so much the better for avoiding political and economic upheaval in Mexico.

Back to the foreign aid issue, the article notes the following:

The money Mexican migrants send home almost equals the U.S. foreign aid budget for the entire world, said Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and former head of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

“Where are we going to come up with $20 billion?” to ensure stability in Mexico, Valenzuela asked at a recent conference. “Has anybody in the raging immigration debate over the last few weeks thought, could it be good for the fundamental interests of the United States … to serve as something of a safety valve for those that can’t be employed in Mexico?”

Valenzuela makes some substantially important points here. If that money were to evaporate, it would have a substantial impact on the Mexican economy-and commensurately on our own. In terms of pure economics, a healthy Mexico is good for the United States. Further, if one is concerned about security, there is something to be said about avoiding a large class of unemployed young men sitting around in Mexico looking for something to do. While I doubt that they would be joining al Qaeda, but there is a substantial drug industry that could lure them in.

Again: this entire is far more complicated than simply: “we are a nation of laws and we must stop the lawbreaking.”

The whole piece is worth reading, as it covers a number of key issues in this debate.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

The paranoia of elements of the anti-immigration movement has now hit a new level.

Jerome Corsi, one of the co-authors of Unfit for Command (the anti-Kerry book by Swift Book Veterans for Truth) has entered the fray. (I commented on Corsi here, here and here ). I have noted some of his writing online recently, but have largely ignored them.

However, his current piece at Human Events requires comment, as it underscores a deep xenophobia that seems to permeate segments of those opposed to immigration/immigration reform: A North American Union to Replace the United States of America?

In the piece Corsi claims, rather boldly, the following:

President Bush is pursuing a globalist agenda to create a North American Union, effectively erasing our borders with both Mexico and Canada. This was the hidden agenda behind the Bush administration’s true open borders policy.

Secretly, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy to expand NAFTA to include Canada, setting the stage for North American Union designed to encompass the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. What the Bush administration truly wants is the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada.

First off, please note the bolded portion, as it demonstrates that Corsi has no idea what he is talking about. Canada is already a part of NAFTA. Moreover, what we now know of as NAFTA started as a US-Canada trade agreement. Quite frankly, at that point one probably can stop reading, as it is clear that the author simply doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Nonetheless, we continue, and wonder if Corsi really believes what he is writing when he declares:

President Bush intends to abrogate U.S. sovereignty to the North American Union, a new economic and political entity which the President is quietly forming, much as the European Union has formed.

Part of this, of course, is the typical response from US isolationists who see any international trade regime to be the US “surrendering its sovereignty.” However, as I like to point out about organization like the WTO, which is also seen by many as a group to which we have “surrendered sovereignty”: whose rules primarily shape the functioning of the WTO? The answer: ours. Further, could the US leave the WTO if it so wanted? Answer: yes. As such, the degree to which we have engaged in some alarming “surrender of sovereignty” is highly, highly questionable.

Even if we assume that the US is pursuing an EU-like structure for North America (which it isn’t), then does anyone in the class have any idea who would be the hegemonic power that would dominate such a North American Union? Yes, you in the back? Correct! That would be the United States. The power disparities among the US, Mexico and Canada mean that something like the EU is utterly impossible in North America.

Indeed, anyone who thinks that Canada and Mexico want to surrender real sovereignty to the US for such an organization doesn’t know much about inter-American relations.

Further, the notion that this could all be done in secret, and then unveiled by the President to the shock of the American people is utter nonsense.

Corsi’s evidence for his grand conspiracy theory is a CFR document (here in PDF) entitled Building a North American Community.

The dreaded evidence that Corsi himself cites to show the pending erasure of our borders is as follows:

At their meeting in Waco, Texas, at the end of March 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin committed their governments to a path of cooperation and joint action.

My, but that’s damning. A commitment to “a path of cooperation and joint action”! Hide the women! Lock up the children!

Ah, but it gets worse:

In March 2005, the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States adopted a Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), establishing ministerial-level working groups to address key security and economic issues facing North America and setting a short deadline for reporting progress back to their governments. President Bush described the significance of the SPP as putting forward a common commitment “to markets and democracy, freedom and trade, and mutual prosperity and security.” The policy framework articulated by the three leaders is a significant commitment that will benefit from broad discussion and advice. The Task Force is pleased to provide specific advice on how the partnership can be pursued and realized.

Egads! Ministerial-level working groups! Task Forces! Why, I can feel our sovereignty slipping away even as I type.

In all seriousness, if one knows anything about the way government interact with one another knows that these types of things are established all the time. In April of this year, the US sent representatives from foreign policy related Departments to a meeting of the Central American Integration System to discuss joint security issues. Is that a surrendering of sovereignty?

Now, it is true that Corsi cites issues about a common external tariff and rules about movement of persons that would not sit well with the seal-the-border crowd:

The three governments should commit themselves to the long-term goal of dramatically diminishing the need for the current intensity of the governments’ physical control of cross-border traffic, travel, and trade within North America. A long-term goal for a North American border action plan should be joint screening of travelers from third countries at their first point of entry into North America and the elimination of most controls over the temporary movement of these travelers within North America.

Such ideas have been around since the signing of NAFTA and is nothing radical, unless one is seriously afraid of Mexican hordes pouring over the border. It is hardly the erasure of borders and the ceding of sovereign power to some new North American government. Further, I would note that the statement is rather vague.

Regardless, Corsi draws a rather radical conclusion:

Why doesn’t President Bush just tell the truth? His secret agenda is to dissolve the United States of America into the North American Union.

Amazing. I would find it all laughable, expect that I am pretty sure that there are many people out there who will take it seriously.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT: Senate Votes to Extend Fence Along Border

The measure calling for an additional 370 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers carried by 83 to 16. Since the House of Representatives has already approved some 700 miles of additional fencing, it is likely that whatever immigration legislation emerges from the full Congress will provide for extra barriers.

Last time I checked, the border was about 2,000 miles in length. What this will likely is what current border fortification have done: shift the flow, but not dampen it. For example, the current problems being experienced in Arizona, especially the crossing of private lands, are a direct result of border barriers built in more urban areas.

And I still predict that with more fencing will come more direct (and successful) attempts at penetrating said object.

One of Alabama’s Senators got into the act with a little poetic citation:

The Senate fence measure was embodied in an amendment offered by Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who borrowed from the poet Robert Frost. “Good fences make good neighbors,” he said. “Fences don’t make bad neighbors.”

Amusingly, however, as Mike Munger notes, Sessions misses the point of the poem he is quoting (Frost’s oft-quoted verse is actually anti-fence).

Regardless (the point of the poem is ultimately unimportant, although the misapplication is amusing), of the items that will survive the conference, there is no doubt that the fence/barrier elements will be one of them.

Of course, the conference is likely to be highly contentious, and will almost have to craft brand new legislation out of the ashes of the House and Senate bills:

Whatever emerges from the Senate will have to be reconciled with a House bill that emphasizes border security rather than chances at citizenship, and those negotiations are sure to be hard-fought.

Back to the question of the overall efficacy of a border fence, a piece in WaPo today has the information:

Starting in 1993, the Border Patrol blockaded major urban crossing points from San Diego to El Paso, where large groups of immigrants simply dashed across in what were known as “banzai runs.” In El Paso, agents continuously patrolled the Rio Grande, hoping to deter immigrants. A year later in San Diego, the government built a 10-foot-high steel fence for Operation Gatekeeper. Eventually, 106 miles of fencing was constructed near every metropolis along the border with Mexico.

But the illegal crossings have continued.

Gatekeeper and the other efforts did nothing to stem the tide of illegal entries to the United States. In fiscal 2005, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.1 million people, about the same as in 1993. Several academic studies have estimated that 500,000 got through, also the same as in 1993, despite the number of Border Patrol agents tripling to more than 11,000 in 12 years. But Gatekeeper and the rest of the deterrence campaign did have real effect: Instead of dashing across in urban areas, illegal immigrants turned to paths through the deserts of eastern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They began employing “coyotes,” smugglers who demanded thousands of dollars, to lead them and often traveled under hot sun with little water. More than 2,500 have died attempting such crossings in the past decade.

As noted above: the numbers coming through the San Diego area have no doubt diminished, but the flow simply shifted.

As, as the story notes, with the increased security at major urban crossings increased, once people cross, they are less likely to cross back for fear of being captured/the difficulty associated with re-crossing. In other words: our increased security and expense hasn’t stemmed the tide of illegals entering the country, but those policies have increased the odds that illegal aliens ill take up permanent residence in the United States:

Because it became riskier and more expensive to cross — coyotes charge $1,500 per person, on average — once illegal immigrants were here, they tended to stay. Also, a decade ago, most people crossing were men. Now, Van Wagenen said, “We catch whole families. Mother, children, grandma and grandpa are in the group.”

And the policy results have been perverse, in the sense that that which is often noted as one of the major problems with illegal immigration has been made worse by our policies aimed at stopped the flow:

“This means an increased rate of settlement, an increased rate of population growth, increased costs to society for schools, housing and medical care,” said Douglas S. Massey, a Princeton University sociologist who is running the study. “We’ve accomplished the very thing we set out to avoid.”

And, of course, there’s this:

The perilous journey has also left thousands dead. In 1993, 23 people died crossing the border, most of them hit on Interstate 5 north of the border in California. Now, on average, 1.5 people die a day

Regardless of anything else, this underscores what we are dealing with in terms of the forces we are trying to reshape via legislation. To date we have been singularly poor at accomplishing our stated goals.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

I have now listened to the speech (the text of which (as well as video) can be found here). In the speech Bush outlined five “clear objectives.” Here are some of my reactions.

First:

the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration, and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.

I suppose no one would argue with this. The question becomes, and it is one no one has really dealt with, what constitutes a “secure” border. If it means the utter elimination of drugs and illegal immigrants crossing it, then “secure” is impossible.

As a practical matter, how low must those flows get before we can deem it “secure”?

I think that, on balance, most people who do not live near the border have no clue as to how much legitimate traffic passes over it on a daily basis. When one considers the amount, the notion of a truly “secure” border is a chimera, unless we have a fairly loose definition of “secure.”

Still, it would be helpful to know what the President (and his critics, for that matter) would consider to be a “secure” border.

Some numbers to consider from a previous post (citations for quotes at end of this post):

In 2000 alone, 489 million people, 127 million passenger vehicles, 11.6 million maritime containers, 11.5 million trucks, 2.2 million railroad cars, 829,000 planes, and 211,000 vessels passed through U.S. border inspection systems (Flynn 2002).

and

“US Customs officials must clear one container every 20 seconds in southern California, and one truck every 12 seconds in Detroit” ( Flynn 2000:59).

Consider: those are old numbers-the figures will have gone up in the last six years.

Further, in 2005 the combined imports and exports between the US and Mexico were US$ 290.2 billion (see here). That makes Mexico our second largest trading partner in the world after Canada. That trade crosses the border. There is a level at which security on the border hampers that economic flow. How far are we willing to go? It is a legitimate question that I don’t think has been adequately answered.

Second:

to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.

I think that this gets to the heart of the matter: even as we have increased security on the border, and as we have increased the number of border patrol agents, the number of illegal immigrants making into the US has not slowed. The pull here is primal and one that cannot be legislated away. Further, there are clear economic forces of supply and demand at work here that need to be recognized and considered as laws are written. A guest worker program would allow for a greater management of those forces. There are legitimate issues to be considered with such a program, as it has the potential to create a caste system of sorts, which is something to consider. I think that the number of immigrants in general from Mexico ought to be raised as well. Let those who want to be citizens seek that route, and let those who simply want to work temporarily, work temporarily. In all of this, examine the economic realities as any program is designed.

Third:

we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law, and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.

I have to wonder about this point. I understand the concept-in its simplest form the notion is make it possible for employers to know for sure (which is not possible now) whether or not they are hiring illegals or legals. However, this strikes me as a nod to a technological solution that doesn’t currently exist. I know that the tech to do the task exists, but the mass-production and implementation of it is different matter. Further, unless we also have such identification for US citizens (which isn’t a popular notion), then all this program would do (assuming that the new docs would, indeed, be forgery-proof), would simply result in forgery of documents that make an illegal appear to be a citizen.

If a guy has a driver’s license, social security card and birth certificate, what’s an employer going to do? I’ll tell you: they’ll do what they do now, gladly accept the documents as real and give the guy a hammer, broom or spatula.

Fourth:

we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.

[…]

I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I’ve just described is not amnesty, it is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.

This all seems rather reasonable. Of course, one can almost hear the collective rolling of the eyes of Michelle Malkin and her compadres on this topic as they say that this is amnesty.

Fifth:

we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams, they renew our spirit, and they add to the unity of America.

I concur with this concept, and think it is clear that the route to success in the US requires the learning of English.

On balance, it was a fairly moderate speech. I continue to find the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops to be problematic. And, in general, I am not sure that there was rally much new here. It will be interesting to see how/if the speech affects the debate in the Congress.

I found the speech to also contain a number of assumptions about how technology (biometric, border sensors, drones, etc.) will solve the problem. Take tech and add the military and we have two of America’s favorite magic bullets. However, there are no magic bullets that can be utilized to solve this issue. Ultimately, I have to wonder whether any of this will solve much of anything.

Of course, as James Joyner notes, the speech didn’t really make anyone happy.




Works Cited
Flynn, Stephen E. (2002) “America the Vulnerable” Foreign Affairs. Jan/Feb.

Flynn, Stephen E. (2000) “Beyond Border Control” Foreign Affairs. NovDec.

Update: Some typos corrected.

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Monday, May 15, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP: Bush to Send Up to 6,000 Troops to Border

President Bush said Monday night he would order as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to secure the U.S. border with Mexico and urged Congress to give millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, as he tried to build support for a major overhaul of the nation’s tattered immigration laws.

[…]

The Guard troops would mostly serve two-week stints before rotating out of the assignment, so keeping the force level at 6,000 over the course of a year could require up to 156,000 troops.

Still, Bush insisted, “The United States is not going to militarize the southern border.”

I am not sure what else you would call it. The only wiggle room would be that we aren’t permanently militarizing it.

Based on the summary (I have neither read nor watched the speech), it would seem that he tried to take the middle ground. One wonders if the net effect will be to make no one happy, or to make enough of the middle on this topic happy so as to allow for legislation to be passed.

We shall see.

And wow: the involvement of 156,000 troops. Given the strain on the Guard in recent years because of Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention places like Bosnia before that), I can’t help but think that this puts an additional strain on those men and women.

More from me later.

Meanwhile, James Joyner live-blogged the speech and has the whole text as well.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Eldest son has a strings concert (he plays the violin) tonight, so no immediate commentary from me on the speech.

The press release I received indicates that the speech will have a threefold attack: a detailing of successes in the area under Bush, a discussion of new policies (including a guest-worker program) and the proposing of new security measures, including the usage of the Guard.

Reaction in the Blogosphere should be easy to find. I, no doubt, will have something to say about tonight or tomorrow morning.

Feel free to leaves comments and reactions here.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Writes McQ at QandO:

the three of us are unanimous in our skepticism concerning tonight’s speech about immigration and border security by President Bush. All of us are of the opinion that the most likely outcome of tonight’s speech will be a lot of vague promises and short-term activity which will eventually peter out to nothing. Or said another way, political theater.

That is my impression as well.

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