Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Borderline

As the debate in Washington heats up over immigration reform, one question occurs to me. Instead of trying to stop the hundreds of illegals that fight their way to our borders and risk their lives to cross the Sonora desert, why aren’t we addressing the source of the problem instead of the result?

The economies of Mexico and Central America are, to be gracious, in bad shape. If there were decent jobs and wages there, there would be little incentive for people to come here, to a land with a foreign language and where armed militias of Minutemen in R.V.’s and spiked up on Red Bull are waiting to catch them and send them back.

So the solution — or at least part of it — should be to make a real effort to help improve the economies of those countries. If people had a decent job and good wages in Mexico or El Salvador, they would prefer to stay there. We have tried in the past; every president in my lifetime has had some great plan about helping Latin America. But it has been mostly lip service or military intervention to benefit our needs, not those of the people who actually live there, and the most it has done is encourage the backlash of people like Hugo Chavez. And there are considerable political interests here to deal with as well; the Democrats have to court the Hispanic vote in the Southwest while the Republicans have to keep the Cubans in South Florida happy. (For a look at the non-reaction to the immigration debate here in Florida, read what Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald has to say.)

Once again we are trying to solve a problem by treating the symptom and not the disease. For all the money we spend in beefing up the Border Patrol or building a wall, we could make a real effort to bring these countries along. Instead of outsourcing to India or Vietnam, wouldn’t it make logistic and economic sense to invest more in a country closer to home? It may not happen overnight — India has the advantage of having English as one of their official languages — but it’s worth the effort, and certainly promises a better outlook than the bleak prospect of finding more bones scattered in the desert and xenophobic congressmen in Colorado making political hay out of it.