Monday, May 22, 2006

Immigation, Crimaliens, and Diasporas

It’s going to be a Monday, for sure.

First rattle out of the box, we coined a new phrase: “Immigation.”
Immigation is what results when your Red Bull buzz starts to prematurely wear off…just enough to affect the tongue, but still sufficiently juiced to spring back from the mispronunciation and invent a new definition on the fly.

Immigation is the use of foreign water on crops and fields. Think of it as Evian for your flower beds.

I received another one of those mildly-interesting, but basically stupid e-mail forwards about illegal aliens over the weekend. My buddy, Vince Rowe, likes to call them "crimaliens." This e-mail illustrated the issue by comparing it to a person who breaks into your house, but instead of stealing from you, they wash your dishes, make your beds, and bringing along their family to do your yard and weed your flower beds.

I generally delete those silly things without another thought.

For this one, I hit the “reply all” button, and wrote that while the illustration was helpful in clarifying the illegal alien’s role, it did nothing to pose a solution to the problem. If all the time and energy that has been devoted to protesting and marching in the streets had been, instead , focused on some constructive solutions, both countries, and the border we share, would be in much better shape.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece yesterday by Carolyn Lochead that describes the migration of Mexicans and Central Americans to the United States as one of the largest diasporas in modern history…

Disapora is generally used to describe the dispersion of the Jews from Palestine following the Babylonians’ conquest of the Judean Kingdom in the 6th century bc and again following the Romans’ destruction of the Second Temple in ad 70, according to Wilkipedia.

Diaspora can also be used to describe the Jewish communities living outside either the present-day state of Israel, or the African displacement that seeded slavery in this country in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Now, we are witnessing history in the making, with this Latino Diaspora (how does that work, grammatically: Latino is masculine—vs Latina—but Diaspora would appear to be feminine; should it more properly be labeled Latino Diasporo??)

According to the SF Chronicle article, here are some statistics to ponder:
· 10% of Mexico's population of about 107 million is now living in the United States
· 15% of Mexico's labor force is working in the United States
· One in every 7 Mexican workers migrates to the United States

Steven Haber, the director of Stanford University's Social Science History Institute and a Latin America specialist at the Hoover Institution, suggests what we really long for is Mexico to look like Canada: stable and wealthy. He says, "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."

The SF Chronicle notes that three-quarters of the estimated 12 million illegal migrants in the United States come from Mexico and Central America. How we treat them is going to largely affect how well they assimilate into our society.

Deepak Chopra wrote over the weekend, and I agree with his assessment, that immigrants are not just the key to the solutions to many societal issues in this country, but are also the “seeds” of a solution to cure the excesses of nationalism around the world.

I have stated in the past that the flow of immigrants across our border from the south is not likely to be stopped, but must be controlled.
The camel’s nose is already under the tent.
The train has left the station.
The horse is out of the barn.
Pick your own metaphor.

The Pew Hispanic Center figures Mexicans make up 56% of the unauthorized U.S. migrant population Another 22% come from elsewhere in Latin America, mainly Central America and the Andes.

How do you imagine this Hispanic exodus is altering the countries from which these people are coming? The SF Chronicle story noted the town of Tendeparacua, in the Mexican state of Michoacan, had 6,000 residents in 1985, and now has 600. Many towns now have no able-bodied men to do the work of maintaining and running the townships.

That’s the labor capital aspect.

The fiscal effects are even more eye-popping: In five Mexican states, the money migrants send home exceeds locally generated income, and in 2005, Mexico received a record $20 billion in remittances from migrant workers. That is equal to Mexico's 2004 income from oil exports. Mexican Tourism revenue dsoesn't even come close to that number.

The Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University figures the money Mexican migrants send home almost equals the U.S. foreign aid budget for the entire world. Which raises a novel idea: Has anybody considered it might 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?

What has driven this migration? It's the promise of a better life, and the large income differentials that exist between the US and Mexico. The border is acting like an economic membrane for financial osmosis…when a rural Latin American migrant can earn 10 times in the United States what he or she can earn at home, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand why this is taking place.

Another interesting aspect of this 21-st century diaspora is where they’re winding up…and it’s not along the border. Hot destinations for new immigres are North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, Iowa and Nebraska.

This may be why there is more public discontent over immigration than in the past, with a higher level of immigrant visibility in more locations around the United States.

History does repeat itself, and it’s instructive to observe how other countries around the world have dealt with similar circumstances.

Germany shared a border with less-affluent Poland. There was a time when France had the advantages Spain desired. Might the European unification be an example of a better way to integrate North American economies without disruptive migration flows?

What did the EU do to make their solution work? They invested billions of dollars to develop the economies of its poorer members -- at the time, Spain, Portugal and Greece -- that had been sending migrants abroad.

Notice how Spain has become an economic engine of Europe?
How ironic is it now to see the Irish having their gas pumped by Eastern Europeans?
Might a similar U.S. investment in Mexico be less expensive and more effective than a wall?

Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey correctly asks, “If, when the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1994, the United States had approached Mexico and its integration into the North American economy in the same way that the European Union approached Spain and Portugal in 1986, we wouldn't have an immigration problem now."
Last week I wrote that good fences make good neighbors.
So do good neighborhood policies.
Sometimes you have to give a little to get a lot.

If we need a wall for national security, bring it on. (I’m not convinced that’s the right solution). A better solution would be an economic one that combines border security with common-sense practices that embrace the realities of this modern-day diaspora.
Immigrants are going to come.
They always have, and no wall can stop them.
We should instead construct an economic membrane that enables a healthy osmosis of culture, labor, and commerce.

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