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The Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona has just published a report on the main causes of illegal immigration. Global economic change tops the list, followed by an inadequacy of proper legal for migration and lack of employer sanctions for hiring ‘illegal aliens.’ (See the report here).
When we speak of global economic change, we are referring to the current era of global integration and economic realignment, of neo-liberal trade policies that have contributed to the creation of a vast pool of low-skilled workers in developing countries. As these countries move from manufacturing to knowledge-based economies, low-skilled workers find themselves out of jobs and migrating to better their lives. Moreover, due to the ease and fluency of transportation, labor is more fluid and free to move around than ever before.
The United States the primary initiator and benefactor of neoliberalism is left to deal with one of the less appealing effects of this rapid global economic change: ‘illegal immigration.’ We can either choose to deal with the main push factor of immigration poverty, or change our immigration laws to handle the impact of neo-liberalism on the lives of low-skilled workers. The latter being easier and less radical to implement, it would be highly advisable to develop a ‘guest worker’ or ‘temporary worker’ authorization program so that people are encouraged to legally migrate.
It should be painfully obvious that building border fences, strictly enforcing immigration laws, putting people in detention centers, limiting student visas, calling for all illegals to be ‘deported now’ does not deter ‘illegal immigration.’ Being stubborn and ‘staying the course’ does NOT win the war. Unfortunately, that ‘one-size fits all’ tunnel vision mentality has proliferated all dimensions of our policy-making from foreign policy to economics to matters of social concern.
We need change. Yes, we do. And, yes we can.