Mexico, U.S. must solve immigration problem

Posted: Aug 22, 2005 12:00 AM
A Spanish-speaking academic friend tells me that the Spanish roots from which the name of my home state, California, is derived mean "hot as an oven." This is quite apt these days. California is a seething cauldron on the issue of illegal immigration.

The Pew Hispanic Center in Washington reports that there are 10.3 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. More than half, 57 percent, are from Mexico. The largest concentration -- 25 percent of the total -- is in California.

Mexico and California together are like a sick pair of co-dependent marital partners.

One partner, Mexico, is a mismanaged and underperforming country, flipping off outsiders who dare to question how it runs its affairs, and then exporting its problems to the neighbor to the north. Liberal, loving and enabling California extends the hospitality of its expansive welfare state, assuring illegal immigrants health, education and housing, a life without English, and providing work opportunities at the margins of its expansive economy.

All pathologies reach critical mass and this one is about to explode. Reforms are essential.

The immigration business is so screwed up by government mismanagement on both sides of the border that it's hard to decide how to come down, even if you want to take a principled stand for human liberty, as I do.

A good starting point is to take a lesson from the war on terror. We can't solve the problem by just beefing up internal security and remaining indifferent to those nations that breed the problem. Similarly, we have to figure out how to handle the immigration problem domestically. But we also must do something to get our neighbor to the south to clean up its act.

The Pew Hispanic Center also released a new survey that included polling in Mexico as well as in the United States. When Mexican citizens were asked if they would move to the United States if they had the means and opportunity to do so, an incredible 46 percent of respondents said they would. Almost half of the Mexican population wants to leave! When asked if they would do it illegally, 21 percent of those polled responded affirmatively.

How many minutemen can we possibly put on our border?

My think-tank friends who follow Mexico uniformly express disappointment in President Vicente Fox. He came into office, they say, as a reformer promising 7 percent economic growth rates. Since 2000, Mexico barely has been exceeding average growth of more than 1 percent per year. On the widely followed Fraser Institute Index of Economic Freedom, Mexico ranks a sick 58 out of 120 countries.

Mexico announced last week that its unemployment rate, 3.6 percent, is one of the lowest in the industrialized world. Why is it so low? Mexico's bureau of statistics explains that it's because Mexico doesn't pay unemployment benefits and because of worker migration.

From 2000 to 2004, 2.4 million Mexicans immigrated into the United States, 85 percent illegally.

Countries can change if they want to. China -- yes, the former Red China of Chairman Mao -- now loves capitalism and is growing at 9 percent per year. India is growing at 7 percent per year.

Our leaders in Washington and in Sacramento need to start talking turkey with the Mexicans. They have got to fix their country. The other side of the co-dependent equation, we Americans in general, and we Californians in particular, have to fix ourselves also.

We need to consider that our welfare state subsidizes and encourages illegal immigration and distorts social behavior in the fact that any illegal woman giving birth here produces a welfare-qualifying U.S. citizen. Fertility rates among Mexican immigrant women are 40 percent higher than among women in Mexico.

Free schools, free emergency health care, subsidized housing, government-mandated Spanish. We are creating a large and growing unassimilated and dysfunctional subculture within our borders for which we and the victims will pay an ever-increasing price. Check out the welfare-subsidized Muslim immigrant subculture in Europe for a hint of where this leads.

Guestworker programs? Maybe. But only if the welfare loopholes are closed.