THE SOLUTION TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION?
by Edwin D. Reilly, Jr.
for the Sunday
we engaged, I wrote that I’d tell you my solution to the problem of
immigration—as soon as I thought of one. Here goes.
Once there was a war, a very unpopular war. It almost started over a skirmish along the disputed Mexican border during the administration of Andrew Jackson, but he would have none of it. He had seen enough war even though his reputation was made when his forces won the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. Actually, the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812 had been signed on December 24, 1814, but news of the peace did not reach New Orleans until February. In those days, the low horsepower Internet moved messages at the rate of about 10 kilobits per fortnight. Snail mail!
Three presidents followed Jackson and
then, in 1845, along came another administration and another skirmish,
new president decided to give those Mexicans a Polk in the eye,
fulfill our Manifest Destiny. Despite the temporary setback at the
superior force defeated the Mexican army and in 1848 the Treaty of
Hidalgo gave us undisputed control of Texas and, for an imposed payment
million, close to half of Mexico’s former territory. Half!
That was enough to give us California and all or parts of what eventually became the states of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The war and its outcome was vociferously opposed by young Congressman Abraham Lincoln, and a month before the end of the war, President James Polk was censured by Congress for "a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States." (Sound familiar?) And as late as 1885, as former general and president Ulysses S. Grant composed his critically acclaimed Memoirs on his deathbed, he wrote “to this day I regard the [Mexican] war as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”
The annexed territories contained about 8,000 Mexican families. Some moved further south to what was left of Mexico; but the great majority remained in place and were declared citizens. And as is still the case, their children and a child born of any woman who happens to be in this country, legally or otherwise, is automatically a Constitutional “natural born citizen” who, upon reaching age 35, is eligible to run for president.
Now, fast forward to the present day. Even
at half its original size, Mexico, a country of 109 million people, is
fifth largest country in the Americas and the 14th
largest in the
world. So why do so many Mexicans want to enter the United States?
is slightly cooler on our side of the border? Because of the simple
desire that so many of us have to at least visit, if not stay, in their
ancestral homeland, the lands of their great great great great
Well, most Mexican immigrants do settle in the Southwest, but no reader
likely to buy the theory just espoused. Almost certainly, the reason is
evidence, consider this: Our northern border with Canada is just as
porous as, and
even longer than, that of our border with Mexico. But Canadians are not
into our country to get warmer or richer; their standard of living is
comparable to ours. Judged by per capita income, Canada is the 19th
prosperous country of some 200 in the world, only 13 rungs below our
of six. (In case you are wondering, those ahead of us are Luxembourg,
Switzerland, Denmark, and Iceland. Just below us, from seven to ten,
Sweden, Ireland, Japan, and the United Kingdom.)
Now, Mexico, on the whole, is not a poor country. It is the 45th most prosperous in the world, quite a bit above average, and its citizens have an average per capita income equal to that of Russia. Ah, but 45th is 39 steps below that of the US. Nowhere else in the world are there two countries with a border anywhere near the length of ours with Mexico and Canada for which the disparity in rank is that large.
More evidence: The 27countries that comprise the European Union allow any resident of one of them to move to another just as easily as we might move from one of our states to another. The fact that their citizens come in slightly different hues and collectively embrace 23 different languages is of no concern. They are all members of the same race—the human race.
But consider these examples of how similar their rank is in per capita income: Netherlands 14, Belgium 15, Germany 16, France 17, and Italy 22. Another unifying factor is that 13 of the 27 countries use the Euro, and in due course, more will certainly follow.
So, one way to curb illegal immigration from Mexico is for the United States to reduce the disparity in our respective per capita incomes. But this would require a great deal of American investment in Mexico, building industries and organizations that create jobs. There is not much chance that Congress would embark on the massive subsidies that would be needed to encourage this, but even gradual steps would help.
In fact, there are two trends that are tending to reduce the cited disparity. One is that Mexican-Americans in the US send $20 billion per year back to kin in Mexico, an income stream second only to that country’s oil revenue. Another is the astounding fact that fully 25% of all Americans living abroad live in Mexico. (My definition of an astounding fact is one I learn while doing research for my opinion pieces.)
A faster way to minimize income disparity
would be to just buy Mexico. Since $15 million bought half of it in
might think that the 2007 equivalent of that, a trillion dollars
be enough to buy the rest of it, with one proviso: When we “bought”
Mexico, there was a national government left to give it to. This time,
wouldn’t be, so we’d have to allocate the money to the governors of
respective states in accord with their populations (or better,
their current wealth).
Edwin D. Reilly, Jr., who
shares a birthday with General Grant, lives in Niskayuna and is a
contributor to the Sunday Gazette opinion page.
Postscript: Perhaps because the Gazette failed to put a question mark after the title, two readers, not being famiilar with my sometimes being playful, believed that I was serious about annexing Mexico and read me the riot act in letters-to-the-editor.