Friday, April 15

Mexico: Pundita clarifies a point

Some readers asked how the World Bank could be expected to write a loan that deals with US-Mexico border security. The question was in response to a sentence in yesterday's post on Mexico.

The answer is that the Bank (and the Inter-American Development Bank) wouldn't write that type of loan. I was suggesting a study on Mexico's illegal immigrant problem.

Mexico is playing ostrich; they claim that most of their illegals are just passing through on their way to the US. This flies in the face of Mexico's status as a middle-income country. However, even taking the argument at face value, "passing through" Mexico, for the very poor from other Latin American countries, can take months or even years. During the time the illegals are trying to make it to the US, they are a drain on Mexico's resources.

So, data from the study would have a dual use; it would help Mexico get a handle on their illegal immigrant situation and it would help the US get a clearer picture of the illegal immigrant situation at the US-Mexico border.

The US border patrol is in the position of Hans Brinker. They are charged with stopping a tide of humanity. But the tide does not arise in the Mexican towns that border the US; it rises much deeper in Latin America. So the repatriation program, whereby the US flies a few apprehended illegals back to their homes deep in Mexico, is emptying the ocean with a sieve.

To stem the tide at the US border, the cascade effect--whereby criminals fleeing the war on drugs in various Latin American countries, and Latin America's poorest fleeing to and through Mexico, has to be treated. But right now there's not enough data on the cascade effect. Thus, strategies such as the US repatriation program and the Mexico's harsh dissuasion measures (toward their illegal immigrants) are ineffective.

The only people profiting from such strategies are the "coyotes"--the smugglers who charge gouge prices to bring people across the borders. With every strategy, the coyotes simply increase their fee.

This means that illegal immigrants passing through Mexico from say, Honduras, have to stay in Mexico even longer to earn money to pay the coyotes to make the journey across the US border. This is turn means the illegals are an even greater strain on Mexico's facilities; e.g., electricity, garbage collection, mass transit, schools, hospitals, etc.

In short, this is a cuckoo situation. And one that's easy for terroristas and banditos to exploit. So for the love of sanity, treat the problem of illegal US border crossing at an earlier stage. For that, you first need good data. USAID could fund a study, but the World Bank is set up to do such studies, which is why I suggested them.

The catch is that would be an expensive study, which is why the Mexican government doesn't want to pay for it. The way around this is to get other affected governments, such as Honduran and Salvadoran, to pick up part of the tab. And you could throw in some USAID money to make up the shortfall.

It's a matter of adjusting the view. Mexico looks at the 200,000+ illegals they detained last year as "undesirables." Heck, that's good data on the hoof. Don't let it get away. Give amnesty and a few bucks, if the detainees will answer about 358 questions.

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