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But you can never leave…

30 July 2014

In my 2008 “Gods, Gachupines and Gringos” I wrote:

One of the assumptions behind the NAFTA agreement was that Mexican wage earners would earn an inome more in line with those paid in the United states and would have no reason to emigrate.  Along the border, the higher salaries paid in the United States had created a regular pool of workers who “commuted” to the United States for periods as short as a day to regular career positions.  Though a high percentage of the Mexican workers on the U.S. side were not registered aliens, the practice was widely tolerated.

[… T]he assumption that industries depending on Mexican workers wold naturally move to Mexico proved untrue. […] spousal abandonment was becoming an issue at home, and Mexican men who missed thier families, or who saw more opportunity for their families in their new home, ased for their relations to join them in the United States

While I noted that after the 11 September 2001 crisis, and a politicized “immigration crisis” in the 2000s, that cross border migration became extremely difficult making it more sensible for migrants to remain in the United States, Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian  Cato Institute dates the change from “commuter migration” to permanent relocation from passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.  He makes a decent argument for this in USA Today:

illegal-immigrantsBefore 1986, when circular migration was in effect, 60% of unauthorized immigrants on their first trip here would eventually settle back in their home countries rather than in the United States, and 80% of undocumented immigrants who came back on a second trip eventually returned home.

Since 1986, the rate of return for first-time border crossers has fallen to almost zero. The return rate of second-time crossers has fallen to a mere 30%. What happened? In the mid-1980s, the government began spending massive resources to stop unauthorized immigrants from coming in the first place. By trying to keep them out, increases in border security locked them in.1986

In the United States “libertarianism” generally eshews its anarchist roots (much more evident in European and Latin American libertarianism), coming across basically as “white guys who don’t want to pay taxes and want to smoke marijuana”, or mistake Ayn Rand’s pulp romances for philosophy.  Still, once in a while, the anarchist tendency to bend the laws to fit the situation does come through, and sometimes even U.S. libertarians makes sense.  Perhaps, if I ever have a chance to write a second edition, I certainly would need to mention Nowrasteh’s persuasive argument for the 1986 date for the start of a major change in migration patterns. 

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