May 25, 2007


Globalization vs. Immigration Reform: Can we have free flow of goods and capital without free flow of labor? ( Michael Mandel, 6/04/07, Business Week)

How can this borderless view of the global economy be reconciled with a bill that actually requires the construction or acquisition of at least 20 new detention facilities capable of holding 20,000 "aliens," as they are called in the bill? The answer is it can't, at least for now. One view of the world tears down the walls that separate countries; the other view builds them up.

Europe is wrestling with the same conflicts as the U.S. The European Commission is considering proposals for a crackdown on the large number of illegal immigrants, even as it looks for new ways to admit legally the temporary workers needed for construction, tourism, and agriculture. Meanwhile, Britain has gotten a substantial boost to growth from the migrants from those Eastern European countries that joined the European Union in May, 2004, while France and Germany still have tougher rules for these workers.

Lant Pritchett, an economist at the World Bank and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the author of the 2006 book Let Their People Come, argues that the global pressure for labor movement across national borders is rising. He cites, in particular, the combination of big gaps in wages between rich and poor countries and the slow population growth of many developed countries, which will soon lead to a shrinking workforce unless more immigration is allowed. Cheap communications make a difference as well, says Pritchett, since "it is less psychically costly to move when one can stay in touch."

If Pritchett is right, immigration seems likely to increase rather than decrease in the future, just as trade and communications between countries have grown by leaps and bounds. And no piece of legislation, no matter how finely balanced, is likely to change that.

Any bill that doesn't allow for broader regularized legal immigration will just be followed by another amnesty in a few years. Americans don't mind the immigrants, we just want them to be here legally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2007 8:52 AM
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