Illegal Immigration: Mexico's Shame

Even as activists attempted to redefine this very heated, latest debate on illegal immigration with the misnamed 'Day Without Immigrants,' the two issues apparently lost are ultimately the most critical:

1. The responsibility of Mexico to its citizens.

2. Their government's complete disregard for American sovereignty.

Only when these issues are addressed can the questions of amnesty and assimilation be debated.

Despite the organizers' spin, this is not an 'immigration' issue whatsoever. Our Congress has not suggested that immigration, in and of itself, is a bad thing or that 'legal' immigration needs to be curtailed. America is willing to accept new rounds of legal immigration as we continue to do everyday. But as a nation, we have a right to determine the extent and management of our immigration, and not have it dictated to us by a government that refuses to look after its own citizens. Just like Mexico, many much poorer developing countries would similarly find it expedient to 'export' their neediest unemployed to the USA and forsake their responsibility to provide basic necessities. But, unlike Mexico, they cannot. At least not yet.

Whether or not there exists a need in America for workers is absolutely irrelevant to the issue of illegal immigration. Many have suggested that Mexicans are currently filling a void, 'doing the jobs Americans won't.' But this is a void people from all over the 'developing world' are desperate to fill, if Americans are not.

Perhaps, as a nation, Americans will decide to extend invitations to other willing immigrant groups and allow a larger number of visas for citizens from Africa, Eastern Europe or other Latin American neighbors who are clamoring to fill any void that may currently exist. However, the massive size of illegal immigration from Mexico makes legal immigration from all other countries that much more difficult since the millions coming from our southern neighbor limits employment opportunities for others.

Mexico's Mass Exodus

The rarely addressedunderlying question is the Mexican government's responsibility for the massive illegal outflow of its citizens into the USA. Depending on what source you choose to believe, Mexico has the 12th to 13th largest economy in the world and has recently surpassed the US$1 trillion mark for the very first time in its history. Its economy is not far behind that of the industrialized Group of 8 and about the same size as our northern neighbor, Canada; where we also share a sizeable yet un—patrolled border.

Yet despite having a population only a third of that of the US there is a mass exodus from Mexico. The fact is, Mexico has one of the highest emigration rates in the world, losing 4.57/1000 people annually. The painfully obvious observation is that it is the only country on the list of top 20 highest GDP to have a negative migration rate.

The fault for this great mass departure falls squarely on the back of the Mexican government that refuses to make the necessary reforms as expediently as necessary to provide basic opportunities and services to its citizens. They instead encourage and actively abet illegal immigration, in essence, exporting millions of their poorest, least educated to the US, thus relieving the Mexican government of the financial and logistical burden of providing an education and basic medical care to millions. A 2001 study by the Center for Immigration Studies found:

The poverty rate for Mexican immigrants is dramatically higher than that of natives or immigrants in general. In 1999, 25.8 percent of Mexican—born immigrants lived in poverty — more than double the rate for natives. In other words, despite the current economic expansion, about one in four Mexican immigrants lives in poverty, compared to about one in ten natives. While poverty among Mexican immigrants is certainly high, the figures cited above actually understate the difference between Mexicans and U.S. natives because the U.S.—born children of immigrants (under 18), who are by definition natives, are not counted with their immigrant parents, but instead are included in the figures for natives.

It is clear that Mexico has made great strides in terms of human development and economic reforms in the years since their abandonment of a state—controlled economy which was nothing but a complete catastrophe. Life expectancy and literacy rates have both climbed and the infant mortality rate has dropped significantly. By most measures, Mexico has made remarkable progress in its swift transformation into building a modern, diversified economy. The opening of its economy and, more importantly, its political system has led to a rapid economic rise. The Mexican people should be careful not to slide into the populism overtaking the rest of Latin America whose achievements are fleeting. Guillermo Perry, the World Bank's Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, and co—author of the study, 'Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Breaking with History?" wrote:

The key to reducing inequality in Latin America is institutional reform. To overcome the inequality that undermines their efforts to get out of poverty, poor people must gain influence within political and social institutions, including educational, health and public services institutions. To enable them to achieve such influence, the institutions must be truly open, transparent, democratic, participatory — and strong.

Uneven Development

The people of Mexico have benefited, albeit very unevenly,  from their membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has been in effect for ten years. There are several in—depth reports that highlight most economic issues but a 2005 IMF report is one of the most comprehensive. They came to this conclusion:

The Mexican economy has recently slowed down, but Mexico's growth performance since the inception of NAFTA has been better than it was before the agreement. In particular, Mexican GDP growth rose from an annual average of 2 percent in 1980—93 to an annual average of roughly 4 percent in 1996—2002 (Figure 11a). Compared with several other emerging market countries, the Mexican economy has performed well in the post—NAFTA period and, in particular, the period after the 1995 crisis (Table 3). Moreover, the average growth rate of investment has been particularly impressive, as it rose almost eightfold during the period 1996—2002 (Table 3).

And their economy will continue to improve as it becomes even more integrated into the world economy. However, the Mexican government must more rapidly invest to upgrade basic infrastructure that would begin to address the deep economic divide between rich and poor. Only when the disparities in access to basic services are moderated can the Mexican economy truly move forward. Those reforms are happening altogether too slowly. And unfortunately, on the backs of the US taxpayer who must make available the basic education, medical and social benefits to Mexicans arriving in the USA. A report by Tornell, Westermann, and Martinez (2003) discussed in the IMF report concluded:

...[When comparing] Mexico's recent growth performance with those of several other emerging market economies that liberalized trade and financial flows in the early 1980s. Their results suggest that although NAFTA has had a significant and favorable impact on exports and foreign direct investment flows, Mexico's growth performance could have been even stronger if structural reforms had been pursued more aggressively.

According to the World Bank, half of all Mexicans live in poverty while 1 in 5 live in abject or extreme poverty. It is precisely because the Mexican government has not initiated needed economic reforms or made a significant enough investment in infrastructure that such poverty rates exist.

In fact, Mexico has instead come to rely greatly on remittance from Mexican workers inside the USA as a way of developing impoverished areas. Business Week reported that $52 billion were remitted from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean with more than $20 billion going to Mexico in 2005.  

The tactic helps the very population they do not educate or care for to criminally emigrate to the USA, then relies on their remittance to their families to rebuild these blighted areas. In essence, the lack of and the unwillingness of the Mexican government to provide economic opportunities at home creates the conditions of despair that launches an exodus that then provides the Mexican economy with its second largest source of capital. Only oil generates more foreign reserves than remittance from expatriates working in the USA. The economic opportunities available in the USA are paying for the improvement of the areas where the Mexican government refuses to invest and develop. They have completely shunned their responsibility to their citizens.

That becomes glaringly apparent when income distribution inequalities are considered. Some municipalities, particularly urban, are equivalent to nations in the G—8 while others, always rural, are ranked among sub—Saharan Africa. The lesser developed areas are generally devoid of any education, medical or social programs. In the last decade, in a first step in reducing those inequalities, the World Bank backed several poverty reduction programs looking to improve access to and the quality of education and health care services focusing on 'rural, poor, indigenous and marginal urban' areas where these services were virtually nonexistent. It is from these areas where most illegal immigration is derived.

The OECD report on income distribution inequalities found that Mexico, along with Turkey, had 'the highest GINI coefficient ratio' in the OECD area which means Mexico has the worst inequality!

Losing Ground

Mexico's lack of structural reforms has led to a loss of economic ground to other 'emerging' economies. Without question Mexican manufacturing faces a threat from China. It is this very threat that most requires Mexico to make the necessary reforms. A 2003 Business Week article read:

If we didn't have NAFTA, we'd be in far worse shape than we are today," says Andrés Rozental, president of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. If NAFTA has disappointed, it is in large part because the Mexican government has failed to capitalize on the immense opportunities it offered. "Trade doesn't educate people. It doesn't provide immunizations or health care," says Carla A. Hills, the chief U.S. negotiator in the NAFTA talks. "What it does is generate wealth so government can allocate the gains to things that are necessary."

If a government does not allocate the new wealth correctly, the advantages of free trade quickly erode. That is Mexico's plight. "NAFTA wasn't an end unto itself but a means to something, and that something was precisely the need to go further in reform," says former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, one of NAFTA's principal architects. "It's like Alice in Wonderland —— you have to run faster and faster if you want to stay in the same place. Globalization won't wait for you."............' They cannot compete with China —— who can? Mexico has to modernize so it can move forward."

Outright Corruption

Mexico must also address its culture of corruption. Some estimates claim that corruption and crime contribute as much as 9% of GDP. Drug trafficking and its associate lawlessness is an impediment to economic growth and human flourishing. There are widespread reports of entire towns being taken over by drug traffickers who stifle human rights and individual freedom. The tax system, the backbone of any developed economy, needs expanded transparency and further accountability to its citizens to minimize chronic municipal abuses. Local governments have reportedly come to replicate medieval serfdoms, where local politicians dole out jobs, assistance or favors based on political patronage rather than suitability.

Like it or not, Mexico will eventually have to privatize the supposed gem, PEMEX. The state controlled oil monopoly is inefficient, under—capitalized, heavily indebted and corrupt. Oil industry analyst David Shields wrote in his book, PEMEX: An Uncertain Future:

Pemex is one of the most inefficient oil companies in the world. Pemex produces 87 barrels a day of oil per employee. By comparison, he said, Petróleos de Venezuela, another state—owned oil company in Latin America, produces 195 barrels a day per employee, and Royal Dutch/Shell turns out 300.

It has become a government bureaucracy unable to invest in exploration, refining capacity or distribution. Because PEMEX is under—funded, experts say only 18% of Mexico's territory has been surveyed for oil deposits and the lack of exploration in natural gas means Mexico, despite purported large natural gas deposits, is a net importer of gas.

The IMF report also addressed some of the problems including Pemex:

...developments underscore the importance to Mexico of designing proactive policies, particularly in the area of structural reforms, to raise competitiveness in international markets.26 There are several areas in which reforms are critical. The energy sector suffers from a lack of investment and exploitation of new opportunities. Electrical generation and transmission capacity is inadequate to support an expanding industrial base, yet private participation in these areas is hampered by constitutional provisions. Similarly, investment in oil and gas pipeline capacity and exploration for new reserves has been lacking, both because of the financial regime in which Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) operates and obstacles to private participation.

Rigidities in several markets have remained as major obstacles to economic growth. For example, Mexico has among the most rigid labor market institutions in the region, discouraging development of the formal labor sector. Telecommunications also remain highly regulated, driving up business costs. In the institutional area, judicial reforms are needed that would provide greater certainty to the legal process and enhance the rule of law. Moreover, comprehensive tax reform is essential to reduce dependence on oil revenues and generate the resources needed to improve public infrastructure and education. The role of social objectives in advancing economic development, which include giving higher priority to education and human capital development, combating corruption, and dealing with poverty issues, are also critically important (Köhler, 2003).'

Ultimately, the decision on who we allow to enter our country should fall on the shoulders of the American populace that is forced to absorb new arrivals, not a Mexican government we did not elect. Stopping the Mexican intrusion, either by building the proposed wall or manning the frontier with Army reservists, would force Mexico's ruling elite to make necessary reforms to help their fellow citizens or face disaster at the polls.

The possibility of leftist Lopez Obrador winning the presidential election should be a wake up call to the Mexican elite. Instead, they have turned it into a Cold War era extortion, warning us of the danger of the threat of communism on our border if we do not continue to accept their poorest. As if, the nationalization of elitist private property is a bigger concern in Topeka than it is in Mexico City.

Mexico's current policies are clearly not doing enough to help Mexican citizens, relying instead on sending their impoverished packing to the USA to feed off what amounts to a US subsidy. Ridding themselves of their poorest by shipping them to the USA is reprehensible and, in the end, arrests economic reforms.

The Mexican elite should be forced to explain their policies for improving the lives of the entire Mexican constituency not just the ruling elite's fortunes as it has been for more than 80 years. And America should understand that even if Mexico stops abdicating its responsibility, the flood of illegal immigrants will remain unabated. Our decisions must be based on those facts.

The tide of illegal immigration must be stemmed before the debate over amnesty and, more importantly, assimilation, can begin.

Even as activists attempted to redefine this very heated, latest debate on illegal immigration with the misnamed 'Day Without Immigrants,' the two issues apparently lost are ultimately the most critical:

1. The responsibility of Mexico to its citizens.

2. Their government's complete disregard for American sovereignty.

Only when these issues are addressed can the questions of amnesty and assimilation be debated.

Despite the organizers' spin, this is not an 'immigration' issue whatsoever. Our Congress has not suggested that immigration, in and of itself, is a bad thing or that 'legal' immigration needs to be curtailed. America is willing to accept new rounds of legal immigration as we continue to do everyday. But as a nation, we have a right to determine the extent and management of our immigration, and not have it dictated to us by a government that refuses to look after its own citizens. Just like Mexico, many much poorer developing countries would similarly find it expedient to 'export' their neediest unemployed to the USA and forsake their responsibility to provide basic necessities. But, unlike Mexico, they cannot. At least not yet.

Whether or not there exists a need in America for workers is absolutely irrelevant to the issue of illegal immigration. Many have suggested that Mexicans are currently filling a void, 'doing the jobs Americans won't.' But this is a void people from all over the 'developing world' are desperate to fill, if Americans are not.

Perhaps, as a nation, Americans will decide to extend invitations to other willing immigrant groups and allow a larger number of visas for citizens from Africa, Eastern Europe or other Latin American neighbors who are clamoring to fill any void that may currently exist. However, the massive size of illegal immigration from Mexico makes legal immigration from all other countries that much more difficult since the millions coming from our southern neighbor limits employment opportunities for others.

Mexico's Mass Exodus

The rarely addressedunderlying question is the Mexican government's responsibility for the massive illegal outflow of its citizens into the USA. Depending on what source you choose to believe, Mexico has the 12th to 13th largest economy in the world and has recently surpassed the US$1 trillion mark for the very first time in its history. Its economy is not far behind that of the industrialized Group of 8 and about the same size as our northern neighbor, Canada; where we also share a sizeable yet un—patrolled border.

Yet despite having a population only a third of that of the US there is a mass exodus from Mexico. The fact is, Mexico has one of the highest emigration rates in the world, losing 4.57/1000 people annually. The painfully obvious observation is that it is the only country on the list of top 20 highest GDP to have a negative migration rate.

The fault for this great mass departure falls squarely on the back of the Mexican government that refuses to make the necessary reforms as expediently as necessary to provide basic opportunities and services to its citizens. They instead encourage and actively abet illegal immigration, in essence, exporting millions of their poorest, least educated to the US, thus relieving the Mexican government of the financial and logistical burden of providing an education and basic medical care to millions. A 2001 study by the Center for Immigration Studies found:

The poverty rate for Mexican immigrants is dramatically higher than that of natives or immigrants in general. In 1999, 25.8 percent of Mexican—born immigrants lived in poverty — more than double the rate for natives. In other words, despite the current economic expansion, about one in four Mexican immigrants lives in poverty, compared to about one in ten natives. While poverty among Mexican immigrants is certainly high, the figures cited above actually understate the difference between Mexicans and U.S. natives because the U.S.—born children of immigrants (under 18), who are by definition natives, are not counted with their immigrant parents, but instead are included in the figures for natives.

It is clear that Mexico has made great strides in terms of human development and economic reforms in the years since their abandonment of a state—controlled economy which was nothing but a complete catastrophe. Life expectancy and literacy rates have both climbed and the infant mortality rate has dropped significantly. By most measures, Mexico has made remarkable progress in its swift transformation into building a modern, diversified economy. The opening of its economy and, more importantly, its political system has led to a rapid economic rise. The Mexican people should be careful not to slide into the populism overtaking the rest of Latin America whose achievements are fleeting. Guillermo Perry, the World Bank's Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, and co—author of the study, 'Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Breaking with History?" wrote:

The key to reducing inequality in Latin America is institutional reform. To overcome the inequality that undermines their efforts to get out of poverty, poor people must gain influence within political and social institutions, including educational, health and public services institutions. To enable them to achieve such influence, the institutions must be truly open, transparent, democratic, participatory — and strong.

Uneven Development

The people of Mexico have benefited, albeit very unevenly,  from their membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has been in effect for ten years. There are several in—depth reports that highlight most economic issues but a 2005 IMF report is one of the most comprehensive. They came to this conclusion:

The Mexican economy has recently slowed down, but Mexico's growth performance since the inception of NAFTA has been better than it was before the agreement. In particular, Mexican GDP growth rose from an annual average of 2 percent in 1980—93 to an annual average of roughly 4 percent in 1996—2002 (Figure 11a). Compared with several other emerging market countries, the Mexican economy has performed well in the post—NAFTA period and, in particular, the period after the 1995 crisis (Table 3). Moreover, the average growth rate of investment has been particularly impressive, as it rose almost eightfold during the period 1996—2002 (Table 3).

And their economy will continue to improve as it becomes even more integrated into the world economy. However, the Mexican government must more rapidly invest to upgrade basic infrastructure that would begin to address the deep economic divide between rich and poor. Only when the disparities in access to basic services are moderated can the Mexican economy truly move forward. Those reforms are happening altogether too slowly. And unfortunately, on the backs of the US taxpayer who must make available the basic education, medical and social benefits to Mexicans arriving in the USA. A report by Tornell, Westermann, and Martinez (2003) discussed in the IMF report concluded:

...[When comparing] Mexico's recent growth performance with those of several other emerging market economies that liberalized trade and financial flows in the early 1980s. Their results suggest that although NAFTA has had a significant and favorable impact on exports and foreign direct investment flows, Mexico's growth performance could have been even stronger if structural reforms had been pursued more aggressively.

According to the World Bank, half of all Mexicans live in poverty while 1 in 5 live in abject or extreme poverty. It is precisely because the Mexican government has not initiated needed economic reforms or made a significant enough investment in infrastructure that such poverty rates exist.

In fact, Mexico has instead come to rely greatly on remittance from Mexican workers inside the USA as a way of developing impoverished areas. Business Week reported that $52 billion were remitted from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean with more than $20 billion going to Mexico in 2005.  

The tactic helps the very population they do not educate or care for to criminally emigrate to the USA, then relies on their remittance to their families to rebuild these blighted areas. In essence, the lack of and the unwillingness of the Mexican government to provide economic opportunities at home creates the conditions of despair that launches an exodus that then provides the Mexican economy with its second largest source of capital. Only oil generates more foreign reserves than remittance from expatriates working in the USA. The economic opportunities available in the USA are paying for the improvement of the areas where the Mexican government refuses to invest and develop. They have completely shunned their responsibility to their citizens.

That becomes glaringly apparent when income distribution inequalities are considered. Some municipalities, particularly urban, are equivalent to nations in the G—8 while others, always rural, are ranked among sub—Saharan Africa. The lesser developed areas are generally devoid of any education, medical or social programs. In the last decade, in a first step in reducing those inequalities, the World Bank backed several poverty reduction programs looking to improve access to and the quality of education and health care services focusing on 'rural, poor, indigenous and marginal urban' areas where these services were virtually nonexistent. It is from these areas where most illegal immigration is derived.

The OECD report on income distribution inequalities found that Mexico, along with Turkey, had 'the highest GINI coefficient ratio' in the OECD area which means Mexico has the worst inequality!

Losing Ground

Mexico's lack of structural reforms has led to a loss of economic ground to other 'emerging' economies. Without question Mexican manufacturing faces a threat from China. It is this very threat that most requires Mexico to make the necessary reforms. A 2003 Business Week article read:

If we didn't have NAFTA, we'd be in far worse shape than we are today," says Andrés Rozental, president of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. If NAFTA has disappointed, it is in large part because the Mexican government has failed to capitalize on the immense opportunities it offered. "Trade doesn't educate people. It doesn't provide immunizations or health care," says Carla A. Hills, the chief U.S. negotiator in the NAFTA talks. "What it does is generate wealth so government can allocate the gains to things that are necessary."

If a government does not allocate the new wealth correctly, the advantages of free trade quickly erode. That is Mexico's plight. "NAFTA wasn't an end unto itself but a means to something, and that something was precisely the need to go further in reform," says former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, one of NAFTA's principal architects. "It's like Alice in Wonderland —— you have to run faster and faster if you want to stay in the same place. Globalization won't wait for you."............' They cannot compete with China —— who can? Mexico has to modernize so it can move forward."

Outright Corruption

Mexico must also address its culture of corruption. Some estimates claim that corruption and crime contribute as much as 9% of GDP. Drug trafficking and its associate lawlessness is an impediment to economic growth and human flourishing. There are widespread reports of entire towns being taken over by drug traffickers who stifle human rights and individual freedom. The tax system, the backbone of any developed economy, needs expanded transparency and further accountability to its citizens to minimize chronic municipal abuses. Local governments have reportedly come to replicate medieval serfdoms, where local politicians dole out jobs, assistance or favors based on political patronage rather than suitability.

Like it or not, Mexico will eventually have to privatize the supposed gem, PEMEX. The state controlled oil monopoly is inefficient, under—capitalized, heavily indebted and corrupt. Oil industry analyst David Shields wrote in his book, PEMEX: An Uncertain Future:

Pemex is one of the most inefficient oil companies in the world. Pemex produces 87 barrels a day of oil per employee. By comparison, he said, Petróleos de Venezuela, another state—owned oil company in Latin America, produces 195 barrels a day per employee, and Royal Dutch/Shell turns out 300.

It has become a government bureaucracy unable to invest in exploration, refining capacity or distribution. Because PEMEX is under—funded, experts say only 18% of Mexico's territory has been surveyed for oil deposits and the lack of exploration in natural gas means Mexico, despite purported large natural gas deposits, is a net importer of gas.

The IMF report also addressed some of the problems including Pemex:

...developments underscore the importance to Mexico of designing proactive policies, particularly in the area of structural reforms, to raise competitiveness in international markets.26 There are several areas in which reforms are critical. The energy sector suffers from a lack of investment and exploitation of new opportunities. Electrical generation and transmission capacity is inadequate to support an expanding industrial base, yet private participation in these areas is hampered by constitutional provisions. Similarly, investment in oil and gas pipeline capacity and exploration for new reserves has been lacking, both because of the financial regime in which Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) operates and obstacles to private participation.

Rigidities in several markets have remained as major obstacles to economic growth. For example, Mexico has among the most rigid labor market institutions in the region, discouraging development of the formal labor sector. Telecommunications also remain highly regulated, driving up business costs. In the institutional area, judicial reforms are needed that would provide greater certainty to the legal process and enhance the rule of law. Moreover, comprehensive tax reform is essential to reduce dependence on oil revenues and generate the resources needed to improve public infrastructure and education. The role of social objectives in advancing economic development, which include giving higher priority to education and human capital development, combating corruption, and dealing with poverty issues, are also critically important (Köhler, 2003).'

Ultimately, the decision on who we allow to enter our country should fall on the shoulders of the American populace that is forced to absorb new arrivals, not a Mexican government we did not elect. Stopping the Mexican intrusion, either by building the proposed wall or manning the frontier with Army reservists, would force Mexico's ruling elite to make necessary reforms to help their fellow citizens or face disaster at the polls.

The possibility of leftist Lopez Obrador winning the presidential election should be a wake up call to the Mexican elite. Instead, they have turned it into a Cold War era extortion, warning us of the danger of the threat of communism on our border if we do not continue to accept their poorest. As if, the nationalization of elitist private property is a bigger concern in Topeka than it is in Mexico City.

Mexico's current policies are clearly not doing enough to help Mexican citizens, relying instead on sending their impoverished packing to the USA to feed off what amounts to a US subsidy. Ridding themselves of their poorest by shipping them to the USA is reprehensible and, in the end, arrests economic reforms.

The Mexican elite should be forced to explain their policies for improving the lives of the entire Mexican constituency not just the ruling elite's fortunes as it has been for more than 80 years. And America should understand that even if Mexico stops abdicating its responsibility, the flood of illegal immigrants will remain unabated. Our decisions must be based on those facts.

The tide of illegal immigration must be stemmed before the debate over amnesty and, more importantly, assimilation, can begin.