Nobody knows, as of this writing, how long the latest partial government shutdown will last, but among the proposals to break the gridlock over President Trump’s proposed wall, one co-authored by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stands out as especially promising. He and co-author Donald E. Graham suggest that Congress appropriate the five billion dollars president Trump is demanding for the wall, in exchange for which the President will support legislation allowing the so-called “Dreamers” to remain in America legally and provide them with a path to citizenship. The genius of the Gingrich-Graham proposal is that it gives both sides what each side is already on record as supporting—greater border security, and greater certainty for Dreamers. One hopes Congress will have the wisdom to pass a bill reflecting the Gingrich-Graham proposal, and that the President will have the wisdom to sign it. Their proposal can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/newt-gingrich-and-donald-graham-fund-the-wall-and-save-the-dreamers/2018/12/22/eb89b756-05f0-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html?utm_term=.fb4521b8ad03.
But we should also be taking stronger measures on another front to discourage illegal immigration, not by making life miserable for those who come here—that seemed to be the main point of the inhumane practice of separating parents from children earlier this year—but by working with other nations, especially Mexico and other Latin American states, to make life less miserable for those who live south of the border. To help improve their lives at home may reduce their desire to come north.
One way to do this is to work for the greater economic development of Mexico and other Latin American nations by encouraging the development of more free markets and free trade. A free market economy is not an unregulated one. Rather, it is regulated by the government to make sure that nobody can acquire too much economic power to the detriment of others. All too often, if government bureaucrats or private corporations gain power, they use it to their own advantage and not to the advantage of the public. In socialistic societies bureaucrats who say they work for the people will nonetheless protect themselves even as they run their economic systems into the ground—see Venezuela. And private corporations may use their power to promote regulations which allow them to operate as inefficiently as they want, to gouge the public with excessive prices for shoddy goods and services, and to block innovation and competition. But in a system organized on the individual freedom of buyers and sellers, producers will be forced to compete for consumers’ business by offering the best goods and services for the lowest possible prices, entrepreneurs will have the right to introduce innovative goods and services, the economies are more likely to grow, and more jobs will be created. Growing employment and better goods and services at lower prices may encourage more prospective immigrants to stay home rather than come here.
More free trade throughout our hemisphere should be encouraged as well. With the reduction and elimination of tariffs, quotas, and other barriers to international trade, more people and corporations will have the freedom to buy and sell throughout the hemisphere, thereby further accelerating economic growth and prosperity. As it happens, when the United States, or any nation, for that matter, erects trade barriers, its producers lose the opportunity to expand their markets and thereby their prosperity and that of its workers. Of course, some producers want protection from foreign competition, but those who are protected have less incentive to provide the best goods and services at the lowest possible costs, and this hurts consumers.
But in addition to promoting economic development, we must also work with responsible Latin American governments to promote the rule of law. Many coming to America do so to escape the drug cartels and other forms of organized crime which are a cancer on parts of Latin American societies. Better cooperation in the training of law enforcement officials south of the border and the sharing of intelligence concerning organized crime (and especially the illegal drug trade) are some of the means which should be explored in our effort to make life better for Latin Americans in Latin America, and thereby reduce their incentive to come here.
In short, it is not enough to erect barriers against illegal immigrants seeking to enter. We must go to the root causes of their desire to come here. If we are successful in making their societies more prosperous and law-abiding, more may decide to stay south rather than come north. Reducing the pressure on our own political and economic system by helping others attain more secure and prosperous lives is far more humane than some of the ways by which we currently try to fight illegal immigration.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.