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Immigration is a two-way street

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Contrary to hostile election year rhetoric, illegal border crossings from Mexico are at their lowest levels in over ten years. Supplanted by immigration from Central America and Asia, the decline appears indicative of successful efforts by the Bush and Obama administration to militarize the southern border. The impact however, is difficult to discern. Enforcement has put an end to over a century of migrant worker crossings in favor of an underclass of undocumented persons who are essentially stuck in the United States.

Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that more people are leaving the United States for Mexico than coming from Mexico and that the decline began in 2007. Overall, an estimated million individuals have left since then, with the overwhelming majority (61%) citing family reunification as their reason for returning to Mexico. In addition, deportations have grown dramatically as well as the consequences for being caught.

Dating back to the end of slavery, there is a storied use of migrant labor in the United States, from plantation and railroad workers from various Asian countries to Mexican migrants working on American farms, across a largely open border, for much of this country’s history. In fact, border enforcement, starting in earnest around the mid-20th century, was as much an effort to expel migrant workers from the United States as it was efforts by the Mexican government to keep its workers in Mexico. The controversial “Bracero” contracted labor program (1942-1964), which at its peak, brought in nearly a half-million migrant workers a year and the infamous 1954 “Operation Wetback” were examples of this cooperation. Failing to provide comparable wages, the Mexican government looked to manage its flow of people across the border through these agreements.

The phenomenon of Mexican migration to the United States is example of circular migration. Present in most developed nations, circular migrants tend to spend part of their year working in a wealthier country and return home during off-peak months. This is especially true for agricultural workers who would have little reason to remain after growing season ends. However, increased red tape, enforcement and criminalization of entry have forced many migrants to make the choice to remain in the United States as undocumented immigrants. The demand for their labor remains because Americans have shown little interest in agricultural work and farms have continued to rely on the undocumented. Consequently, as more migrant workers find themselves forced to remain, rhetoric against them has shifted, now accusing them of remaining for welfare and other social benefits.

It is possible that the current Republican intransigence and escalation on this issue is because the current administration has occupied a traditionally conservative position. The Obama administration has insisted on providing a path to citizenship while also deporting and returning undocumented persons at a rate higher than any other administration at levels unseen since the mass roundups of migrants (and some American citizens, too) of the ‘50s. Conversely, the Republicans may feel pressure to push narratives that they would manage policy differently, hence the newfound emphasis on “the wall.” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has pledged to keep the paths to citizenship (DACA and DAPA) open, but has said less on the matter of deportation. She also pledges to create an Office of Immigrant Affairs, to promote integration.

Of course, should the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump persist in the delusion of an expensive border wall (currently estimated at $5 billion), it’s worth noting that an estimated 70 percent of undocumented persons arrived in the United States by plane and overstayed visas. To prevent this would involve a blanket ban on all foreign visitors, which would have massive economic consequences across the country.

Sound immigration policy must acknowledge the critical role that circular migration plays for developed nations. In addition, should bipartisan consensus remain for stricter laws and robust deportations, the pathway to citizenship must remain open, so that those trapped by policy have a viable means to legalize their status. Until then, U.S. immigration policy will have the counterintuitive effect of drawing in more undocumented persons, most of whom cannot afford to leave.

Updated 6:41 am, October 17, 2016
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Reader feedback

not based on fact from Queens says:
This opinion is not based on fact. Illegals may be fewer in number as far as border crossing from Mexico go, but those who overstay their visas have not decreased. They are just as illegal and just as much freeloaders who we do not want or need.
Oct. 17, 2016, 8:37 am
fed up from Bayside says:
Everyone is worried about the Mexican border but in the meantime the Chinese are pouring in on the East Coast. They come here and forget to go home... too many illegal are residing in the NYC area... pay attention Donald Trump
Oct. 17, 2016, 12:56 pm
Anon from Bayside says:
Agree with "fed up", too many are here and multiplying like cockroaches!
Oct. 17, 2016, 2:36 pm
don't give up day job from queens says:
Prashad always seems to advocate criminalities and I wonder if he would do the same if someone broke into his house and stole items belonging to him. He's one of those lowly types who also thinks that raype and child mol.est.ation is also ok.
Oct. 18, 2016, 4:27 am
no other job from Queens says:
Calvin has no other job than to pretend he is an activist for his people. Such a bore. Get a job. Thank you.
Oct. 18, 2016, 12:35 pm
Goðheimar from Valhalla says:
We've come to expect nonsense from Prashad's 'journalism', and yet again, he delivers: there are outright falsehoods in almost every sentence he write.
His piece is composed of almost nothing but meaningless Marxist propaganda:
'...should bipartisan consensus remain for stricter laws and robust deportations, the pathway to citizenship must remain open, so that those trapped by policy have a viable means to legalize their status.'
Clear federal immigration laws have been on the books for decades, but the Obama administration ceased to enforce them: no 'bipartisan consensus' is 'required' for these laws to be recognized and enforced.
The 'pathway to citizenship' has been open for over 50 years to people from all over the world who are willing to follow the path outlined by the US INS: provide the necessary documents, apply for the required visas, pay the fees, and wait your damn turn in line.
When mobs of screaming hispanics demand 'immigration reform now!', that is code for: 'legalize us now, no matter how long we've been living in your country illegally, no matter how many thousands in benefits we've received (while paying nothing in taxes), no matter what laws we've broken.'
In other words, they've 'imported' the same corruption that distinguishes daily life in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, demanding that the US Gov't and American people recognize their same illegal behavior.
This author's crap is titled: 'Immigration is a two-way street': this was once true, a long time ago.
Immigrants did everything 'by the book': they learned the language rapidly, they legitimized their immigration/citizenship status within ~ 7 years, max, they obeyed all the laws of this land: they integrated into society.
Within a ~ 6 hr period on Sunday in Staten Island I saw brand new cars from Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, driven by the usual suspects: 'husbands' dropping off their 'wives' with their 3-5 kids, at a local park: English was nowhere to be heard, no one under approx 22 years of age was seen: as an illegal alien, you can do whatever you wish once you set foot in this nation, and the living is good, especially when you can commit rampant insurance fraud in this city and never worry about getting caught.
And the idiot that wrote this is trying to convince you that 'immigrants are trapped' here and 'cannot afford to leave'?
Oct. 18, 2016, 6:05 pm
this guy is full of ——... from Broad Channel says:
Does this guy's editors fact-check anything he writes?
"Illegal Family Crossings at Mexican Border Up 95% from Last Year":
http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2016/10/18/illegal-family-crossings-mexican-border-95-last-year/
Oct. 18, 2016, 6:13 pm
Tom from Queens says:
Immigration is a two way street only for white people.
Oct. 19, 2016, 6:11 am
Tom from Queens says:
You never hear white people complaining about the scumbag criminals from Eastern Europe that are here illegally, even though there are plenty.
Oct. 19, 2016, 6:14 am
take some diversity training... from Astoria says:
Tom sez:
'Immigration is a two way street only for white people', and
'You never hear white people complaining about the scumbag criminals from Eastern Europe that are here illegally, even though there are plenty': both BS comments.
You've got some serious cognitive problems if you can't see that what Prashad calls 'immigration' (alien infiltration) is completely one-way: the security, the money, the health-care is all happily received, while the 'immigrants' return nothing.
And 'Eastern European' criminals? Everyone knows about the Russian mob, including the NYPD, FBI, and ICE: they have been investigating, arresting, prosecuting and deporting them for years.
Our friends from south of the border? Not so much.
Got a problem with 'white people'?
You can move to Zimbabwe: through the wisdom of the great leader Mugabe, people eat dirt there now.
Oct. 19, 2016, 8:14 am
Tom from Queens says:
You truly are a sack of trash bozo moron if you think colored minorities aren't being equally investigated, arrested, or deported as illegal white aliens. You return nothing, except moronic comments on this board, you're a waste of oxygen.

How's about if you don't like diversity in America move your to Oregon or better yet go back to Europe, clown.
Oct. 19, 2016, 2:37 pm
Sigismundo from Howard Beach says:
You're a racist punk who can barely put together a sentence.
You defecate in the comments of every article you can - ones that have nothing to do with race - and make genius statements like this:
'Immigration is a two way street only for white people':
a stupid, silly-ass meaningless statement.
~ 75, 000 Central American per month have been pouring across the border for the past two years.
How many 'illegal white aliens' do you think are in this country?
Do you just make —— up as you go along?
Where on the INS immigration lottery preference list do you think your 'criminal' Eastern Europeans fall compared to Bangladesh or Nigeria?
Would you be surprised to know that they are almost at the bottom?
You're as stupid as a ——ing bag of rocks.
Since you failed in the first round, go back to school: I'm sure the gov't will be happy to throw some money your way for some good 'program' to help you shake the —— out of your brain.
Oct. 19, 2016, 7:24 pm
More of the 'One-Way Street'... from Everywhere in the United States Now... says:
Some more facts: find someone to help you with the charts and graphs so your head doesn't explode:
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/illegals-seeking-asylum-up-900-get-social-security-welfare-school-loans/article/2604944#!
Oct. 20, 2016, 6:33 am

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