Illegal immigration is an economic problem, not a legal one. No matter what their status under the law, immigrants are going to come and they are going to stay, so long as their lives are better here than back home.
Whether they are categorized as illegals or guest workers, they will pull the market price down for unskilled and semi-skilled labor. The question is not how to keep them out, the real question is, Why don't they stay home?
Thom Hartmann makes the point repeatedly that corporations encourage illegal immigration from the callous calculation that increasing the supply of labor drives down the price. Other progressives, particularly in labor, agree. I agree. But the option of reducing this labor's influx does not exist in the real world. Increasing the demand for labor in the places that need building would be another option.
Most people would stay in their native countries were it not for persecution or abject poverty. And in some real sense we are going to import the products of those countries or we are going to import their people.
What used to be called the Third World is not doing well. While the rest of the world develops, dozens of countries and a billion people fall further and further into desperate conditions. It will only get worse as clean air and clean water become commodities that they cannot afford.
The development model promulgated by the corporate elite, with its henchmen the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, is built on setting up little industries and competing with other countries on the basis of cheap labor. It ends up as a beggar-thy-neighbor race to the bottom.
A very little investment in roads and schools could generate a very great return in the capacity of these countries, providing their basic institutions are not corrupt. Nations which are not plantation economies have an organization around farming that ought to be encouraged, not destroyed by flooding their markets with the products of American industrial farms.
In the background of it all is a trade regime that does not work. And the U.S. has been the main beneficiary. For more than two decades, America has run massive trade deficits. We have not been trading goods for goods through the medium of money. We have been trading our money for their goods. Someday they are going to come to us and want to finish the exchange, giving us the money they have collected and getting our goods. We're going to look around and see a few airplanes and some agriculture, and realize that in the process we have exported our industry and we have no goods. If it makes their money worthless, so likewise it makes our money worthless.
It is in this context that “free trade” and “open markets” exist. The World Bank would not lend to the US with its balance sheet. They would enforce austerities on us that would drive us into depression.
Once I got off on the broken trade regime, I lost the opportunity for a clean path back to the subject of illegal immigration. I'll just say people are coming here because our money is worth more than theirs, and then close with a personal note. The Mexican people I know are industrious and hard-working and entrepreneurial. Coming to the US is not what their parents wanted for them. But what are their choices? It is a shame they cannot, for whatever reason, employ their skills in the land of their birth. It is a shame we cannot help them.