The Central American migrant crisis has sparked a nationwide debate over immigration, brought to the forefront by policies resulting in the separation of children from their mothers at the border. The vast majority of these illegal immigrants are from three Central American countries known as the Northern Triangle: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Problems of crime, corruption, poverty, and insufficient infrastructure have negative impact on quality of life. It is not difficult to see why poor Central Americans would seek to migrate to the United States. But the American Left, in seeking mass illegal immigration and open borders, is fundamentally missing the main issue.
The ultimate solution to the Central American migrant crisis is not to import millions of Central Americans into the United States; rather, it is to seek to turn Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala into the United States. It is difficult to understand why more politicians, both on the left and the right, do not discuss this fundamental truth.
There are law and order and safety concerns in all three countries, but none of them are currently in the midst of a civil war. There are far more dangerous countries in the world today. Even more than personal safety, the labor market is the main reason that Central American immigrants want to come to the United States. The financial incentives are just too great to ignore. Typical low-skilled labor in Central America pays around USD $1 an hour, while low-skilled migrants in the United States are looking at the potential to earn ten times that much.
That is why they come.
Is an open borders policy the answer?
It is ironic that the American Left, which generally is scornful of free markets, is pitching something that is in many ways the ultimate libertarian concept: the dissolution of borders, and the creation of a single unified labor market. Immigration is a divisive issue within the libertarian community, more than ever in the wake of Trump, but libertarians are generally a pro-immigration lot, who recognize the incredible potential of the free market to rescue those fleeing war, crime, and poverty.
Other libertarians will quickly point out, however, that letting in hundreds of thousands or millions of Central American migrants is a perfect recipe for increasing the size of government, and massively expanding the welfare state. This is also a very good point, and one that must be carefully considered.
The role of moral hazard theory
Moral hazard theory examines situations where individuals may take excessive risk if they believe another party will ultimately bail them out. We must examine the current crisis through the lens of moral hazard theory. The only reason that they are coming is because they believe that they will be let in, despite the fact that their migration is in complete contravention of American law. I think Donald Trump is absolutely correct to send a loud and clear message to Central America. “Do not come, we will not let you, our borders are closed.”
If Trump does not stake out such a position, then he (or any president) is encouraging illegal immigration, and that is fundamentally wrong.
Rewarding illegal immigrants is not the solution
It is fundamentally wrong to reward illegal immigrants, when there are millions of potential legal immigrants to the United States: people who are playing by the rules, paying tens of thousands of dollars, and waiting years or decades to do so. It is complete and utter hypocrisy to reward those who break the law, giving them benefits not afforded to legal immigrants who are following the law.
Trump was elected to be the president of the United States; not to be the president of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. His responsibility is to do what is in the best interest of United States citizens. The fact that that perspective sounds extreme to some, is an indication of how far the American Left has gone of the deep end. Many so-called “progressives” now believe that it is the responsibility of the United States to take care of non-American citizens. That is insanity.
Here is my question to the advocates of open borders on the American Left:
Exactly how many low-skilled, non-English speaking, penniless illegal immigrants are you prepared to personally pay to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate? Are you prepared to take them into your home and put them in your spare bedroom? If you are not willing to personally care for them, then you are suggesting one of two things: 1. That we should simply add to our current USD $21 trillion in debt by spending money we don’t have on caring for non-Americans. Or…2. You don’t want to pay to care for these people, but you would like to force other people to pay for them.
Fundamentally, Central American migrants are the responsibility of the governments of Honduras, El Salvdor, and Guatemala, not the responsibility of the United States government. That being said, the United States should do what it can to help.
Immigration should be tied explicitly to the labor market
As a pragmatist, a Constitutionalist, and a libertarian, I don’t oppose immigration. I do, however, strongly oppose admission of the wrong kind of immigrants to the United States.
Opening up the borders to mass illegal immigration is simply not the answer. We already have millions of low-skilled, often non-English speaking, illegal immigrants living in the United States, and we certainly do not want or need any more.
We do, however, have urgent need for an effective and efficient guest worker program that would match employers and employees. The program would not confer benefits of citizenship, but it would allow for guest workers and their families to live in the United States, provided they find a job, and pass a criminal background check.
Foreign investment and cooperation on fighting crime and corruption
Ultimately, Central America must develop its economy, and ruthlessly pursue criminality and corruption. That is, of course, easier said than done. But where are Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet? The immense good that they could do buy pursuing business opportunities in Central America would be immeasurable.
The people of Central America need safety and security, and they need jobs. The United States can and should play a leading role in making that happen. South American countries who have pursued free-markets and attracted foreign investment, like Colombia, Peru, and Chile, have seen massive economic growth and reduction in poverty over the course of the last generation.
It is time for a new era of entrepreneurs to invest in Central America, and begin the transformation there as well.
Mass illegal immigration is not the answer: economic development is.