OK, we’ve got the ‘code words’ of “immigration reform” being bandied all over the place. For Democrats it means “Pack the voter roles with poor folks and promise them goodies” and for Republicans it means “bring in cheap labor – those U.S. citizens are expensive.” For the exiting U.S. Citizenry, it means fewer jobs available at decent wages and dilution of your vote.
So what to do?
First off, you can’t really address the real issues without looking at Mexico and Canada. What do THEY need and want?
Canada has their population mostly smeared along the southern edge, snuggled as close to warmth as they can get. They also have a bit of a labor shortage in places like the mining and oil extraction areas.
Mexico has a problem with high population growth and an economic structure that ‘has issues’. Lots of folks wanting work, but not enough for them. Many Mexicans wanting the dream of the north: just to be living as free citizens with a decent standard of living.
IMHO, the way to “fix that” is really pretty simple. But it isn’t doing things the way either party is doing them today.
First off, dilution of voting rights:
We need to separate voting rights (citizenship) from residency. Do what has been done in many European countries. You are a citizen if born to parents who are citizens. Get rid of that “born on this dirt is enough” and the “vacation births” to pick up U.S. Citizenship evaporates. Now it won’t matter if a flood of folks come in with an “urge to tax for free stuff”.
Second, decent wage jobs:
A legal resident is much less willing to work for dirt cheap and keep their mouth shut about abuses. Make residency easy to get and make the underground population of illegal aliens legal residents. However, make this symmetrical. U.S. Citizens get to have ‘residency on demand’ in Mexico or Canada too. Yes, just “open the doors” to free migration anywhere in the USA, Mexico, Canada for anyone who’s a citizen of any of the three. (Note: Due to the prior change to citizenship / voting rights, they all still vote in their own country…)
Now you have two beneficial effects. A boat load of old Norte Americano Gringos start heading south to warm places in droves. Personally, I’d be living in Mexico inside a year. Much lower costs, love the food, like the warmth… That takes with them a boat load of economic growth and demand for services and products. Mexico suddenly has a lot of jobs for their citizens at home. At the same time, a load of Canadians get to ‘over winter’ anywhere from Florida to Acapulco if they like. Nice to thaw out ;-) Similarly, all those Mexicans get to apply for jobs, legally, in all those places that need workers. Being as all they need to show to be a ‘legal resident’ is their Mexican passport, they can be more choosy about wages and treatment. Wage pressure will be less. Furthermore, more of them will be wanting to stay in Mexico to take jobs there in the newly growing sectors of “gringo care and feeding” and “Geezer burial at sea”.
This lets the markets equalize the economic pressures between the different regions, while not shifting the political complexion of any of them (votes stay in the home country, remember?) It also lets seasonal migrations happen in sync with the weather. Pickers and builders can come north when it’s warm, and everyone can go south for the winter to live in lower cost lower fuel demand areas.
Personally, I’d like to pick up a little ‘shack’ somewhere in a semi-desert area of middle Mexico for use in the winter, then return to the USA for the summer. Hey, if it’s good enough for Hummingbirds, it’s good enough for me! ;-)
I can hear some folks gasping that this would be chaos. Maybe the first year. Things would rapidly stabilize after that.
First off, the entire illegal alien problem with Mexicans goes away. POOF! Gone. (Still have the issue of illegal Chinese, Europeans, etc. etc. but now enforcement can be VERY focused). Folks already here just pick up their Mexican passport and show it.
Second, the flood of workers will help pay for social security and all the other things we can’t cover due to not enough workers.
Third, we already have a load of folks who retire to lower cost places. This makes it easier, and makes for quite a boom of the Mexican economy.
Fourth, Canadians can still embrace their unique Canadian culture and enjoy their huge and mostly empty land; but don’t have to spend December to March frozen if they don’t want to… All those cities that are smack up against the border (on both sides) can spread out in either direction as desired. Canadians wanting to have a weekend in Orlando can just hop a plane. (Rather like it was some years back when just showing a drivers license got you through the border). Americans wanting to drive to Toronto for a show just head on over. This has the secondary effect of making Alaska less isolated. It is no longer an ordeal to drive from one part of the USA to the other (at least, not in terms of legal issues… just physical challenges…) At the same time, getting labor to work in the oil fields during summer (when you can get to places and do things) becomes easier too.
Where do I see “issues”?
Well, somewhere around the 2nd generation there will be kids with a citizenship who have never been in ‘their’ country. Probably need some modestly easy way for them to ‘swap’ if desired. Then again, for many folks it just won’t matter much.
The increase in ‘seasonal migration’ will cause some northern cities to have winter population lows and some southern cities to have winter peaks. Well, Florida has had ‘snowbirds’ for a generation or two and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. More condos get built and fewer ‘ranch homes’. You get a population that spends part of the year in a ‘camper’ or ‘caravan’. I’m good with that. There’s a pretty good flow of seasonal workers, along with the seasonal non-workers. At most there’s a bit of a building boom to make more temporary accommodations. I don’t see that as bad.
There is more fuel used for migrating, but offset by less used for winter heating. I think that’s a wash. Probably some traffic issues at particular months on some North / South routes that are presently slightly used.
Cultural fusion. Over time, the cultures will merge into each other. As this is already happening, I don’t see where speeding it up some matters much. California and Texas have been “fusion” places for 200 years. As I could order (mediocre) Mexican food in downtown Tokyo, I think there’s a demand for more ‘variety’ in life. The Americas have been a cultural fusion from the very beginning. Heck, maybe some Quebecois can help regenerate the French culture of New Orleans. Yes, if you expect to have some kind of Brady Bunch hypothetical American Lifestyle, you will be disappointed. Then again, that has never been real. From the Italians in Chicago to the Italians in Argentina and from the Germans in Ohio to the French of New Orleans, we’ve always been something other than that ‘1950s fantasy’ culture. I can’t imagine California without our Mexican cultural mix, nor Texas without “Tex-Mex” cooking and culture. But for some folks that will be stressful.
Some jobs do get price pressure. ANY new influx of labor will initially have a price pressure on wages. Over time, that equalizes. Yet it can be traumatic. The H1b visa program basically destroyed wages in Silicon Valley for computer support folks. (I saw available work drop and prices cut). But that brings up another point. I’d eliminate the H1b visa program. At least for the duration of a decade or so as things ‘settle’. Let the continental market settle first, then look at importing folks from the other side of the world.
Minimum Wage Disparity. There will be many laws that have regional disparities. Minimum Wage is the most obvious. Some folks in Mexico living on near nothing will see $10 / hour as a gold mine and flood north. I think they will rapidly realize that costs here are way high too. Over time, the movement of folks to cheaper places to live will raise labor demand there and thus wages (or if it isn’t enough to shift them significantly, then more folks will move to the lower cost places). Just like folks live in New York City where costs are astronomical, and could move to Kansas instead, there will always be some regional variations that persist. You don’t see all the folks in Kansas moving to Chicago or NYC for the higher wages… Yet there will be ‘point event’ issues at the merge that will take a few years to sort out and equilibrate. Things like “who pays for health care where?”.
But consider the alternative. Ongoing flood of illegal aliens, living a lie and left out of society. The USA with an aging and unsustainable demographic profile. All those Canadians shivering on the border, looking south ;-)
So that’s what I’d do for “Immigration Reform”. Leave the economic migration wide open for all, but leave the citizenship as a separate entity that you have to want to get and work for. Symmetrical over all of North America.