Crossing the border (
by Steve Timmer
Dec 1, 2014, 8:00 PM

Don’t listen to Doug

Doug Tice writes Sunday that we don’t have an immigration/border problem, we have a foreign policy problem. If you are seated, you may proceed to the next sentence.

I think he’s right.

But don’t worry, his prescriptions are wrong.

Shorter Doug: We can never defend our long and porous southern border; we have to figure out a way to make fewer people want to come here.

So far, so good. But here’s what he’s thinking about:

It isn’t clear — at least not to me — exactly what a foreign-policy pivot to our own back yard would look like. Seizing every opportunity to spur regional progress through trade and economic policies would obviously be part of it. Cooperative drug-policy reform might be a part, along with whatever law enforcement, intelligence and even military cooperation could be useful. No doubt rational, comprehensive immigration reform itself could help, freeing up the efficient movement of labor and investment across borders.

Many of you are old enough to remember — I know I am — the last border scheme to make everybody in the “region” rich: the North American Free Trade Agreement, adopted some twenty years ago.

Just in case you missed it, it didn’t work.

It did expose a lot of Mexican subsistence maize farmers to the “efficiency” of U.S. corporate agriculture, causing them to go out of business. And according to a lot of Mexicans, the quality of tortillas has taken a nose dive, too. That’s the price of progress, I guess.

Displaced rural Mexicans, a lot of them anyway, wound up along the U.S./Mexican border, working in the labor nirvanas called maquiladoras, which is Spanish for “sweatshop,” I think, anyway. In a maquila, you have the chance to make a dollar or two an hour assembling saxophones for budding adolescent Americanos. They say you can get rich this way. Personally, I doubt it.

I will also confess reservations about “law enforcement, intelligence and even military cooperation,” that Doug advocates. Yes I know, the School of the Americas was such a ringing success.

Well, maybe not. A principal reason there are so many refugees (and that is what they are: refugees, not simply “illegal immigrants”) out of Central America, including unaccompanied minors, is a consequence of the activities of the School of the Americans and its “rebranded” successor, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

The United States bears a large measure of responsibility for economic, humanitarian, and refugee crisis that exists in Central and South America. Doug Tice seems to want to make it worse.

Update 12/2/14:

Doug Tice is a lot like Bill Kristol, unerringly wrong about everything.

Mexico’s nationwide general strike on Thursday, Nov. 20 is a unified rallying cry to end the corruption, crime and violence that have plagued the country for decades and are symbolized most recently by the apparent slaying of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. But, lest we Americans consider ourselves outsiders, observing another nation’s mayhem with detachment, it is important to clarify that Mexico’s problems are in large part our doing.

That’s the lede in a recent Truthout article.

Further Update: Tice also breezily asserted that President Obama “jumped the constitutional fence” on his recent deferral of removal for certain undocumented aliens. Just in case you are interested in a little more reasoned and plenary discussion of this issue, I commend to you the memorandum to the president from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

And yet another Update: There was a much better refutation of Doug Tice than mine printed as a Commentary in the Strib on Sunday, December 7th.

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