Friday, July 25, 2014

Berating Central America

President Obama is going to lecture three Central American presidents about how they need to stop the child migrant crisis, and I suppose migration in general.

In particular, officials said Mr. Obama will urge the presidents to amplify the public message that most people trying to get into the United States will not be permitted to stay. Mr. Obama will also ask the leaders to do more to go after the smugglers who, for a price, are bringing the children to America.

OK, fine. But this is mostly symbolic and solves nothing. People will listen to what their friends and family say, plus what smugglers tell them--if they hear labor is still welcome in the United States, then that's what they will listen to. If Otto Pérez Molina gives a speech it's hard to imagine a major impact.

And sure, tell the leaders to crack down on smugglers, but why do these smugglers exist in the first place? With immigration and drugs we run smack into supply and demand. Put some guys in prison and it will not make a dent in the problem. There are jobs and/or family in the United States and people want to reach them. The demand for labor and for drugs are solely the responsibility of the United States (and really, all of us). No one in Central America has any power to affect that. Only we do.

Here's the point that lawmakers in the U.S. don't acknowledge: there are too few legal economic opportunities in Central America so people emigrate, but there are significant illegal economic opportunities that exist only because of a U.S. market. In other words, demand in the United States helps lock Central America into this position.


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