Emil Pulsifer's Intriguing Essay on the Subject of Immigration

If Emil's right on immigration, it may all come down to oil...

Regular readers of the Feathered Bastard blog are familiar with the trenchant, and often amusing observations of regular commenter Emil Pulsifer. So you will be interested in Pulsifer's recent, thought-provoking guest column for Jon Talton's Rogue Columnist blog. Formerly a business columnist for the Arizona Republic, Talton currently dwells in the Seattle area and continues to author essays concerning Phoenix and Arizona, as well as the economy in general, and other issues.

Obviously, Talton also has an eye for talent. Pulsifer's January 4 "guest rogue" column "On The Border" sounds a rational alarm on the immigration issue that both anti-immigrationists and open borders folks should be able to recognize as one requiring a long-term response. Indeed, Pulsifer's take on the current immigration crisis is that it will pale in comparison to what may come should Mexico's oil industry collapse.

Pulsifer notes, "Mexico's proven oil reserves are dwindling fast and may be exhausted at the current rate of production within less than ten years: the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Mexico will become a net oil importer by 2017."

Why this is important becomes the jumping off point for Pulsifer's article:

As of late 2009, Mexico was the second largest source of America's imported oil. More importantly from the standpoint of immigration policy is the reality that oil exports constitute Mexico's largest source of legal revenues (about 40 percent); second to this, and larger than tourism, are the remittances sent home by immigrants working in foreign countries (chiefly the United States).  Remittances are, in fact, so large a component of Mexico's economy, that they constitute a peculiar form of foreign investment. So, barring rosy developments in Mexico's oil industry, and unless the United States takes an even greater nosedive than Mexico is going to in coming years, expect massive immigration, on a scale to make the recent wave look puny, within a decade.

Assuming a new, larger wave of immigration is impending, Pulsifer then investigates the range of options, from a wall along the Arizona-Mexico border, to local law enforcement efforts such as those by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But Pulsifer reveals that most of these "solutions" are not solutions at all. As he observes, "The point remains that water will find its own level, and the greater the pressure at the pump end, the faster new holes will be found."

Pulsifer also offers an honest assessment of America's past immigration policies, pointing out that the current hysteria from the nativist side of the fence is unwarranted:

Before World War I, Russia and Turkey were the only countries which required entering foreigners to have a passport.  Thus, for most of America's history, it had an "open borders" policy, and this reflected its "traditional values".  Not until the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 did the United States establish permanent immigration limits.

When considering policy reforms, it's useful to compare current immigration limits to the period before and after Johnson-Reed. In the first decade of the 20th century, for example, about 200,000 Italians immigrated to the United States each year. In 1900 the U.S. population was about 78 million. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, from 2000 to 2005, the annual rate of entry of illegal immigrants was 525,000, of which about 60 percent were Mexican; but the population of the United States was 281 million in 2000. Thus, as a percentage of the population, the total number of illegal immigrants in modern times has been smaller than the number of Italians alone immigrating here when immigration quotas did not exist. They should thus have been more easily absorbed than earlier waves of immigrants.

Somehow, the country survived the Italian wave, and today, your great-grandmother's fears of swarthy, greasy Italians, "breeding like rabbits," importing their secret societies and criminal tendencies, shouting "Whatsamatter you?" in their illiterate pidgin while menacing random passersby with their flick-knives, seems quaintly amusing.  Two or three generations of assimilation and intermixing fixed "the problem", just as it did with the Irish and other groups, none of which are, 100 years or more later, considered particularly undesirable.

What then is to be done? Pulsifer posits a formidable, but not impossible, solution:

Ultimately, the only way to ease immigration pressures may be to ensure plentiful jobs in Mexico for its own citizens, and through these to raise their standard of living so that the income differential between Mexico and the United States is small enough to be outweighed by the pleasures of cultural affinity, family unity, and linguistic ease for those who remain in the land of their birth.

There are essentially two methods of accomplishing this. One is massive foreign investment on a scale unlike anything to be currently found. I will leave it to the reader to consider how likely this will be in an era when Mexico's basic infrastructure and political cohesion disintegrates due to lack of oil revenues. The second would require Mexico to create massive state enterprises to employ its people, producing as much of the products for its own consumption as possible using its own resources and workers, funding this by money created by its own central bank for this purpose, and only importing what the country could not provide itself.

If you ask me, Pulsifer should be working in a think-tank somewhere, churning out such analyses for publication on a regular basis. Such an outside-the-box approach is precisely what's required to deal with our immigration dilemmas. I'm not an economist and do not know if Pulsifer has the end-game in sight. But I recognize possibilities when I see them, and Pulsifer's observations provide a few that should not be ignored.


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