This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Poison Pill of Border Security

Most of the discussion about immigration reform recently (and, really, for the past few years) has started with the premise that the border must first be secured before anything else can move forward. This has always struck me as a poison pill, because no one who thinks seriously about the border can really believe that you can shut everyone out. You can think about it in the abstract, in terms of fences, and detectors, and drones, etc., but the reality is that the border is very long and geographically very complex. Damien Cave has an excellent overview in the New York Times of what the border situation really is, compared to what people might imagine it is.
It is increasingly clear to those who live along the boundary with Mexico — or who try to protect it — that there is no such thing as a completely secure border, just as there are no cities without crime. Even in areas with towering walls and drones or helicopters overhead, border security can be breached.
The international divide is not a line or a series of doors to be locked and guarded, they argue. It is more like a 2,000-mile shoreline with ever-changing currents of migration, legitimate trade and smuggler tactics. The challenge evolves season to season. In Texas, where the border moves with the flooding of the Rio Grande, smugglers have started using fake Halliburton trucks to drive through areas where the company services oil fields. In San Diego, a few hundred migrants a year now arrive by boat, while the imposing fences that cost $16 million per mile are regularly overcome with ladders rented out for $35 a climb.
This is a lengthy article and a short posting like this can't do it justice. But the point is clear. If you insist that the border be genuinely secure before any other immigration reform can move forward, then you are in favor of not having immigration reform move forward. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that the real cause of the migration flow is the demographic fit between the US economy (which has low-end jobs on offer for which there aren't enough US citizens that can meet the demand) and the economies of Central America (increasingly to the south--both southern Mexico and south of Mexico) that still don't have enough good jobs to go around for the younger population. Understanding this nexus is the real key to long-run changes in how we think about migration policies.

And, of course, I haven't mentioned the drugs being demanded by US consumers... 

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