COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | THOMAS ELIAS

Mexicans conclude nothing will stop immigration

For more than 20 years, the Mexican government has been telling Americans that all it would take to stop the tide of emigration north from their country would be better economics.

Lower the unemployment rate in Mexico and raise wages there, went the reasoning, and there will be no need for vast numbers of Mexican to leave for America, with more than 40 percent of them landing in California.

It's a mantra that's been bought by prominent California politicians from ex-Gov. and ex-Sen. Pete Wilson to current Gov. Gray Davis. Even President Bush has preached the same line as one rationale for his push toward closer relations with Mexico.

But it's just not so, according to the most authoritative new Mexican government reasoning. A stunning new report from that country's National Population Council, an arm of the Ministry of the Interior, says more about what the future of California will look like than any American study has. Some of the major predictions:

  • Neither falling birth rates nor increased economic development in Mexico will cut immigration much during the next 30 years.

  • Mexico expects emigrants to the United States to number between 3.5 million and 5 million every 10 years, an average of about 400,000 per year. About half the immigrants will be illegals.

  • This will cause the Mexican-born population of the U.S. to double by 2030, topping 16 million. More than 7 million of those will live in California. This number does not include any children born to immigrants in the U.S., and

  • Additional, but unpredictable, numbers of illegal, but permanent, immigrants would be generated by any new guest worker program like the one now being pushed by President Bush.

    It's primarily the existence of minimum wage laws that will drive all this massive population movement, says the Mexican report. And since Mexican wages will not come close to American minimums at any time during the next 30 years, this motive will not go away soon.

    "The migratory phenomenon ... must be seen as structural and permanent in the bilateral relationship," said the report. "Building walls or using law enforcement or repressive measures won't work to regulate the flow of migratory labor."

    So what's California to do? Besides the normal population growth from births and migration here from other states, California must get ready to absorb more than 5 million newcomers who don't speak English. Plus their kids.

    In a state where roads are already inadequate, water supplies increasingly scarce, electricity dicey at times and public schools ever more crowded, more people are coming.

    If this doesn't dictate a shift in emphasis from frills to basics, it's hard to see what could. At the same time, since immigration is federally-regulated, if Congress and the next few presidents don't pitch in by reducing the balance-of-taxes deficit that sees Californians now paying in $29 billion more than the state gets back, the result will be major resentment, if not rebellion.

    California already pays $5 billion in anti-terror security costs, accounting for well over 20 percent of the $24 billion budget shortfall the state faced this summer. About 20 percent of all state spending is directed to schools, public health care and other services that often assist poor immigrants more than middle-class taxpayers. It's high time the state's numerous representatives in Washington insisted California get its fair share back from taxes paid in.

    In short, if California officials ignore this convincing Mexican report now, the whole state will pay a heavy price for it later, in the form of higher taxes, diminished services and broken infrastructure, plus an unending stream of budget crises that will make this year's seem mild.


    Elias is author of "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It." His email address is thomas.elias@sddt.com.

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