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Immigrants Boost, Don't Drain, the U.S. Economy

Undocumented Workers Contribute More Than Their Fair Share

Tucson Citizen
June 13, 2002

"There are great misperceptions that immigrants are a drain on our economy, but many studies have confirmed that the opposite is true. Even undocumented workers - commonly referred to as 'illegal' contribute more than their fair share to our great country." (Alan Greenspan Federal Reserve Board chairman, congressional testimony, July 2001.)

Diatribes against Mexican undocumented workers seem to be the vogue these days, appearing in letters to the editor and columns in newspapers all over the country, including local ones. These diatribes go way beyond run-of-the-mill xenophobic pieces. They are venomous. They are mean-spirited. They are hateful.

After posting the obligatory falsehood that Mexicans are draining the local economy, one columnist bemoans that in his city "the school district gets browner by the day" and that American culture is "being transformed by a (Mexican) semi-literate underclass." Another writer says he sees "the infrastructure of our nation's ideals crumbling" as a result of these lazy Mexicans, who come here to "mooch off of our government" and "live an American life" on "our tax dollars." What more credible source is there to refute this nonsense than the country's chief economist, the undisputed expert on the American economy?

Alan Greenspan informed Congress that immigrants, including undocumented workers, in essence donate $27 billion to state and local economies. This is the difference between what they pay in taxes ($70 billion) and what they use in services ($43 billion). In Illinois alone, he testified, "Illegal workers pay $547 million in taxes yearly, compared to $238 million in services used." This is a net "profit" for Illinois of $309 million. This phenomenon is the norm, not the exception, in states where undocumented workers pay taxes. Indeed, rather than take money from, undocumented workers donate money to the American economy and thus to Americans.

A recent (February) study by the University of Illinois found that even as undocumented workers paid federal and state income taxes (one study pegs the amount of taxes paid at $90 billion per year), they did not claim the tax refunds for which they were eligible. These unclaimed refunds amount to the donation of billions of dollars to the public coffers.

Another study by the Urban Institute found that undocumented workers contribute $2.7 billion to Social Security and another $168 million to unemployment insurance taxes. Because of their legal status, these workers will not be able to access these programs even if they wanted to. These contributions amount to outright donations to the country's economy. In essence, undocumented workers are subsidizing, to a significant degree, American recipients of these benefits.

In addition to the above tax donations, undocumented workers pay billions of dollars in local and state sales taxes when they purchase appliances, furniture, clothes and other goods. The diatribists are also addicted to the falsehood that undocumented workers come here to get on welfare and utilize other government services.

The reality, as documented by the UI study, is that the overwhelming majority of undocumented workers "do not receive any assistance under government safety-net programs," a fact that was reinforced by Greenspan in his congressional testimony.

No matter how hard the hate-mongers try to distort things, "mooching" simply cannot be squeezed out of these realities. Yet another falsehood to which the poison-penners are addicted is that "them Mexicans" take away jobs from Americans. We don't need Greenspan for this one. This is easily refuted by a simple eyeball test. Drive by the fields where stoop labor in 12-hour shifts for less-than-minimum-wage pay is performed. You'll see no line of Americans clamoring to be hired. Nor is there a single instance of white folks suing growers for "reverse discrimination" for not allowing them the opportunity to be exploited shamelessly. Ditto for the other industries that exploit these workers, primarily by paying less than the minimum wage.

A recent U.S. Department of Labor study noted that the notion that immigrants take jobs away from American workers is "the most persistent fallacy about immigration in popular thought." The reality is that undocumented workers create jobs.

The UI study found that as a result of the immense spending by undocumented workers (their purchasing power in Illinois alone is $18.7 billion, according to Greenspan) and of the founding of small businesses by this group, they create jobs. In Chicago alone, undocumented workers generated 31,000 jobs in the local economy.

It is not all about money: Undocumented workers also bring to our society many things we claim to value, such as solid family structure. Studies show that children of immigrants are more likely to be raised in a two-parent household than are children of native-born Americans.

On another front: Thousands upon thousands of Mexicans crossed the border to volunteer to fight in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Many of them were killed, wounded or maimed fighting under our flag and saving American lives. Where are the "moochers" in this bunch? In the American lexicon, "donating," "generating" and "paying" are antonyms of "draining" and "mooching." Among other things, the hate-mongers need to work on their vocabularies.

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I would like to know how Greenspan or whoever came up with these numbers. For them to actually know this means that employers or employees have to be reporting that this particular pay is for an illegal immigrant, which we know is not happening. So in the absence of that, we have to assume that these numbers are guesses based on what they believe Illgeal immigrants earn and what taxes would be applied to those earnings.

However, what they fail to do is deal with the reality behind how many dependents men and women here illegally claim on their W4 forms. From what I hear, men and women here illegally know they can not file for a tax return so they claim the highest number of dependents to get as much money upfront as they can and because of that and without considering that, the numbers Greenspan or anyone offers based on the earnings of men and women here illegally can not be trusted.
Talk about twisted...

The conservatives, the so-called "law & order" crowd bend over backwards defending illegal immigrants.

People need to understand that what's good for Big business is often detrimental to working class Americans (African and otherwise.) A generation or so ago Americans performed the jobs for higher wages. Not only wages that were higher when adjusted for inflation but some were just plain higher. Not only do working class Americans lose out with a loss of income, not only does the gov't lose income tax revenue, but also upwards of 30 billion a year is wired down to Mexico. Money that does not circulate in the US economy. This money goes down to Tijuana to prop up the corrupt, ineffective gov't Mr. Fox presides over.

Perhaps sealing the borders and mass deportation would result in a Mexican revolution wherein the poor, dispossessed Mexicans whom Mr. Fox et al fail miserably to produce for, would react to stave off possible starvation.
Originally posted by Solomonic:
Talk about twisted...

The conservatives, the so-called "law & order" crowd bend over backwards defending illegal immigrants.

People need to understand that what's good for Big business is often detrimental to working class Americans (African and otherwise.) A generation or so ago Americans performed the jobs for higher wages. Not only wages that were higher when adjusted for inflation but some were just plain higher. Not only do working class Americans lose out with a loss of income, not only does the gov't lose income tax revenue, but also upwards of 30 billion a year is wired down to Mexico. Money that does not circulate in the US economy. This money goes down to Tijuana to prop up the corrupt, ineffective gov't Mr. Fox presides over.

Perhaps sealing the borders and mass deportation would result in a Mexican revolution wherein the poor, dispossessed Mexicans whom Mr. Fox et al fail miserably to produce for, would react to stave off possible starvation.

Well said, Solomonic

....but you must realize the author of this post is an advocate of illegal and undocumented immigration. Instead of promoting legal immigration, this seems to be the theme of the liberal community!

I like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's idea, meaning should any driver's license be issued or approved for use by any illegal immigrant, in addition to identification, the license should clearly identify the holder of the license as being an illegal or undocumented immigrant!

Those who seek driver's licenses for illegal immigrants don't like this idea, because the driver's license exposes an illegal immigrant to scrutiny!

...again, it would behoove these individuals to come here legally to begin with. U.S. citizens and legal immigrants are not going to allow illegal immigrants to call the shots in the U.S. of A.


Michael Lofton
Last edited {1}
Ricardo - Your article was published in 2002. Let's see what was said in 2004:

Illegal immigration costing U.S. taxpayers

Published 8/25/2004 5:17 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Lawmakers continue to battle on whether or not to loosen immigration laws, particularly on the possibility of allowing illegal immigrants from Mexico to stay legitimately and potentially become U.S. citizens.

But while the politically sensitive debate continues, some analysts argue that the cost to care for illegal immigrants far outweighs the potential benefits they bring to the table. The Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think-tank, for one argued Wednesday that unlawful aliens are draining the federal government's coffers.

According to the center's latest study on the cost of illegal immigration, families that are in the United States used $10.4 billion more in government services than they paid in taxes in 2002.

While the precise cost of illegal immigrants on the national economy is arguable, it is clear that under the current system, even those who are in the country unlawfully can and often do make use of federal programs such as food assistance, healthcare, and access to public education.

But while proponents of allowing illegal workers to be allowed to stay in the country argue that the U.S. economy would not function without such laborers, opponents say that such a move would actually prove to be a greater burden for taxpayers.

Of the 9 million illegal immigrants in the United States in 2003, two-thirds of them did not even have a high school degree, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

"If illegal aliens were legalized and began to pay taxes and use services like legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual fiscal deficit at the federal level would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total federal deficit of $29 billion," said Steven Camarota, director of research at the center.

Moreover, 17 percent of prisoners in the United States are illegal aliens, even though they make up only 3 percent of the total population, thus straining the government budget still further, Camarota added. He also pointed out that many illegal immigrants have children in the United States, who automatically become citizens, and parents can and often do receive benefits that comes with citizenship through their offspring.

"And that's a strain," Camarota said.

Yet it is clear that both businesses and consumers benefit from illegal laborers, especially through those who will take on jobs at or under minimum wage. Moreover, the question of immigration is one where conservative businessmen and liberal activists can find common ground, as the former could benefit from cheaper workers, while the latter calls for a more humane approach to migration flows.

From a purely economic perspective, there is no doubt that consumers can benefit from illegal labor as products and services are often significantly cheaper in the United States than in Europe precisely because so much of the work is done by illegal workers, said Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University.

"But taxpayers are subsidizing employers" as those who take on low-paying jobs are forced to depend more on state welfare, Lowell said. As a result, while grocery bills and leisure outings might be cheaper in the United States, thanks to cheaper labor costs, the middle class in particular has to pay the price of depending so much on illegal laborers, Lowell said.

As a result, taxpayers have to pay the price of illegal immigrants sooner or later, Lowell added.

"But we have a choice" on whether or not to benefit from cheaper costs in the near-term and pay more in taxes, or simply to bite the bullet and pay higher prices in the first place, said Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic and economic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.

Rector also argued that illegal immigration hurt lower-wage income earners in the United States, as many employers sought to fill blue-collar jobs with cheaper workers, regardless of their legal status.

And while advocacy groups for illegal immigrants would argue that those workers provide essential services, Rector said that "if they were so essential, employers would pay more" to have the same things done once illegal workers were no longer available for the jobs.

Still, even opponents to legalizing unlawful aliens acknowledge that they not only provide much-needed services to the U.S. economy, but according to the Center for Immigration Studies, the average illegal household pays about $4,200 a year in federal taxes, for a total of nearly $16 billion.

"However, they impose annual costs of more than $26.3 billion, or about $6,950 per illegal household," said the center's Camarota.

He also said that while the United States is a country where almost everyone can trace their roots back to an immigrant, the situation only a few decades ago is very different from the current situation.

"The fiscal realities of modern America are very different now...immigration did not have the negative fiscal implication like it does today," as illegal aliens continue to put an ever-increasing burden on the government's coffers, Camarota said.
Employers of Illegal Immigrants Face Little Risk of Penalty
By Anna Gorman
Times Staff Writer

May 29, 2005

Nearly every day, immigrants newly arrived from Mexico pick up job applications at Car Wash on Sunset.

Owner George Garcia insists that they provide proof, such as Social Security or green cards, that they are authorized to work. What he does not do is pick up the phone to see if the documents are phony.

"I run a business," he said. "Why is it my job to kick people out? It is not my responsibility to figure out who is legal and who is not legal. It's their job to stop them at the border."

Garcia doesn't worry about being fined or arrested by immigration authorities. Even if federal agents did raid his Los Angeles carwash and arrest his undocumented workers, it wouldn't take long to replace them.

"If I lost 20 guys," he said, "within a couple of days I'd have new guys."

The escalating debate over illegal immigration focuses primarily on those who sneak across the border, not on the jobs that lure them here or the people who hire them. When authorities do crack down on employers, it often is to stem terrorism, human smuggling or large-scale criminal operations.

In fact, the owners of hotels, farms, restaurants and retail stores who hire illegal workers "” never widely sanctioned to begin with "” now face a negligible risk of being penalized.

From 1993 to 2003, the number of arrests at work sites nationwide went from 7,630 to 445. The number of fines dropped from 944 in 1993 to 124 in 2003.

About 7 million illegal immigrants worked in the U.S. last year, said the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization.

"I don't think any average restaurant owner or farmer is shaking in their boots," said Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles immigration attorney who used to work for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"We've seen an effective end to work-site enforcement," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. "To whatever degree there is enforcement, the only people on the receiving end of it are the illegals, because there are no fines of employers, practically none."

Even when a fine is levied, it often is settled for "cents on the dollar," said Kevin Jeffery, a deputy special agent in charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles.

The agency still has a work-site enforcement division, said Washington spokesman Manny Van Pelt, but the primary focus has shifted to protecting national security at potential terrorist targets such as airports, power plants and naval shipyards.

In the last year, agents have arrested unauthorized workers "” not employers "” at a Florida nuclear plant, a Louisiana oil refinery, a Boeing military helicopter plant in Arizona and, this month, a Texas company that provides contract workers to power plants and petrochemical refineries.

The immigration agency also targets businesses suspected of involvement in smuggling or exploiting workers, Van Pelt said. For example, five Chinese restaurant owners in New Mexico pleaded guilty in March after being accused of money laundering and hiring and harboring illegal immigrants to work for substandard wages.

"Do we go down to the rib shack on the corner and arrest the people working [there]?" Van Pelt asked. "Or do we go after the criminal enterprise and system vulnerabilities that essentially bring these people here?"

In the Los Angeles area, there are about 400 ICE agents to investigate cases involving narcotics, gangs, port security, criminal immigrants, computer crimes, smuggling and customs violations. They cover seven Southern California counties and part of Nevada.

The last time an employer targeted by the work-site division faced criminal charges here was in 2002, authorities said, when a Pasadena dress shop owner received probation after luring, then imprisoning, an illegal immigrant worker.

"How thin can you stretch roughly 400 employees with all our responsibilities?" Jeffery asked. "Everything is done on a priority basis. That's why the focus may not be the dry cleaners, but rather the power plants."

Any tips that do not involve critical infrastructure, he added, are "put in a file cabinet and filed."

Meanwhile, employers are hiring illegal immigrants with impunity, said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents rank-and-file agents. He argues that a get-tough policy against employers would not only help with the crackdown on terrorism and smuggling, but also reduce the overall flow of illegal immigrants across the border.

"If no one will hire you when you get here," Bonner said, "you are not going to waste your time making the journey."

Work is what spurred Jose Lopez to pay a "coyote" $1,500 to bring him across the border three years ago. Later, he bought fake documents for $50 and took them to Garcia at the carwash. Each week, he sends money home to his wife and two children in Mexico City.

The journey into the U.S. was dangerous, but Lopez saw it as his only option. "For me, it was a necessity," he said, adding that he makes more here than he did as a chauffeur back home.

His boss, Garcia, said that he wouldn't object to more enforcement but that it should be across the board, targeting even upscale businesses.

"Let's attack the best restaurants in Los Angeles and see who is in the back washing dishes," he said.

Immigrant rights groups say most work-site crackdowns hurt immigrants more than their bosses.

"Invariably, the employers are the ones who get off scot-free and the workers the ones who end up getting deported," said Marielena Hincapie, director of programs for the Los Angeles office of the National Immigration Law Center.

Some advocates of a tighter border policy say employers, as well as immigrants, ought to be forced to abide by the law.

The Minutemen, who conducted citizen patrols of the Mexican border in Arizona last month, have announced a project called "White Collar" that would target offending employers. Leader Jim Gilchrist said he planned to recruit attorneys, law enforcement officers and former Internal Revenue Service employees to investigate businesses and present the evidence to the government.

"If you really want to stop them, you go in with federal officers and you handcuff the management," he said. "Just one case will send a message nationwide."

For nearly two decades, laws have prohibited employers from hiring immigrants not authorized to work in the U.S. To enforce the laws, federal investigators have conducted work-site raids and audits of company records.

One of the most recent large cases was against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which agreed this year to pay the government $11 million to settle charges that it used hundreds of illegal immigrants as janitors.

The case "put big business on notice that they will be held accountable," Van Pelt said.

Despite such occasional high-profile cases, authorities and activists have deemed the laws largely ineffective and said they have not deterred either employees or employers. Cases usually result in fines "” most of them less than $24,000 last year "” rather than prison sentences.

The cases are also difficult to prosecute, because they require proof that employers know that they are hiring undocumented labor. In one of the biggest blows to the immigration agency, a federal jury in 2003 acquitted Tyson Foods of smuggling illegal immigrants in to work at its processing plants. The jurors determined that there was no proof of wrongdoing by the employers.

Meanwhile, extensive networks of counterfeiters have developed to provide fraudulent papers for illegal workers.

"We did all this work-site enforcement, and what was the legacy?" asked ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. "Unfortunately, we saw this huge upsurge of document counterfeiting and people getting jobs with counterfeit documents."

In Los Angeles, it is easy "” and cheap "” to get fake documents. Alongside MacArthur Park west of downtown, men stand alone or in pairs, whispering to passersby, "IDs? IDs?" Some keep stashes hidden beneath awnings. Others produce them in photo shops. For about $60, investigators say, an illegal immigrant can buy a fake green card, a Social Security card and an identification card.

Nearby, at the Super Electronic shop on Alvarado Street, owner Fred Adibi said he carefully checked the papers of anyone he hired.

But he knows he cannot guarantee their authenticity. "It is hard, because they are selling fake ones on the street," Adibi said. "I just look to see if it looks real."

Jesus Alcantra, owner of Prestige Auto Body in Los Angeles, said the illegal immigrants just want employment, so he occasionally hires them without any documents.

"They want to work to take care of themselves," Alcantra said. "If you deny them work, you are hurting them more."

Among employers, calls for enforcing sanctions and establishing more stringent fines are unpopular, said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a public policy think tank. Politicians are realizing that they won't garner support for employer sanctions without providing an alternative source of labor, Jacoby said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) proposed a bill this month that would establish strict new penalties for businesses that hired illegal employees. It also would establish a temporary worker program.

President Bush has said his proposed guest worker program would also include tough penalties for errant employers.

"There are entire industries in this country who depend on immigrant labor," Jacoby said. "Workplace enforcement would shut down agriculture in this country. It would shut down food processing. It would shut down a lot of hotels and restaurants. That's not practical for anyone."
Originally posted by Sandye:

The Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think-tank, for one argued Wednesday that unlawful aliens are draining the federal government's coffers.

Well, with all due respect, a quick perusal of this organization's webiste gives me the impression that they are a conservative think tank dedicated to anti-immigration propaganda. For my money, I'll stick to Alan Greenspan. bsm
Originally posted by Solomonic:
Talk about twisted...

The conservatives, the so-called "law & order" crowd bend over backwards defending illegal immigrants.

Not really IMO. The more they can exploit the better. Illegal immigrants are easily exploited labour. I think it is just a good demonstration of what the true conservative motive is.
Originally posted by Sandye:
Ricardo - Your article was published in 2002. Let's see what was said in 2004:

Illegal immigration costing U.S. taxpayers


"However, they impose annual costs of more than $26.3 billion, or about $6,950 per illegal household," said the center's Camarota.


The Center for Immigration Studies report, which was authored by Camarota himself, is quite misleading. The distinction between "legal" and "illegal" households is a rather fuzzy one.

1 out of 10 of all households with children in the USA is a mixed status household.

Camarota uses a immigrant version of the "one drop rule" for households in his CIS report in order to attribute costs associated with US Citizens to "illegal households".

The CIS has a very anti-immigrant agenda, and is quite willing to distort and twist the facts in order to spread disinformation.



Despite the dramatic decline in benefit use by immigrants, some anti-immigrant groups are claiming that just the opposite has occurred. In an extraordinarily misleading report issued in March, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) contends that "After declining in the late 1990s, welfare use returned to 1996 levels by 2001" and that "the gap between immigrant and native households has not narrowed, and in fact has widened slightly." The report concludes that "immigrant households comprise a growing share of all households using the welfare system." NOTE 11

However, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out in an April report, the CIS conclusions are based on methodological sleight of hand. CIS defines "immigrant households" to include "all households headed by foreign-born persons, including households headed by naturalized citizens" and attributes "benefit use to an immigrant household in cases where the only members of the household receiving benefits are U.S. citizens." The CIS report "itself finds that receipt of TANF, SSI, and food stamps by these households declined substantially between 1996 and 2001," but, "because it finds that the share of such households with at least one member who receives Medicaid rose modestly," concludes "that the share of immigrant households using ˜at least one major welfare program' has not declined since 1996." The CIS report "fails to mention that the modest increase in Medicaid participation by so-called ˜immigrant' households is due entirely to an increase in Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) use by U.S. citizens who live in households headed by foreign-born individuals." This is hardly surprising since SCHIP was created a year after passage of PRWORA. As a result, "CIS inexcusably fails to disclose" that "among both noncitizen adults and noncitizen children, Medicaid participation declined between 1996 and 2001." NOTE 12

The CBPP report, "using the same database as CIS," finds that – in reality – "the percentage of legal noncitizens participating in each of the major means-tested federal programs – Medicaid, Food Stamps, TANF, and SSI – has declined significantly since 1996." The "percentage of low-income noncitizen children who participate in Medicaid or SCHIP fell from 28.6 percent in 1996 to 24.8 percent in 2001, despite the creation and expansion of SCHIP during this period." The CBPP report finds that "the percentage of U.S.-citizen children participating in these programs increased from 42.8 percent to 47.6 percent" between 1996 and 2001. In addition, U.S. Department of Agriculture "administrative data show that participation by noncitizens in the Food Stamp Program declined 64 percent between 1996 and 2000, from about 1.7 million to 600,000. During the same time period, food stamp participation by all individuals declined by 30 percent, from 23.8 million to 16.7 million." NOTE 13
Article I came across:

A 'free market' includes labor
By Douglas S. Massey
Douglas S. Massey is a professor of sociology and public policy at Princeton University.

July 31, 2005

There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of U.S. relations with Mexico. Together, our nations have created an integrated market characterized by the relatively free flow of capital, goods, services and information across our borders. Since 1986, the volume of trade with Mexico has increased eightfold. But we also have sought, since 1986, to block the movement of workers by criminalizing the hiring of undocumented laborers. The size of the Border Patrol has tripled, and its budget has risen tenfold.

A change in the rate of undocumented Mexican migration did not prompt this escalation of border enforcement. Rather, it was the attempt by U.S. policymakers to finesse the contradiction created by integrating all markets except labor. The result is that migration has continued under terms harmful to the U.S., damaging to Mexico, injurious to U.S. workers and inhumane to migrants.

The militarization of the Mexico-U.S. border has not increased the rate of arrest. Rather, it has reduced the probability of catching migrants to a 40-year low by channeling them to remote areas where their chances of capture are very small. . At remote border locations, however, the risk of death is greater. The mortality rate has tripled; 300 to 400 migrants die annually.

U.S. efforts have failed to discourage undocumented migrants from coming "” and have kept migrants here from going home. Reluctant to again face the gantlet at the border, they ask family members to join them. The result has been an unprecedented increase in the size of the undocumented population in the U.S.

By 2000, what had been a circular flow of able-bodied workers into three states became a settled population of families scattered across 50 states, at a significant increase in the social costs of migration for U.S. taxpayers. The criminalization of undocumented hiring inadvertently exacerbated the economic costs to U.S. workers. Rather than eliminate the magnet of U.S. jobs, this policy has encouraged employers to shift from direct hiring to subcontracting. Intermediaries now handle the paperwork burden and absorb the risks of prosecution. In return, these subcontractors pocket a portion of the wages that formerly went to migrants, thereby lowering the wages of all workers. In this new regime, everyone works through a subcontractor, undermining the bargaining advantage once enjoyed by U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens.

All we have to show for two decades of contradictory policies toward Mexico is a negligible deterrent effect, a rising pile of corpses, record low probabilities of border apprehension, falling rates of return migration, accelerating growth of the undocumented population, downward pressure on U.S. wages and working conditions "” and billions of dollars in wasted money.

Ever more repressive actions to block migratory flows caused by Mexico's economic transformation and integration into a North American market won't work. A better approach would be to decriminalize labor flows and manage them to the benefit of both nations. Here's how:

"¢ Create a temporary visa program that gives migrants rights to live in the U.S. and allows their return home.

"¢ Expand the quota for legal immigration from Mexico, a country with a $1-trillion economy and a population of 105 million to which we are bound by history, geography and a free trade agreement.

"¢ Offer amnesty to the children of undocumented migrants who entered the U.S. as minors and are guilty of nothing more than obeying their parents.

"¢ Establish an earned-legalization program for those who illegally entered the U.S. as adults.

These actions would go a long way toward cleaning up the current immigration mess. They would enable the United States to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of Mexican migration. They would allow the Mexican economy to develop more quickly and the Mexican government to address the forces promoting large-scale emigration.

Legislation sponsored by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)and John McCain (R-Ariz.) incorporates these actions. Its enactment would be a big step toward much-needed immigration reform.

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