Immigration, Lost in Translation

If you read all the way to the fifteenth paragraph of this news article covering President Obama’s appearance with Mexico’s President Calderon on Wednesday, you will find the following claim:

By some estimates, one-tenth of Mexico’s population resides in the United States without permission.

And then you might wonder, now that President Calderon is in the United States on a diplomatic visit, what part of that problem will he own? You can read the text of the remarks at the White House website, and you won’t find much. Here are the relevant passages about the recent law passed in Arizona (my emphasis added):

We want to make this quite clear: We, both countries, want to have a safe border, a safe border for our people. We agreed upon the urgency to reinforce the actions to stop the flow of drugs, weapons, and cash. And for this we will work with full abidance to the legislations and jurisdictions of each country in a co-responsible way.

In reference to the migratory issue, I acknowledge the sensitivity and the commitment of President Obama to look for a comprehensive solution that will be respectful of the rights of the individual and will be adjusting itself in a realistic way to the needs of both our economies. We talked openly about this and other issues.

We identified that the economies of our countries are clearly complementing each other, and when we — integrating them, they are a powerful tool to bring productivity and competitiveness up within the whole region. Greater competitiveness in North America means more jobs and better living conditions for the people of the United States and for the people of Mexico.

In Mexico, we are and will continue being respectful of the internal policies of the United States and its legitimate right to establish in accordance to its Constitution whatever laws it approves. But we will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals. And we oppose firmly the S.B. 1070 Arizona law given in fair principles that are partial and discriminatory.

I think that referring to up to one tenth of his country’s population residing in a neighboring country without permission merely as “migration” is just bizarre. On this issue, I’m with John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Any government that controls its borders–like Mexico’s, for example–necessarily “criminalizes” migration that is inconsistent with its laws. Many Mexicans seem to think that the United States is the one country on earth that has no right to set an immigration policy consistent with what it perceives to be its interests. It would be nice to have confidence that our President does not share that view.

I don’t think President Calderon will help his cause much if he refuses to acknowledge the difference between legal and illegal immigration or if he refuses to acknowledge the events that precipitated the passing of the law in Arizona.

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About Andrew Samwick 89 Articles

Affiliation: Dartmouth College

Andrew Samwick is a professor of economics and Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

He is most widely known for his work on the economics of retirement, and his scholarly work has covered a range of topics, including pensions, saving, taxation, portfolio choice, and executive compensation.

In July 2003, Samwick joined the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, serving for a year as its chief economist and helping to direct the work of about 20 economists in support of the three Presidential appointees on the Council.

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