Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Human Costs of Border Control

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto regularly makes the point that most people in developing countries don't want to live in the shadows of the legal economy; they are forced to do so by high social barriers that prevent them from acquiring legal title to property.

The same argument is true when discussing the topic of immigration. Very few immigrants want to be illegal. The vast majority would immigrate legally, if only the social barriers to legal immigration weren't so high.

Simply put, when the law does not accommodate human nature, human nature will seek accommodation outside the law.

Immigrants are not driven by the desire to cheat and steal something from another country. They are driven by the universal human desire to improve one's situation and the situation of one's family.

The solution to the problem of illegal immigration does not lie in making immigration more difficult or time-consuming. Such an effort will, in fact, only make illegal immigration more expensive and more dangerous. Consider this table from the Economist. Ten years ago, crossing the border from Mexico to Arizona cost about $350. Now, it costs as much as $3,000.

The solution to illegal immigration is to make it easier to immigrate legally. That is the only humane response to poor people from around the world who are willing to risk everything to build a better life in a new country.

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