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The Costs of Unchecked Migration

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The downfall of the Immigration Bill provides a brief respite from the contentiousness of the various advocacy groups. On the one side are the immigrant rights groups that promote a continuation of an open border policy. On the other side are the culturalists who fear the impact of Spanish speaking, low paid, cash only workers on American culture. These arguments have really not demonstrated any impact on this particular debate.

What really needs to be done is to focus on what it is we want accomplished regarding migration from Mexico, define the character and extent of it, and than establish the means to address it. Being a New Mexican, I should say that the wall concept is not a scenario that has any chance at all in accomplishing its purpose. If drugs can be smuggled across the border, what are the chances that people can be stopped from sneaking across. There was a wall put up when I lived down in southern New Mexico. Nada. We're still where we are.

So what is all the fuss about? After all, New Mexico is already a bi-lingual state and Los Angeles just elected its first Hispanic Mayor, or is it Chicano, or Latino. Point is that demographically speaking we are already closing the barn door after the horses are out if the goal is to reduce the Mexican migration. The real point is not just what's happening in Los Angeles though. It's what's happening in Oregon, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. See the report by The Foreign Born from Mexico in the United States by Elizabeth Grieco of the Migration Policy Institute and you will begin to understand the breadth of the situation.

So then, what is it that we really are trying to do? Are we merely upholding a white Anglo-Saxon heritage against an onslaught of barbarians like the Roman Empire? Or, are there real impacts that this shift in population and population density has had that have gone unaddressed at the national level for decades?

As a veteran water planner in the South West for 10 years, even as a volunteer, I have to say that significant shifts in population, whether from birth or migration, have significant impacts on resource planning, urban growth and economic development. In the Albuquerque region we had a sharp spike in population when Intel opened its production facility in Rio Rancho. In fact, Rio Rancho is now the second largest city in New Mexico as a result of this influx from other parts of the US. The impact on the groundwater as a result of Intel water withdrawals and as a result of the increase in population has complicated the process of regional water planning in the Middle Rio Grande. There is only so much water to go around, and when it is supplied by underground aquifers it takes significantly longer to replace once it is used.

Looking at other areas of the country, and we will find that increased migration has a profound impact on the public infrastructure as well. If we fail to address the additional costs to public health, public education, municipal services, public housing, income support, and include the lack of Social Security or Income tax contributions by day laborers to the impact on the inflow of revenues, we are simply distorting the picture to promote a particular pre-defined agenda.

One thing should be made clear in this debate. There are really two major alternatives that we face in addressing these costs, not three. One is to increase public revenues to address the increased needs on the infrastructure. For those born after Proposition 13, this means higher taxes. The other is to refuse to invest in any of the basic public services that have long been funded by state and local governments and force those institutions to respond as they must in order to stay operational. This means accepting failures such as the levees in New Orleans and the moving equipment in Kansas as a social cost for living in the US. This also means closing Emergency Rooms in hospitals in Southern California because of the inability to support the costs of indigent treatment or the lack of beds to address the need as required by law.

Deporting the migrants or keeping them out are exercises in futility. Neither are they solutions that deal with the deterioration of the public infrastructure and the lack of investment in their upgrading. See just one aspect of this in a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers in their report card entitled: AMERICA'S CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE ERODING QUALITY OF LIFE.

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Martin Zehr is an American political writer in the San Francisco area. He spent 8 years working as a volunteer water planner for the Middle Rio Grande region. His article on the Kirkuk Referendum has been printed by the Kurdish Regional Government, Another article was reprinted in its entirety by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) He is a Contributing Writer to Kurdish Aspect more...)

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