Two Ignored Immigration Policy Strategies: Diversion and Emigration

By David North on May 25, 2012

When discussing U.S. immigration policy, more than 99 percent of the discussion is about two Ds: denying entry to some would-be immigrants and deporting illegal aliens who are already here.

Limiting entries and forcing some exits are, of course, the most important parts of immigration policy, but there are two other rarely discussed approaches that I will cover here and in a future blog: diversion and emigration.

Both, if used with care, could reduce the growth rate of our population, if not reducing the total size of the population.

One of the characteristics of conversations among restrictionists is a near-total focus on the United States. Too many people want to come here, and too many aliens that should be sent home are not. There is little thought about the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, there are other places in the world attracting immigrants. My suggestion is that some of those pulls, to countries like Canada and Brazil and Australia, could be used to divert some flow of migrants away from the United States. Further, there are policies in another set of countries that encourage migration to the United States, and these, to some mild extent could be modified to lessen the flows in our direction.

All this was called to mind by a blog written by a friend, Jason Dzubrow, a talented asylum lawyer who practices in Washington, D.C. His piece, which appeared in the May 17 Immigration Daily, was headlined "India Needs an Asylum Policy". It pointed out that many people fleeing from oppression in neighboring countries were accepted de facto by India, but not given the protection and the services that they would get were India to have, as we have, an asylum policy.

Dzubrow did not suggest that such a policy would lessen migration pressures on the United States, but it set off that thought in my mind, particularly in view of the fact that I had just seen the most recent report from the Office of Immigration Statistics, which showed that a majority of the refugees (56.7 percent) coming to the United States in 2011 were from Bhutan and Burma (Myanmar), both of which are adjacent to India.

Wouldn't it make more sense for those refugees to be settled in India, with a somewhat comparable way of life and weather, than to transport them to the United States? Wouldn't it be a good idea, financially, to support some of them in Indian refugee camps at, say, $1,000 a year, rather than to bring them to the United States at roughly 10 or 20 times the price? The United States has a long history of funding refugee camps overseas through United Nations agencies.

Meanwhile India wants all sorts of things from the United States; why not use some of our influence with that country to get them to handle the neighboring Bhutanese and Burmese refugees?

What I am suggesting here would be part of a broader, positive policy of migrant diversion, in which the United States would take steps — and use some of its diplomatic chips — in a conscious way to steer migrants away from the United States and toward somewhere else.

Meanwhile, speaking of Burma, we are doing all sorts of generous things for the perhaps reforming Burmese government in the hopes that it will be nice to Aung San Suu Kyi, as it should. Maybe, as we ease various restrictions on that regime, we should insist that they stop creating refugees for us to re-settle. Unfortunately, that kind of thought process rarely reaches the upper levels of the U.S. government.

There are scores of other diversion possibilities. Here are three:

There is an existing nonimmigrant worker program in Canada that recruits people from Mexico for, among other things, farm work. When Mexican nationals come to U.S. consulates seeking U.S. visas and are turned down, they might be given material about the Canadian program.

Similar information might be given to would-be illegal aliens intercepted at our southern border by our enforcement people.

Also, there is a growing flow of people from Haiti to Brazil's booming economy, at least part of it legal. When Haitians are turned down for visas to the United States at Port-au-Prince (and the rejection rate there is always high), we might give some of the rejectees information on the opportunities in Brazil. Since there is some U.S. financial support for reconstruction in Haiti, perhaps money could be found to buy some of the visa rejectees one-way air tickets to Brazil, with the payment to be made once the Haitian has flown to Brazil and secured an address there.

On a longer-term basis, the United States could encourage the teaching of Portuguese in Mexican schools to encourage Mexico-to-Brazil migration.

To evaluate the various possibilities of migrant diversion, and to push the best of them, there would need to be a small unit of the State Department working on these ideas.

Ideally, it would be headed by a believer, someone who likes the idea of diversion, understands it, and wants to press it. That officer would have to have enough personal stature — a really outstanding former ambassador, for example — to carry it out. Best, he or she would have some direct contract with the Secretary of State, maybe someone who played a significant role in Hilary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid or who has similar ties to whomever succeeds her.

Such an office could be funded for about as much as the cost of a single one of those silly pilot-less drones that the Border Patrol has been saddled with and does not know what to do with.

Soon: a blog about another way to lower the pressure on America's population — emigration.