(John Moore/Getty Images)

Two Congressional hearings this week will consider what to do about the surge of children crossing the United States-Mexico border. According to the Obama administration, 52,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the country since October. Most are seeking refuge from the drug violence in Central American countries. President Obama has declared the surge in arrivals — up 90 percent from last year — an “urgent humanitarian situation.” Critics blame the crisis on the president, saying his lax deportation policies have encouraged people to come to the U.S. illegally. We discuss the conditions in detention facilities where children are being held, and what should be done about the crisis.

Guests:
Ira Mehlman, media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute
Ruthie Epstein, ACLU policy analyst

  • Pontifikate

    Are we taking this at face value? Could this stream of children be a distraction, possibly by drug dealers or terrorists? Not paranoid, just a born skeptic.

    • Kurt thialfad

      How many of these children will die? How many are being raped? Who is orchestrating this? How does an undocumented minor get united with an undocumented parent? Do these kids all have cellphones? Are their parents tweaking them?
      Any foreign enemy should know this is our soft underbelly.

      • Pontifikate

        Good questions, all. I do think this is orchestrated. By whom, I do not know. But yes, you are right about our soft underbelly being exposed for all to see.

        • Kurt thialfad

          Perhaps orchestrated by the Obama government.

          I say this with a small anecdote. A few summers ago when Gen. Stanley McCrystal made some unfriendly remarks about his boss – Obama – to a journalist, he was promptly canned. A couple of weeks later that summer, Sec. Clinton was visiting South America. She gave an interview to a Bolivian journalist, and stated that the US administration was going to sue the State of Arizona over their passage of SB1070. This was before there was any talk domestically about a lawsuit. And as a point of order, Clinton, as a lawyer should know, that any information connected with impending litigation, is forbidden to be mentioned. She wasn’t fired because she was doing the administration’s bidding.

          In short, our leaders care more about the people of other countries, than for Americans.

          • Pontifikate

            Sounds a bit conspiratorial to me.

          • Skip Conrad

            If that is indeed the case, then when any of these children are united with their parents, these parents can be prosecuted for conspiracy to violate US immigration laws.

          • Guest

            Yeah, sort of like Galileo’s claim that the Church was lying about the Earth being the center of the universe. Downright conspiratorial!

  • jurgispilis

    Our newly minted DHS Secretary seems to be totally clueless. What are his qualifications?

  • Skip Conrad

    In any puzzling situation, it is always helpful to follow the money in order to get a better understanding of the problem, and subsequently, how to solve it. My understanding is that each human is being smuggled at a price of about $6,000 (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Now, how is this money changing hands? Surely, if the minor has relatives in the US, $6k can buy a plane ticket for child and escort. But, if the family is poor, they don’t have the funds, and incur a debt with the smuggling cartel. How does that work?

    Meanwhile, the cartel has an army of willing foot soldiers who will do pretty much anything asked of them. The term ‘asymetric’ comes to mind. Reminds me of the Elian Gonzales case, when clueless James Ziegler was INS chief.

    Is anybody connecting the dots? I don’t think Clueless Jeh Johnson knows what a dot is? But maybe that’s intentional.

  • Kurt thialfad

    Where is the “urgent humanitarian crisis’? There is no war. There is no hurricane. No floods. No drought. There are gangs, but we have more than our share of gang violence here in the ol’ USA.
    Why not go to Costa Rica, and apply for asylum? It is much closer.

  • Bob Fry

    The USA and its many decades of meddling in Central American countries (as well as around the world) is the proximate cause of the extremely high murder and violence rate in some of the CA countries. Like Iraq, we broke the place and now refuse any responsibility to fix it.

    • TrainedHistorian

      Not a believable explanation of the current surge. Things were much worse in the early 1980s when there were actual civil wars in Central America. If the violence is so bad that people are actually trying to escape it, rather than just getting their foot in the door in the hopes of a future legalization, get the UNHCR involved. When the border crossers find out that they are not all going to get to stay in the US, and may even be sent to another Latin American country for “safety” the surge will moderate.

      A better explanation: crazy policy since 1986 of sending the message that we will legalize almost everyone who arrived illegally, and we will not really enforce laws supposedly penalizing the hiring of “undocumented.”.

  • Lance

    My question for the guests. Can we leverage our FTA’s(Free Trade Agreement) to stabilize the current economic problems in the countries these migrants are fleeing from?

    • TrainedHistorian

      This cannot explain the current surge.

  • Ben Rawner

    How much of an effect does the idea that, immigrants already here will be given green cards by congress soon, bring these people here. The reality is that those who have lived here a long time will get clemency, but these children have no chance.

    How come we cannot figure out their country of origin and send them back?

  • Guest

    How heartless and irresponsible is it for parents to send their children on a long and perilous journey to have them fend for themselves in a foreign country?

    How heartless and irresponsible is it for parents to effectively demand strangers and American taxpayers to shoulder the burden of dealing with their kids?

    How heartless and irresponsible is it for parents to produce more children than they can afford and in so doing condemn those children to a life of excruciating poverty?

    Also:
    To the caller who says “We are the consumers of the drugs” that indirectly brought these kids here, I say: Speak for yourself! I’m not a consumer of the drugs, so why should I pay a cent?

    • ES Trader

      They are trying to escape being murdered in a lawless environment, at high risk but maybe preferable to staying there and risk death

      • Guest

        If the same dangerous environment existed in the USA, would you advise sending 1000’s of children on a trail of tears to Canada or Mexico?

        Don’t citizens have a responsibility to face the tyranny in their homelands and fight for freedom rather than to duck and cover, or make others’ pay for their problems?

        • Lance

          If the choice is between your children being murdered in drug related gang actions, or in many cases raped, and sold as sex slaves.

          Yes in every way, a trail of tears to flee from such horrors is a better choice.

          • Guest

            Those “drug related gang actions” are the result of a group of irresponsible people, called American drug users, of which I am enthusiastically not a member.

            Let them bear the burden of their vices — I should not.

            Furthermore those drugs are sometimes tied to illegal activities of the CIA, which is a criminal organization inside the US government, and should be eliminated. Let the CIA officials pay — I should not.

          • Lance

            At least we’ve moved past blaming the victims.

            Also not refuting our government meddling, and poor FTA’s are a large cause of the destabilized economies of these countries.

          • Guest

            Agreed. Perhaps we can add the migrant problem to the long list of reasons why drugs should be legalized, if only to collect taxes to support them, but more importantly to undermine the drug trade’s profitability.

          • Skip Conrad

            then they will only find another excuse.

          • Skip Conrad

            the tail of tears will guarantee that they will definitely raped, and definitely sold as sex slaves.

          • TrainedHistorian

            This does not explain unaccompanied minors. And refugee agencies, including the UNHCR, agree that it’s far better to keep families together in temporary shelters than to have folks sending their children across borders alone. That’s why we need to get the UNHCR involved, who will agree to send some of the “refugees” to other countries for safety.

          • jurgispilis

            On this trip to the US, many died, many were raped, many caught disease. Staying home would have been better.

        • Sam Badger

          the same dangerous environment does not exist in the USA, Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate

          • TrainedHistorian

            And the situation in Syria and parts of Iraq are more dangerous. You do not see many unaccompanied minors there. That’s because the UNHCR is involved with the receiving countries. This means that folks realize they will be treated as temporary refugees, who will not necessarily be sent to what they think is a wealthy country, but could be sent anywhere so as to be out of harm’s way.
            Problem here is that certain US interest groups just want to solve a problem presented as people supposedly fleeing violence by just legalizing any one– including unaccompanied minors– who crosses the border.

          • Sam Badger

            Who said you don’t see unaccompanied minors there? That is an assertion you should back up with facts.

            Also the conditions facing Central Americans are very different. A lot of kids’ parents migrated when conditions were less violent, and now that gang violence is getting worse again the kids are moving back up.

          • jurgispilis

            We have 11,000 gun deaths per year. I’m sure we are in the top 10.

          • Sam Badger

            No, the US is not in the top 10. Honduras is #1 and both El Salvador and Guatemala are in the top 5.

        • ES Trader

          I just spoke to a woman that returned from Honduras yesterday. It is not the same as the U.S. !

          Your sentiments are 100% emotional and reacting to press reports w/out the rea;ity of their plight and what you would do in similar situation.

          Try a little empathy

          • TrainedHistorian

            No, your sentiments are 100% emotional. Taking in everyone–including unaccompanied minors, who comes over a border claiming to be threatened–is not rational. And if you are so concerned volunteer to take some in yourself.

      • TrainedHistorian

        This is simplistic; it does not explain the current surge.. There was a bigger violence problem in the early 1980s when several civil wars were raging in Central America. What has changed is the signals our leaders have sent about illegal immigration: i.e. that it will not be ended, hence we have millions more “undocumented” now that after 1986 when it was promised we would not tolerate any more.

        • Sam Badger

          There was a large amount of illegal immigration from Central America in the 80s, especially people fleeing the wars. MS-13 stemmed out of many young men who were deported from the US.

          • TrainedHistorian

            But there was not this huge unaccompanied minor surge.

        • ES Trader

          Try improving your training by going there and seeing the situation for yourself

          • TrainedHistorian

            Try learning the distinction between history and anthropology/sociology.
            Historians of the premodern world, like myself, are trained to understand primary sources–largely written ones but sometimes visual–produced in the past so that they can understand that past.
            Now if you want to fund my trip to the border, provide full-time child care for my children and take care of my other obligations so I have see “the situation” now, contact me via this blog with your funding offer.
            We do not need more people seeing the situation. We need a rational immigration and refugee policy, which has been sorely lacking ever since 1986 when our leaders betrayed those living here now by promising that they would enforce our immigration laws against future illegal immigration.

          • ES Trader

            why not learn a marketable trade instead of being an unemployed, frustrated wanna be ivory tower egghead and you can fund your own trips and really learn something instead of living vicariously thru other’s work and research.

            Try to make Tocqueville proud !

          • TrainedHistorian

            I do not live vicariously: I have worked very hard both inside and outside my home for very, very little remuneration. In case you haven’t noticed, there are very few high-paying jobs readily available even to many college-educated Americans. Why do you think bank tellers, adjunct professors and all sorts of Americans who did not used to need food stamps now do to get by on the low real-wages paid nowadays?
            I have published some academic works on my own very thin dime, which is far, far cheaper (maybe costing about $30/year) than fund a trip to the border, let alone pay for the child care necessary for a full-time mother to travel to the border, let alone support just one of the people in question who has crossed the border. What’s it to you? Those works made the world a better place, for very, very little money; this cannot be said for what you are proposing: endless funding of anyone who crosses the border with no rational immigration or refugee policy behind it. As for the “marketable trade” you think I should learn please send me the funding for that, and I would happily do so. Again, contact me via this blog with your funding offer.
            My parents spent their life savings on my college education, I paid back a $10,0000 college loan on jobs that paid between $5000-12,000/year. Since I was paid so little for such work, I do not have any savings myself. I’m not going to take out another loan with exorbitant interest to pursue a “training” or “degree” that might not lead to better wages. We have mass underemployment here, stagnant wages for the middle and even declining wages for the bottom, and constantly rising rental housing prices. Your classist attitudes–that no one is harmed by essentially open borders– is part of the problem: who pays most for open borders? Those already here being paid the least.
            And for someone preaching “empathy” about some non-citizens who just crossed the border you have very little for the people already here who have to pay taxes, despite very low wages, and who cannot endlessly afford to spend the money it costs to obtain a supposedly “marketable trade” let alone support everyone else in the world who wants to too. Your hypocrisy would be absurd if it weren’t so ugly. Why don’t you tell those who just crossed the border that they should first learn a “marketable trade” before they come to the US?

          • ES Trader

            the reason they are flippimg burgers and working at Walmart is because you ( 2nd person plural ) dont have the skill set needed in today’s economy.
            Whatever your historical field is obviously it lacks any knowledge of economic history and the evolutionary changes from afarian to industrial to high tech.

            Do yourself a favor and go to Treehouse, pay them $25 / month and learn to code…..then pay-off your student debt or become extinct like dinosaurs & STOP feeling sorry for your plight and have some empathy for those in far worse situations than YOU !

          • TrainedHistorian

            I already paid off my student debt. You do not read very carefully, which is typical of those like you keen to smear others. Contrary to what you wrongly assume, I actually did specialize in economic history and have a degree in demography, which is why I understand why those who pay the most for open borders are those who are paid the least, and why big capital and land owners benefit the most from open borders. Want more details? I recommend talking with Professor Ron Lee at UC Berkeley Demography department. He was quite clear : open borders leads in the long term to the same real wages on both sides of the border. This policy is grossly unfair to those in the bottom half who are already here.
            And the issue isn’t about “sympathy” or “empathy.” It was you, not I, who smeared others by accusing them of not having “empathy.” It is about a rational immigration and refugee policy which makes Mexican, Central American elites take responsibility for their own by taxing themselves more to provide education, health care and better infrastructure, and makes our own elites start paying wages that cover folks’ basic subsistence without them needing for food stamps and other income supports to survive.
            Oh, and I spent $300 at a CC to learn HTML when that was the new “coding” fad. Did not lead me to a higher-paying job, and did not pay the exorbitant rent owed, so excuse my skepticism that $25 at Treehouse will lead all of our own currently underemployed, underpaid and unemployed residents to start become wealthy enough to not need any such supports. Basic economics: even supposedly “high skilled” jobs can become poorly paid if the labor market for that sector becomes glutted. All your classist remarks about burger-flippers and Walmart workers shows is that you are yourself not at all empathetic to those already here, even while you demand that others show empathy and start funding a lot of taxpayer-funded assistance right now to those who send unaccompanied children over the border or come themselves unaccompanied, most of whom will themselves become “burger-flippers” needing food stamps et al to scrape by. It’s always easy–but unconscionable– to demand that others fund your pet projects and causes even as you pour contempt on those not so wealthy others.

          • ES Trader

            Its called competition, honey, and survival of the fittest or become dinner for another predator… Founding Fathers didnt mention anything about GUARANTEEing Happiness;its your fault if you made stupid decisions and wasted time that contributed to the employment of your profs and book publishers, they arent offering you positions are they?

            They ar going to ATT, and dining at Slanted Door thanks to you

          • TrainedHistorian

            Then why not tell that to those crossing the border? No taxpayer-funded shelter and food for you: go compete in your own country, or “become dinner for another predator” there?

          • ES Trader

            You conveniently forget that borders are man-made,it’s not PERMANENT; not too long ago where you sit and waste time on your laptop once belonged to Mexico and before that native tribes. If you are classifying them as invading your “sovereign” territory as an act of predation, I think your vessel is leaking badly

          • TrainedHistorian

            You, not I, were the one who used the word “predator” to justify why so many already people living here barely scrape by on their low wages. I was QUOTING your unempathetic response to the lower-income people already here legally. And I don’t own a laptop: you make all sorts of classist assumptions. And why are YOU wasting time (your language) hurling insults and smearing people who do not subscribe to your nonsensical ideal that there should be no borders as lacking “empathy”?
            So long as the current US government is collecting taxes from us on “this side” of the border to provide shelter and food to people who walked over the border recently, so long as real wages keep going nowhere on “this side” of the border, so long as the US and state governments tax us on “this side” of the border to pay income supports to those who cannot make enough from the work we do, yes we have every right to object to the government sending the message that they will not enforce current immigration laws, including controlling the border.
            There is a way to deal with a real refugee crisis if that is what this is: get the UNHCR involved and insist that other countries take a share of the refugees. You have shown you have no real interest in actually solving any possible refugee issue. You are only interested in promoting your nonsensical idea that there should be no borders and insulting anyone who does not agree with it.

          • ES Trader

            best of luck when you become a minority

          • ES Trader

            You have much in common with these illegal children, their parents that sent them and illegal immigration in general.

            The children are trying to escape an intolerable environment that may at worst kill them. They do not want to become a gang recruit and participate in that life-style. They probably believe that they are good, honest, law abiding people but willing to do a desperate act that violates the law of another nation.

            You, on the other hand is an over-educated, likely white female, that spent a great deal of time going to school studying a subject that YOU are passionate about but one that has almost “0” value in an economy focused society.

            The need for income to supplement your income forced you to perform jobs that you feel is beneath you and flipping burgers or stocking shelves at Walmart is something that you abhor.

            So you hate how the economy doesn’t recognize your value and your frustration is directed at illegals.

            One day when your anger dissipates and you accept that it was your choice in choosing your path and anger at others for seeking safety is universal, not only to humans but all living organisms, you will reach a degree of tolerance and calm.

          • TrainedHistorian

            This response illustrates perfectly your irrational and contemptible approach to the problem. Irrational because you try to promote the nonsensical idea that borders do not matter (they do today: people’s benefits derive from taxes imposed behind certain borders–there are no international taxing bodies)–and because you try to make this about individuals (like me) when trends and forces like a stagnation in real wages affect millions of people in a given labor market, and contemptible because you smear everyone who does not subscribe to your irrational non-solution of (apparently) legalizing everyone–even unaccompanied minors– who crosses the US border in perpetuity as lacking “empathy”
            This issue is not about me, so you can stop with the insults, assumptions and mischaracterizations directed at those (including me) who do not subscribe to your untenable idea that borders are or should be irrelevant. As has already been rationally and humanenly pointed out by myself and others, if people are really refugees trying to escape violence, we can work with UNHCR to treat them like the refuges in the Middle East right now: no promises of eventual legalization rather temporary refuge not only in the US but in OTHER countries as well, with a clear message that unaccompanied minors and those who send them will be never be legalized to work here.

          • ES Trader

            If you received grad school degrees and your interpretation of my original comment is an an example of tour master’s or doctorate work then the bridge at Cal must have been dramatically lowered since when I attended.

            I didn’t say anything about abolishing borders and I wouldn’t imply any such thing anymore than I would advocate removing fences between neighbors. However your steadfastness regarding borders as some sort of wall made by nature or a higher authority that will and should be inviolate is absurd and wishful thinking,

            As for giving a blanket amnesty to all illegals, I didn’t say anything in that regard either. What I said and saying is that these kids or people are simply looking for a chance for a life. I don’t know if they were lied to about freedom in America or if it’s a conspiracy by drug smugglers as a decoy to camouflage their traffic.

            What I know is that these people eventually work in restaurants that I patronize and re-fill my water glass, clear used plates, brings a second drink, when my server isn’t around, they mow my lawn ( and wanted less although I pay him an equal amount than my prior lawn care guy, one white the other black, and does a better job), work as shuttle drivers at my car dealer and perform other jobs for me and most of America that Americans, like you, won’t perform because you think you are over qualified because you are better and you went to school somewhere, while smoking pot or snorting coke recreationally and supporting the drug traffic and not supporting legalization.

            These people are not terrorists that want to destroy America. Borders or no borders, when other people are suffering and reaching out for help, it is the right thing to do to help. And help does not mean setting up an agency to process them.

            As for the 1%, which I am not a member, vs. the rest, yes CEO vs wage gap is appalling but as for blame, the masses are simply ignorant of the “unwritten rules” that govern markets and what you do not know, regardless of how many credits you earned in business or econ classes, has kept you from profiting from the near triping of the stock market since ’09 and the drop (2x) of 50% in the last 15 years and the real estate collapse in ’08. Instead you blame it on Wall St and the big banks.

            Well they are not blameless, but the fault that you either lost money or did not make money in the bull/bear cycle since 2000 is entirely yours,

            The investment game is the true arena of predator/prey, which is why you are losing, leaving you frustrated anf angry at illegals.

          • TrainedHistorian

            If you agree that borders are valid then you should not have said “You conveniently forget that borders are man-made,it’s not PERMANENT” that argument is indeed absurd and erroneous (who ever claimed most international borders aren’t man-made?) it was particularly absurd to use the argument in response to your hypocritical contempt for the low-income workers already here with “survival of the fittest” rhetoric even as you tried to smear others on this blog for an alleged lack of “empathy.”

            I never said anything about 1% or Wall Street, or CEO pay, losing money on the stock market. And the main problem is certainly not investment loss since the great majority does not have Wall Street investments of much significance. (By far the biggest investment is one’s own house, not stocks, and the bottom third earns too little to even afford their own house). By far the main problem in this country is stagnant or declining real WAGES (not so investments) for the bottom half for over 3 decades. And this is caused by a glut of low- and medium skilled labor relative to growth rates.

            Your accusation that most Americans will not wait tables or work in car dealerships etc. is patently false (every category of work–even farm labor–has more Americans than foreign workers in it), as is your smear that all Americans who go to college do drugs (never done any myself, ever). Of course folks who go into massive debt for college want–indeed are required–to earn enough to pay that off so they try to avoid low-paying jobs if they can. That you heap so much scorn on working Americans, many of whom live pay check to pay check and themselves get very little help from our government, while smearing others for a supposed lack of “empathy” is beyond hypocritical. The policy of the US and the US alone letting in everyone who crosses our border and providing for them and then allowing them to compete in a glutted low-skilled labor market is not a rational or humane one; it does make things worse for those already here who have the least, while benefitting those here with the most the most.
            I have already given a rational and humane solution to the problem: get the UNHCR involved, get other countries’ commitment to take some “refugees” to safety, but make it very clear that anyone who sends an unaccompanied minor should never be legalized, get green cards etc. You have no good response to this because you are clearly not really interested in a rational solution.

          • ES Trader

            You should try smoking pot, you definitely need it, then reconsider every angry comment and erroneous interpretation of what I said. THC will definitely help.

            As for your other assumptions/conclusions regarding labor and supply/demand regarding wages, you simply have not had real world experience.

            oh and get a blood pressure monitor because a stroke is not something that you want and you definitely give off vibes that your BP is extreme

            Then go to You Tube and search for Carl Sagan’s comments. The most complete one is “You Are Here: Carl Sagan on the pale blue dot photo…..in fact listening to it high on pot is a great idea. But be careful that you don’t self-destruct like the Sphinx

          • Frank

            Kiyoshi, that’s interesting! You tell TrainedHistorian about Survival of the Fittest, which is a discredited concept from Social Darwinism that was promoted by the Názis, by the way, and yet you make emotional arguments about saving poor migrants from Honduras, as if they were innocent puppies for which you have sympathy whereas TrainedHistorian only deserves your severe spite. I say you’re a hypocrite on two counts, but you also sound anti-American. Why are you here?

          • ES Trader

            u should try drugs because you suffer from a chemical deficiency

      • TrainedHistorian

        If they are simply trying to escape violence they could go to almost any country: Costa Rica, even stay in Mexico. That’s why we should get the UNHCR involved, and insist that OTHER countries take some of them. If they really are refugees they will accept being sent temporarily to other countries as well.

    • Lance

      To the first two statements, It’s desperation which have parents choose such action.

      For the last statement this isn’t anything new. It’s all about mortality rate, low education, and an agrarian culture.

      • TrainedHistorian

        Simplistic. The refugees situation is much worse in Syria now, but you do not see this high level of parents sending their children alone over borders. They know how important it is to keep families together even during a period of much worse violence (war) than the crime in Central America. Also, they have the UNHCR involved, whose general principle is to keep families together as much as possible. .

    • Sam Badger

      It IS the US which pushes anti-drug policies which create the instability and illegal market in the first place.

      How heartless and irresponsible is it for the United States government to create such terrible conditions in Latin America through its policies, from supporting dictatorships in the 80s to FTAs that increase poverty to deporting a bunch of gang members who themselves were refugees from the wars in the 80s?

      • Guest

        Agreed, and as usual it is the common people who suffer due to our leaders’ shady schemes.

      • TrainedHistorian

        Simplistic. It’s not simply the US “creating” terrible conditions. It’s many of the people there who supported dictatorships, or supported one side in CIVIL wars, or who do not want to tax themselves to educate and provide health care to their own poor. Mexico’s elite pays lower taxes than our own, because they’ve figured out they do not need to pay much if they can keep sending much of their lower-skilled population over the border. Central America’s elite has figured out that that is a good scheme for them too.
        Sorry, Americans, who now have their own problems with low wage work, underemployment, high education costs, skyrocketing housing costs (which is largely fueled by population increase), and low social mobility, are not obligated to take in everyone else too.

        • Sam Badger

          Except it was the government and various businesses in the United States which armed those governments, formed mainly by economic elites, trained their generals, and invested in their businesses. It was often the CIA and Pentagon working with those governments, knowing full well how brutal they were. If it were not for repeated US intervention, Central America would look a lot different today. Less violently displaced people, more political accountability, less state sponsored murder, etc.

          Also, Mexico cannot be compared to the Central American states, as Mexico uses its national oil company to pay for social services above and beyond anything which the military juntas of the 80s would have allowed, or which their current governments can afford after decades of exploitation.

          Nor are any of the problems like “skyrocketing housing costs” being caused by immigration, legal or illegal, nor can they be solved by tough-on-immigrant policies.

          • TrainedHistorian

            You are wrong about the last. The main driver of housing prices is population growth. Nowadays in the US population growth is entirely caused by immigration, not fertility. Professor Ron Lee (Economics and Demography Department, UC ) was quite clear that the relative cost of housing always goes up with population growth, the reason being that the supply of land, unlike other goods, cannot be easily increased.Thus housing prices will continue to rise so long as population grows. Housing prices will indeed only moderate if population growth moderates. Skyrocketing housing costs do benefit some people: mainly those rich enough to buy more than one housing unit (one to live in, the others to sell). The benefit to those who can only afford one house is more if-y since they still need a place to live. Those who have to rent are hurt the most (in Calif. that’s almost half the population). Now in theory, government could acknowledge the fact that land is not like other goods, prices cannot moderate unless population growth moderates, and that it has actually caused skyrocketing prices by encouraging population growth through not enforcing limits on immigration, and just subsidize rental housing for anyone not paid enough to afford to ever own their own housing. But this being America, the likelihood of our government doing this is next to zero. The people who run our government belong largely to the landowning class that benefits from the skyrocketing land prices. Certainly this will never happen so long as the Sam Badgers of the world keep denying the basics of supply and demand.
            Ron Lee was also quite clear about the effects of open borders on real wages, in the long run they simply lead to the same real wages on both sides of the border. The policy of essentially promoting open borders (while pretending otherwise) is grossly unfair to the folks in the lower rungs of the income ladder already here.
            The point about Mexico’s oil isn’t very relevant insofar as that has not stopped Mexico from being the largest contributor to illegal immigration for the last 40 years or so.
            As for your attempt to pretend the US government alone Is responsible for the situation in Central America, it isn’t remotely convincing. (I say this even though I was very opposed to the interventions in the 1980s). I have met plenty of folks from Central America, and read plenty of literature. Those were CIVIL wars for a reason: people were divided left-right and along class and ethnic lines, and many did support dictatorships (both right and left) because they thought those rebelling against the governments were even worse. And yes, the elites of Mexico and Central America DO bear some responsibility for the situation of their lower classes, and need to stop trying to get away with paying less in taxes than is necessary to raise them up. Why do you think so many “undocumented” have less than a HS education to begin with? They won’t invest in their own. And no, it’s not the responsibility of Americans to pay the price (in lower real wages, higher rental prices, more crowded schools, less financial aid, higher taxes etc) for Latin American elites’ unwillingness to adequately invest in their own population.

          • Sam Badger

            Regarding housing prices: the US is not like Japan though – there is plenty of available space, and illegal immigrants are not moving to places which see the highest housing spikes such as SF. In fact, if anything migrant communities are being driven out. A lot of immigrants from Latin America end up moving where housing is largely cheap and already available, such as rural areas.

            Housing prices should be looked at geographically to determine whether immigrants, and specifically illegal immigrants, are causing the increases. In places like SF or wealthy Bay Area suburbs for instance, illegal immigrants are most definitely not responsible for all the demand. Instead, the demand for housing is mostly from well-to-do-techies, investors and successful small businessmen looking to live in nice neighborhoods. In places like Salinas or the Central Valley, where a lot of illegal immigrants go, housing prices are not so bad, and in fact the economies of these areas are heavily dependent on migrant labor in the first place. California’s agricultural sector would really suffer without the migration from Latin America.

            As for wage discrepancies, that too is less clear – first, policies like NAFTA have had a huge effect on wages, including in pushing reforms in places like Mexico which have dispossessed peasants by privatizing the land and driving them into poverty by flooding their markets with cheap, subsidized American corn. Additionally, the illegal immigrants often end up working in long-hour, low-wage fields that few Americans would really want to work in in the first place, and this keeps commodity prices on things like food down.

            As for the issue of the “civil wars” – yes they were left-right struggles, but those governments would not have survived without foreign aid from the US. The US foreign aid was based on an anti-Communist ideology and the financial interests of wealthy American investors in those parts of the world. As for whether or not the guerillas were “worse” – that is an allegation which does not fit with the facts on the ground. 200,000 Guatemalans were butchered in the Civil War, and UN estimates hold that 90% of the casualties were killed by the state. That is many times the number killed by radical leftwing regimes in places like Cuba or Nicaragua. These are governments which deployed death squads and bombing raids against unarmed civilians. In fact, in El Salvador and Nicaragua, those “worse” leftwing parties have won multiple elections, and Nicaragua for that matter has sent a fraction of the immigrants which Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has sent. And the rightwing opposition parties have done more to limit the change of social policies in places like Honduras and El Salvador than in other parts of Latin America which have seen less immigration.

            As for whether or not the “elites” support education – first, those are the same “elites” supported by the US in those civil wars, second the picture is not so simple as you paint it. There are parts of Mexico with much better education policies – granted, these are places ruled by the kinds of social democrats which America traditionally opposed in Latin America. UNAM for instance is one of the largest and best universities in the world, and is free for everyone in Mexico so long as they can get in. The failures are often in areas governed for generations by the violent and oppressive PRI government, a regime which the US has been happy to deal with regarding economic policy and the drug war (the drug war, of course, being another American policy which has increased violence and driven immigration)

          • TrainedHistorian

            No the US does not have plenty of land for people to live in because the continental portion is one fourth desert, and there is quite a large swath of mountain region unsuitable for dense human habitation. We are already having water and other environmental problems, especially in the West.
            Housing demand by the super rich does NOT affect the bottom third or so who need affordable RENTALS not big houses, because they do not compete in the same housing market. “Undocumenteds” because they as a whole are quite low-income compete for housing, jobs, wage-rates, and schools with LOW- and modern income American residents, not the super wealthy. The complaints about the super rich “pricing out” those under them in SF and other very expensive markets are made by upper middle class Americans who do compete with the super rich for housing, not everyone else.
            Lower prices for the sort of food (perishable veg & fruit crops) picked by migrant labor is of relatively little benefit to the bottom half because they are an absolutely minuscule portion of their budgets. As a low-income American I can assure you I could easily pay twice as much for all the fruit and veggies I eat–and I eat much less of it than the typical poor American–but even a 5% rise in housing prices is devastating for us.
            National studies of housing have been done, and they showed that in all but a few very rural counties, US residents everywhere, even in most rural counties pay more than a third of their income for housing, which used to be considered grounds for being considered “poor.” While some costs have gone down nationally (food, clothing etc.) housing most certainly has NOT gone down nationally. This extreme rise in housing costs relative to income (the main driver besides medical costs & higher ed costs for stagnating real wages) is a crisis for the bottom third to half and has not been addressed because of course the top (land owners, banks ) benefit greatly.

          • Sam Badger

            I was not so much talking about the housing demand of the super rich, I was making an example about gentrification in SF. The hispanic population in SF, as well as its poor black population, is being driven out by demand from techies, who are not super rich but do have more means. If anything, a lot of legal immigration and domestic migration is driving up demand where housing is most scarce in the Bay Area, whereas illegal immigrants are often moving to parts of America where available land and housing is more common.

            The United States has a much lower population density than any European country, even if you account for mountains or deserts (also desert states like Nevada and Arizona are drawing a lot of the illegal immigrants too). Slumlords and landlords in rural America can find more land to build houses easily in places like Monterrey Bay and the Central Valley where illegal immigrants live. They will demand what they can from their tenants, and will increase supply if they know that they can make a profit from it. I don’t think you can really blame some migrant strawberry picker in Salinas for your greedy landlord. I think big finance and real estate speculation, and not poor immigrants who largely live in high density housing anyway (and often live in denser conditions too with more people per flat/apartment/house), has been a bigger driver of the housing market (as seen by the spike and crash in real estate values in the US)

            It should also be mentioned that illegal immigrants make up perhaps 5% of America’s population, and, as I’ve said before, live in rural areas where land for housing is more readily available.

            Illegal migrants don’t just pick lettuce, they are responsible for a huge portion of the food we eat. Food prices would go up across the table and it would probably go up from the 10-15% poor Americans spend on it today.

            The fact that the banks and landowners have been big beneficiaries is a good point, but I think that just emphasizes that we should implement policies which target those entities, and not policies which target poor, predominately hardworking migrant workers who take jobs few Americans would love to do. I think we should have policies which focus on rezoning, building more housing, and regulating the operations of landlords more than just scapegoating immigrants. While I don’t doubt that illegal immigrants do have some effect on demand, I don’t think they are majorly responsible for it.

          • TrainedHistorian

            The problem with the feel-good but completely inefffective idea of “targeting” the rich in one country is that it alone will never lead to higher real wages for the bottom half . You cannot have high real wages for the lower- and medium-skilled and high labor labor growth, and the fact that US real wages have gone nowhere since the mid to late 70s even as productivity keeps climbing proves that our low and medium-skilled labor force growth has been too high relative to our growth rate. You simply cannot do away with supply and demand, and you. cannot make capital owners pay higher real wages by “targeting” them, complaining about them, or even taxing them (they are much too small as a group). The only way they do pay more is if labor is relatively scarce. Throughout post-agricultural human history the only places where there have been high real wages for free labor is where there is relative labor scarcity. And higher nominal wages (minimum wage increases) are undercut by price rises, nowadays mainly in housing costs (food prices used to be more relatively more important). I would suggest you talk to Ron Lee (Demog Dept UC Berkeley) about why nominal wage rises for the lower half do little for workers in the long run and why open borders eventually lead to the same real wages on both sides of the border.

            As for your characterization that I or anyone else advocating tighter labor supplies is “targeting” undocumented immigrants, this is a smear. It is like saying I blame them for the force of gravity. Supply and demand are forces that operate regardless. It’s not about blaming individuals.
            The only individuals I blame are those actively denying and trying to obfuscate the mechanism of supply and demand on wages and prices, those who dishonestly hire undocumenteds, and those pretending that we “really” will enforce immigration laws while not really doing this because they do not penalize enough of those who hire undocumenteds to have any effect.

            Your remarks about housing are not remotely convincing. Again, US housing prices almost everywhere even rural counties are much higher than than they used to be: medican EVERYWHERE (but a few counties NONE of which is in California) pays signivantly more than a third of their income for housing, and this used to not even remotely be the case. And this will get worse with the unbalanced labor force growth rates we’ve had for so long. You cannot make this go away by pretending that only the super rich cause it. They don’t: they benefit the most which is why want it to continue; they are not the sole or main cause. Never have been and never will be the main driver of prices for the great majority, because that they are an extremely small group who do not compete with the majority for the same type of housing or work. And by the way, the statistic that “undocumenteds” are 5% of the population is not relevant. The more relevant questions are what proportion do they contribute to labor market growth in what sector of work or housing (low-cost housing, overwhelmingly rentals). Environmental problems here like drought are also not caused only by the rich but by mainly by aggregate population increase. It is irresponsible to be cavalier about the effect of overall population increase on the environment in the water-poor US West, and that increase here is NOW caused entirely by legal and illegal immigration since Americans have had replacement fertility (about 2 children per couple) since the 1970s.

            Undocumented population is much larger than legal immigrants so have greater overall impact, but more importantly for real wages, legal immigrants are not predominantly low-skilled, low-wage earners so increase in their population does not have the same negative impact on lower-end housing and lower-skill wage rates. Undcocumenteds definitely cause more impact on real wages in the bottom third (essentially anyone earning too little to buy a house) than legal immigrants, who compete much more with resident middle- and upper-middle class. (H1B visa holders are by definition competing with the latter).

            As for the canard that “undocumented” do what Americans don’t “love” to do: Americans do do those jobs, and if wages were higher more Americans would be doing them. Undocumenteds disproportionately skew wage rates for lower-skilled work because so many of them support families in cheap countries where their American wages go much further than here. Americans with families here cannot support families on very low wages because they have to pay 100% American prices. When free labor was scarce (essentially before the Civil War when transport here was expensive and dangerous), free American workers were paid significantly more andd/or had more land to work than most foreigners. Lower real wages for free US workers started to became a problem when cheap transport undercut their position (esentially post-Civil War).The only time in our industrial history that our working class could become middle class was when immigration was restricted to its lowest level (c..1940-c.1975). It is unconscionable for those complainng about lower real wages and lower social mobility to keep encouraging lower-skilled labor growth rates that are outpacing economic growth rates.

  • Root_Admin1

    I think we all agree this is a complex problem but I am confused at the rhetoric being thrown around — it’s not too long ago that pro-immigration people were calling Pres. Obama, the Deporter-in-Chief, but now the other side is saying they just letting people through the borders in…!

  • The US is on the path of suicide. Instead of spending $2 billion on American children, we waste it on illegals. You will never hear anything this stupid practiced by other countries.

    What makes me angry most is that these illegals take so much of our resources. Money and resources that could have gone to rebuilding our infrastructure, educating our kids, fixed our social problems, etc. Instead, we are forced to squander billions chasing, apprehending and housing these people. I am sick of this. When will the president wake up and see that this is a self defeating effort. If we keep doing this, they will keep coming, take their chances and squander our money and resources, over and over again.

  • TrainedHistorian

    Easy solution:make it very clear that anyone who sends or brings an unaccompanied minor will never be legalized, get a green card, citizenship, whatever, and neither will the minor.

    Separate the humanitarian issue from the issue of our corrupt government’s failed immigration policy of tolerating undocumented hiring ever since 1986. If the US taxpayers want to provide shelter to these folks for however long they want to, even as they will not provide subsidized housing to our own very poor citizens, so be it. But make it clear that that they will never be legalized, get a green card, or citizenship. When it becomes clear they will not be legalized, there will be less irresponsible sending unaccompanied minors.

    Mehlman:is right: get the UNHCR involved. That way the border crossers will understand that if they are really only seeking refuge from violence, rather than economic support and a chance to work illegally in the US, they may be given refuge in countries OTHER than the US where it is harder to work illegally.. When the message gets back to Central America that they could be sent, say, to another Latin American country for “safety” there will be less border crossing,

  • Anne Schulte

    what ever happened to, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” ??

    • Guest

      This poem is as good a prescription for how to live our current lives as is the Bible, or the Koran. Are you a fundamentalist, or do you countenance the fact of changed circumstances?

      • Guest

        The bible says parents can murder their children for being cheeky.
        The bible is a fictional document full of lies and nonsense claims.
        The koran is equally awful and bogus.

    • Skip Conrad

      It has no basis in law. It’s a poem, nothing more.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Has Mexico escaped criticism for corruption and policies that essentially send their citizens out of their own country to work in the US and send money back to Mexico to support family? Problems in Mexico and central America are typically written off, “it’s the gangs, that’s why”, instead of calling their elected leaders to account for their policies that oppress their own people.

  • Guest

    People on one side are more worried about the plight of the Americans impacted by the arriving children. People on another side are more worried about the arriving children themselves. There is one way to address the concerns of both of the above referenced sides: hire more attorneys, translators, construction workers, etc., to make sure that those children’s questions are answered, and that their needs are met.

    The new deal’s CWA focused on parks. Maybe the new new deal’s CWA can focus on immigration.

    • TrainedHistorian

      We do not have endless resources to fund this level of illegal crossing in perpetuity. Without the message that these folks are temporary refuges, and will not be legalized if minors come unaccompanied or if adults send unaccompanied minors, we will get much more of it. And the investigation of refugee claims and actual shelter relief should be done internationally through the UNHCR. That way OTHER countries can take some of the “refugees” too, not just the US. When the border crossers find out that they may end up in a safe but relatively poor country, such as another Latin American country, rather than being able to stay illegalily in the US forever, there will be less of this unaccompanied minor problem.

      • Guest

        Sorry– I was fishing for responses. I agree with you. That said, I do think that a temporary (just like CWA during the first new deal) spending increase to address this immigration problem could be beneficial, if it focused on getting out of work Americans back to work, and building up our infrastructure, so that we have the facilities and know-how to deal with this type of influx in the future. Notice that I am not suggesting that the spending be sustained, and I am suggesting that it be focused on benefiting Americans and The USA.

  • RA

    This is one of those topics that makes my blood boil.
    Is it not obvious that every humane action on our part is being taken advantage of? We’ve tried amnesty after leniency after looking the other way… and still they come in droves.

    Apparently we have plenty of time to bomb Libya, arm Syrian rebels (who then go on and attack Iraq ironically enough) and to impose sanctions on the Russians because they didn’t support our regime change in Ukraine… (and in the ultimate irony we’re currently demanding that they “secure their borders” or we’ll impose more sanctions) .

    Well, where are the sanctions and UN resolutions against against Mexico? against Honduras ? Place travel bans and freeze the assets of everyone in those governments. Ban their kids from our colleges… perhaps they’ll then be motivated to do something other than encourage the problem.

    I don’t have anything against immigrants per se (and in fact i AM one myself) but the current situation is ridiculous. Either enforce the damn laws or change the laws… not this half-way. Particularly galling is that the same people who are calling for amnesty and kindness and throwing open the borders are the same ones who are complaining about inequality, unemployment, minimum wages etc.

    What’s going to happen to THOSE metrics when you throw in another 10 million unskilled workers? You think the people who can’t find work now are going to suddenly get a job when they’re competing with 10 more people for the same job?

  • wandagb

    Great program and a welcome relief from the usual NPR/KQED smears as ‘anti-immigrant’ anyone questioning the wisdom of encouraging the flood of immigration we have experienced these past decades.

    Plenty of blame to go around for this recent uptick of illegal immigration: Obama, Congress, ACLU, NPR, the Church, La Raza, agribusiness, National Association of Manufacturers … all have been beating the drum for unsustainable and unassimulatable immigration.

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