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Friday, May 26, 2006

Mexico Elections

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

On July 2 Mexico will hold the most closely contested presidential election in its history. That in itself wouldn't be a problem if all the candidates were committed to the democratic process. But in recent weeks two of the three main campaigns have jointly pledged to challenge election results in the streets with massive unrest if their candidates don't win. If that happens, Mexico will be thrown into chaos and Mexicans will be the losers...

This situation would weaken the country's institutions, raise uncertainty and fears of anarchy, with potentially serious financial instability and economic disarray. Emigration would mushroom. The long awaited Mexican miracle of fast growth and job creation -- stemming migratory outflows -- would be lost for at least another six years, if not for much longer.

Immigration Bill Passes Senate

From the Arizona Daily Star:

Landmark legislation to secure U.S. borders and offer millions of illegal immigrants a share of the American dream cleared the Senate on Thursday, a rare election-year reach across party lines and a triumph for President Bush.

The 62-36 vote cleared the way for arduous summertime compromise talks with the House on its immigration measure, which focuses on border enforcement, with no guarantee of success. Republicans and Democrats said energetic participation by Bush would be critical.

Now the hard part begins...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mayor Bloomberg on Immigration

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has some excellent ideas of a touchy subject.

Cries from the Border

A film about illegal immigration and its effects on border communities is alienating people of both sides of the immigration debate. It's called "Cochise County USA, Cries From the Border."

Joined at the Hip

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Since Evo Morales took office as president [of Bolivia] in January, the coca grower turned socialist politician has aligned his country so closely with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez that it is sometimes difficult to tell where one government begins and the other ends...

The two countries recently teamed up with Cuba in a Free Trade Agreement of the People, a pact dreamed up by Mr. Chávez as a poor man's alternative to a U.S. plan for hemispheric integration. Venezuelan technocrats help set Bolivian policy on everything from health care to land reform to nationalizing the oil and natural-gas industry. When Mr. Morales travels outside Bolivia, he uses a jet provided by Caracas.

Bolivian opposition leader Jorge Quiroga, who lost to Mr. Morales in the presidential race, contends that "we have become a colony of Venezuela." Mr. Morales rejects that accusation, but refers to Mr. Chávez as Bolivia's "godfather."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Remittances to Mexico

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Mexicans in the U.S. sent an estimated $20 billion back home last year, most of that to their own families. But to hear American critics tell it, these voluntary, private transactions are actually a curse. They are said to be "subsidies" that prevent Mexico from confronting its own lousy economic policies. But this is an argument with more holes than the border fence that Congressman Tom Tancredo (R., Colo.) wants to build.

It's certainly true that Mexico could do more to free up its economy and invite foreign and domestic investment... But foreign "remittances," as these expat cash flows are called, are a force for economic and political good. As an economic matter, they flow directly from individuals in the U.S. to private individuals or businesses south of the border. This cuts out the government middleman and provides capital immediately for private investment or consumption.

Mexicans use the money to start new businesses, improve their homes and educate their children. In this month's issue of the Cato Journal, World Bank economist Simeon Djankov and two other authors find that while "remittances have no direct effect on economic growth," they do "have a significant and positive effect on investment, without having any effect on government consumption." The authors found such private forms of aid far more helpful than traditional, government-led foreign aid, which they argued had "discouraging" results. What would anti-remittance American conservatives prefer for Mexico: more World Bank loans?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Chávez the Divider

From the New York Times:

As Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, insinuates himself deeper in the politics of his region, something of a backlash is building among his neighbors.

Mr. Chávez — stridently anti-American, leftist and never short on words — has cast himself as spokesman for a united Latin America free of Washington's influence. He has backed Bolivia's recent gas nationalization, set up his own Socialist trade bloc and jumped into the middle of disputes between his neighbors, even when no one has asked.

Some nations are beginning to take umbrage. The mere association with Mr. Chávez has helped reverse the leads of presidential candidates in Mexico and Peru. Officials from Mexico to Nicaragua, Peru and Brazil have expressed rising impatience at what they see as Mr. Chávez's meddling and grandstanding, often at their expense.

Photo I.D.

John Fund:

Amid all the disputes over immigration in Congress, one amendment is being proposed that in theory should unite people in both parties. How about requiring that everyone show some form of identification before voting in federal elections? Polls show overwhelming support for the idea, and there is increasing concern that more illegal aliens are showing up on voter registration rolls. But the fact that photo ID isn't likely to pass shows both how deeply emotional the immigration issue has become and how bitter congressional politics have become with elections only 5 1/2 months away.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Border Security

Charles Krauthammer:

Serious border enforcement is what's missing in the president's "comprehensive" program. And that is why so many "conservatives" are extremely unhappy. Not out of nativism. There are many like me who cannot wait to end the shadow life of the illegals. But doing so while fraudulently promising to close the border is a simple capitulation -- and an invitation to the next president to declare the next amnesty for the next torrent of illegals who will have understood from the Bush program that crossing the border at night and finding a place to hide is the surest road to the American dream.

A Little Coca with your Mocha?

Marcela Sanchez:

If Bolivian President Evo Morales has his way, you may soon find yourself ordering a cup of mate de coca instead of cappuccino at your favorite cafe.

Morales wants to give thousands of Bolivian coca growers access to new markets. He envisions an expanded use for coca as an ingredient in beverages, chewing gum and toothpaste and as a food-flavoring agent.

How Many Immigrants?

That is the question:

For many, perhaps most Americans, the question is not “Should we welcome immigrants?” but “How many?” A moderate influx may be economically helpful and culturally invigorating; a huge one would be disruptive. It is not easy, however, to look at a proposed law and predict how many newcomers it might let in.

Some estimates are extremely high. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, put it at 100m over 20 years if the Senate bill were enacted. His study, released on the same day as Mr Bush's speech, also included a “maximum” estimate of 193m. That figure—equivalent to 60% of the current population—was seized upon by alarmists such as Rush Limbaugh, a talk-radio host, and Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic senator from California.

But cooler heads queried Mr Rector's methodology. Michael Fix of the Migration Policy Institute, a pro-immigration think-tank, said he doubted that the guest-worker programme would expand as fast as Mr Rector assumes, that immigrants would naturalise as quickly, that so few would die or return home, and that so many would bring their parents. Compounded over decades, small changes in assumptions lead to big changes in results. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform would add a more modest 7.8m people to America's population over ten years.

The Economics of Immigration

Larry Kudlow:

Why legislators fail to understand the economics of this problem is beyond me.

Wage differentials between Mexico and the U.S. are huge — largely because of Mexico’s failure to liberalize its economy. So, as long as American job opportunities and higher wages beckon, immigrants in search of a better life will stream northward into the U.S. — fence or no fence. This has always been the heart of the problem.

The anti-immigration crowd also gets it wrong when it points out that the Senate compromise bill would increase the number of immigrant workers in the U.S. by roughly 61 million over the next two decades. This Heritage Foundation analysis has the fear-mongerers predicting a Mexican takeover of the United States. But we need these workers.

Due to the demographic shift being caused by the baby boomers, the ratio of working-age persons in the U.S. to retirees aged 65 and over will drop like a stone from the current 4.7:1 ratio to 3.5:1 by 2030, and 2.6:1 by 2040. With the Social Security and Medicare trust funds going bankrupt, how will we manage with so few workers per retiree? Will we let our whole economy stagnate like France, Germany, Italy, or even Japan? All of these countries suffer from shrinking workforces and top-heavy government taxation.

Well, the U.S. could maintain a 4:1 ratio of workers to retirees by admitting an additional 57.5 million workers over the next nineteen years, according to analyst William Kucewicz. This would result in an average annual population increase of less than 1 percent and a total of only 16.4 percent more than the 350 million projected by the Census Bureau for 2025.

$ 2 Billion

From AP via Forbes.com:

President Bush sent Congress a $1.9 billion request Thursday to increase border security as supporters of sweeping immigration legislation reasserted control in Senate debate.

The White House said the money would pay for the "first 1,000 of 6,000 new Border Patrol agents that will be deployed in the next two years," as well as the temporary deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops to states along the Mexican border. The request includes funds for new fencing and other barriers as well as two new unmanned surveillance aircraft and five helicopters to curb illegal immigration.

The White House sent the request to Congress as the president traveled to Yuma, Ariz. to dramatize his commitment to border control and the Senate labored over the most sweeping overhaul of immigration law in two decades.

Chávez Has Money

...and that's a problem:

The U.S. decision on Monday to ban arms sales to Venezuela symbolizes the growing concern around the region about the saber-rattling President Hugo Chávez.

But it's not likely to have much of an effect. First, because Venezuela can probably get much of what it wants in the weapons department via its friends in Russia. And second, because Mr. Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution" -- which promises to unite the entire region under a neo-Marxist flag -- is being carried out through less traditional means than modern brute force. So far he has picked off Bolivia and serious concerns are now emerging about his financial backing of Sandinista National Liberation Front candidate Daniel Ortega ahead of Nicaragua's November presidential elections.

The trouble is that Mr. Chávez is awash in cash and that is what he is using, both overtly and surreptitiously, to extend his influence in the poorest countries of the region...

Venezuelan democrats will tell you that there is not much hope for a change in government without an oil-price retreat. Until that happens, Mr. Chávez will be too powerful. That's bad news for 26 million Venezuelans who are experiencing sky-rocketing crime rates and declining living standards under Chavismo.

From Mary Anastasia O'Grady (subscription)

The National Language

From the L.A. Times:

English would be declared the "national language" of the United States under a measure the Senate approved Thursday, a largely symbolic move that supporters said would promote unity and encourage assimilation by immigrants.

The measure would not reverse government practices of providing some materials and services — including voting ballots and emergency advisories — in other languages. But it would establish that people have no right or entitlement to ask government officials to provide services or materials in other languages, unless authorized by law.

Minutes after adding the provision to the immigration bill it is debating, the Senate passed a second amendment with less pointed phrasing. Declaring English the country's "common and unifying" language, it specified that the "existing rights" under which the government provides bilingual services and assistance would not be diminished.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Encouragement for the Besieged

David Brooks has some encouragement for Republican Senators who support a compromise on immigration reform legislation (NYT subscription):

For weeks now — months, actually! — you've been besieged by the close-the-border restrictionists, who shut down your phone lines and scream at you in town meetings. You've been hit with slopping barrages of manure by Limbaugh, Savage, Levin and every other talk-radio jock in the Northern Hemisphere. People who don't run for office don't understand how disorienting it is to have your base, your own people, suddenly turn carnivorous and out for your flesh.

They say you and your fellow immigration compromisers are performing the biggest act of political suicide in modern history, and you wonder whether they are right.

What bothers you about the restrictionists is not that they are primitives or racists. They're not. It's their imperviousness, their unwillingness to compromise. They don't have the numbers to govern, but they think they have the numbers to destroy.

They trumpet the studies indicating that immigration decreases wages, but ignore the ones that show it stimulates wages and growth. They mention the strains first-generation immigrants put on social services, but ignore the evidence that immigrants' children are so productive they more than compensate for the cost. They talk about the criminal immigrants, but look past the vast majority who are religious and family-centered.

You haven't been able to get your restrictionist friends to think pragmatically. Do they really think they'll get a better immigration bill in the next Congress, when there are more Democrats, or under President Hillary Clinton or John McCain? Do they really want to preserve the status quo for another decade? Do they think the G.O.P. can have a future if it insults even the Hispanics who are already here?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Oil Trouble in Ecuador

What's going on here?

Ecuadorean President Alfredo Palacio sent troops to guard oil facilities seized from Occidental Petroleum Corp. as they are transferred to state control, officials said Tuesday.

But officials said the cancellation of Occidental's operating contracts and the seizure of its assets did not mean the Andean nation is nationalizing its oil industry.

Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin told reporters late Tuesday that Palacio issued a decree directing the soldiers, who started arriving to the oil fields earlier in the day, "to provide protection and safekeeping" for up to 60 days "of all hydrocarbon complexes" formerly held by the U.S.-based oil company.

Ecuador unilaterally canceled Occidental's operating contracts on Monday over a dispute that stretched back several years, claiming that the oil company had broken the terms of its contract.

Hate Groups

From USAToday:

Tension over illegal immigration is contributing to a rise in hate groups and hate crimes across the nation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It says that racist groups are using the immigration debate as a rallying cry...

The center's report says the national debate that has focused on Hispanic immigration has been "the single most important factor" in spurring activity among hate groups and has given them "an issue with real resonance."

Alan García Redux

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Alan García, who presided over an economic disaster as Peru's youthful leftist president during the 1980s, is now living one of the stranger second acts in Latin American political history. As Peru enjoys a surge in economic growth, an older and seemingly more moderate Mr. García has emerged as the front-running candidate in next month's presidential election precisely because he's seen as a bulwark against another young, leftist radical, Ollanta Humala.

Mr. García, 56 years old, who just barely qualified for the June 4 runoff after a hard-fought first round in April, has charged ahead in the polls by recasting himself as a moderate and tying Mr. Humala, 43, to the region's fiery populist leaders, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Bolivia's Evo Morales. To many in Latin America's middle class, Messrs. Chávez and Morales have increasingly become symbols of the bad old days of runaway inflation and confrontational politics.

I think this means there's hope for Peru.