U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s recent meeting with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa appears to have borne sweet fruit. Since their meeting the two countries have formed a joint working group to make immigration easier.
The group will work to make immigration easier and safer, starting with improving the documentation process. It also plans to perform long-term studies on the environment, health and other border issues.
This is a positive step, and could do more to reduce illegal immigration than other, more punitive measures. Mexico is by far our greatest source of illegal immigration.
It should be no surprise that one of the greatest contributors to illegal immigration, especially from Mexico, is the inefficiency that plagues U.S. immigration offices. We can reasonably assume that most people would have come legally if they could have. However, frustration with long waits and ever-growing fees without results drives many to either cross without documents or get whatever temporary visas they can, and simply stay after they expire. They have led to a general increase of Mexican-born U.S. residents of about half a million per year over the past decade, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Many Mexican residents, particularly those who are older, might have difficulty securing all the proper documentation, as many Mexican city and state records offices have not always been able to produce older birth certificates and other documents.
The cooperation we expect from the new U.S.-Mexico office should enable each country to determine what the other requires, and formate its vital records accordingly. Ideally, such information might someday be accessed easily electronically, saving applicants on both sides costly trips, long waits and the danger of having vital documents lost in the mail.
Addressing the logistical nightmare that sometimes arises when people are trying to secure immigration documents probably would reduce illegal residency in this country faster and more effectively than any fences and increases in armed patrols on the border. Unfortunately, boots and guns probably garner more votes than refined applications and faster processing.
Other immigration issues, particularly in the United States, need to be addressed. For starters, officials should take a new and objective look at the antiquated quota system we still employ in parceling out immigration visas. The ease with which millions of undocumented immigrants have been absorbed into U.S. society, and our economy, in recent years makes it clear that the quota system doesn’t reflect real-world needs for workers, and is sorely antiquated.
More importantly, recent antagonistic policies toward Mexico and its citizens living in the United States has only served to alienate people on both sides of the border. Drastic increases in manpower and spending on interdiction efforts along the border have done little to curtail immigration; recent reductions have more to do with reduced economic opportunities north of the border than any official U.S policy or action.
Clearly, cooperation solves more problems than confrontation. We hope the new joint office is the first step in renewed diplomatic relationships that have so much to offer each other, and so little reason for dispute.