Illegal immigration is again becoming a big issue, which always leaves me with mixed feelings.
- I think it’s great that the United States is a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world.
- I think it’s great when immigrants add more dynamism and entrepreneurship to our economy.
- I think it’s not-so-great that we have redistribution programs that lure some immigrants into dependency.
- I think it’s not-so-great that illegal immigration, as Walter Williams explained, makes a mockery of the rule of law.
The combination of these conflicting factors helps to explain why I rarely write on this topic.
But sometimes there are aspects of the immigration debate that are so foolish that I feel compelled to comment. And high on that list is the anti-empirical notion that foreign aid can produce more prosperity in foreign countries.
How is this connected to the immigration debate, you may be wondering?
In a column for the Washington Post, Greg Sargent writes that putting Kamala Harris in charge of immigration policy is “a big deal” because she will use foreign aid to improve Central American economies and thus discourage migration to the United States.
President Biden has assigned Vice President Harris the task of overseeing the administration’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants at the Mexican border… Here’s why this could prove to be a big deal. …it could help shift part of the conversation…and focus it on the deeper causes of these migrations. …The real challenge…entails addressing problems in Central America to reduce “push factors,” i.e., conditions that spur these migrations in the first place — such as…poverty… Which is where Harris comes in. …“A large part of her portfolio will be to develop strategies regarding root causes that generate migrants and refugees,” Sharry continued… The Biden reading of the problem is that push factors matter. …The Biden plan would invest billions in improving economic conditions, combating corruption and strengthening democracy in Central America.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar makes the same argument in a column for the New York Times.
…the real crisis is not at the border but outside it, and that until we address that crisis, this flow of vulnerable people seeking help at our doorstep will not end anytime soon. …Overwhelmingly and consistently, Central American refugees tell stories of fleeing…calamitous economic conditions in their countries. …The good news is that we now have an administration willing to work on the issue. …reinstating aid…is a good start.
I actually agree with Congresswoman Escobar on one point. It’s true that “reinstating aid…is a good start.”
But it’s only a good start if your goal, perversely, is to undermine prosperity in poor nations.
The bottom line is that we know the recipe for growth and prosperity.
And we also know that government-to-government handouts make that recipe less likely.
Let’s close with three simple questions for those who want to believe that foreign aid will help.
- Can you identify one country that has gone from poverty to prosperity thanks to foreign aid rather than capitalism?
- Is there any evidence that Kamala Harris understands the policies needed for a poor country to become a rich country?
- Do you really think politicians in developing countries will use aid dollars to help their people rather than themselves?
P.S. I’m not being partisan. I made this exact argument two years ago when a Republican was in the White House.
P.P.S. Some developing nations have sought bribes to curtail migration.