BY ARTHUR LIPPER
UCSD professor emeritus Wayne Cornelius recently presented his survey results, facts and views regarding illegal immigration in the United States at a colloquium for the UCSD Chancellor's Associates.
He observed that enforcement of existing immigration laws is extremely difficult, if not impossible, due to the conflicting interests of employers. That being the case, the resolution of the problem has to start with congressional action.
Cornelius' topic for the associates event was "Toward a Smarter and More Just U.S. Immigration Policy: What Mexican Migrants Can Tell Us."
His revelations included the fact that most illegal Mexican workers are employed in the construction and service industries, not, as is generally believed, in agriculture. He also said that the border fencing has been extremely expensive and largely ineffective.
He noted that the size of the U.S. Border Patrol has more than quintupled since 1992. The 600 miles of pedestrian fencing completed by November 2009, representing 31 percent of the border, has cost between $3.6 million and $16 million per mile to construct. He estimated that $9.6 billion has been spent on fence construction and maintenance since 2006. Nevertheless, consistently more than 90 percent of the illegal immigrants interviewed in the survey said they were able to eventually gain the desired entry to the U.S.
Though border apprehensions in the San Diego area have risen since 2005, the overall rate has declined. The number of apprehensions declined 23 percent in 2009 versus 2008, due, Cornelius thought, to the fewer available jobs. He also demonstrated with survey data that the illegal population is sensitive to the availability of employment.
There are 250 million point-of-entry border crossings annually, 30,000 per hour, and it is reported that less than 1 percent of those entering the country with false papers are apprehended.
The professor's survey showed that Mexicans fear in illegal border crossing: Mexican bandits, 35.2 percent; natural hazards (extreme climate), 23 percent; Border Patrol agents, 21.3 percent; being jailed if apprehended, 7.3 percent; not being able to find work in the U.S., 5.8 percent; border fences ("the wall"), 4.7 percent; and Mexican police, 2.6 percent.
In response to a question, Cornelius responded that enforcing the existing law(s) against hiring illegal workers by imposing significant punitive fines and criminalization of employers would bankrupt many small businesses and result in the unemployment of American workers. He also said that detection of illegal employment would be difficult.
The questioner then suggested that a reward of 10 percent of the fine be paid to the informers, as a means of ensuring the cooperation of those having knowledge of the violations.
Cornelius said he believes the best approach to the immigration problem is a cooperative Mexican–American government developmental approach in which there would be construction projects in the high immigrant sending areas of Mexico. He believes that creating more and better jobs in Mexico will reduce the flow of immigrants to the U.S.