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Offer More Visas to People Coming Across the Southern Border

August 20, 2019 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

While President Trump’s immigration rhetoric continues to focus
on the need to build a southern border wall, his administration is
quietly pursuing a policy that could provide a lasting solution to
the ongoing migrant surge.

The Department of Labor recently signed an agreement with Guatemala to increase bilateral
cooperation for the H-2A visa program for low-skilled Guatemalans.
By providing transparency and accountability measures, such as
ensuring that labor recruiters are bona fide and vetted, the
agreement paves the way for more Guatemalans to come legally.

The administration should sign similar agreements with the other
Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador and Honduras, which are
responsible for the overwhelming number of migrants, as well as
exempt them from H-2A seasonality requirements. Historical
experience suggests increasing legal immigration options would
reduce the number who come illegally.

The Trump administration
could end the Central American border surge by shelving unhelpful
border wall boasts in favor of doubling down on sound H-2A visa
policy initiatives.

The H-2A visa is for seasonal workers in agriculture. It offers
low-skilled migrants the best — and in many cases only
— opportunity to come work in the U.S., while also addressing
the acute labor shortage faced by American farmers. The Trump
administration seems to recognize that economic migration can be
channeled into this legal system.

That’s important, because the surge of Central American migrants
is not correlated with murder rates in their home countries and most arrivals aren’t referred to asylum interviews. Central
Americans are primarily being pushed out of their home countries by
a poor economy — exacerbated by the crash in coffee prices
— and drawn in by a booming labor market here.

Neither of these push nor pull migration factors are going to
change soon, so diverting the migrants onto legal H-2A worker visas
is key to meaningfully fixing the situation on the southern
border.

For proof of the effectiveness of H-2A visas in stemming illegal
migration, the Trump administration can consult recent history.
Legal Mexican migration on expanded H-2A and H-2B (seasonal,
non-agricultural) visas dramatically reduced illegal Mexican
immigration over the last two decades. As the U.S. government
increased the annual number of H-2 visas for Mexicans from 56,090
in 2000 to 242,582 in 2018, Mexican illegal immigration fell from
over 1.6 million in 2000 to almost 137,000 in 2019 so far — a
91% drop.

During that time, a single additional H-2 visa for a Mexican
worker is associated with 2.6 fewer Mexicans apprehended —
controlling for border enforcement.

“Most of my friends go with visas or they don’t go
at all,” said Mexican …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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