Dawson Thomas Rauch
Honorable Mention, 2007-2008
Young Steward of Public Policy
Honorable Mention 2007-2008
"Illegal Immigration: A Public Issue"
By Dawson Thomas Rauch
Fountain Hills High School
Fountain Hills, Arizona
The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that in 1999 about 968,000 illegal immigrants entered the United States and a conservative estimate says that there are eight million illegal immigrants currently in the country. That is a huge problem that the country faces, but an even larger problem for the people of Arizona because the majority are coming from Mexico, with which we share a border. I’m not going to address the question of what to do with the immigrants already residing in the country; instead I’m going to propose measures that I think should be taken to drastically reduce the flood of new immigrants. Since the issue has suddenly become prime time news the question for Arizona policy makers is what to do about this problem. Do we support President Bush’s proposal to build a wall? I think there is a more productive and less insulting answer.
To find the elusive answer you must first ask a question. Why do people give their life savings to be smuggled across a border; an invisible line? They do this because they want a chance at the “American Dream,” to live in the wealthiest country in the world and have their own chance at financial success. A typical Mexican worker will make one-tenth the salary of their illegal Mexican-American counterpart. The problem is obvious, as is the solution. Arizona must take steps to improve the economic conditions in Mexico by encouraging statewide businesses to invest there and by pressuring the national government to adopt a policy similar to the Marshall Plan that was used to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.
Arizona has already taken positive steps in this direction with its involvement in the free-enterprise zone that extends ninety miles into the interior, which has been created to help promote American investments. This program has granted corporations that build factories in this zone a significant tax break and has given many, otherwise unemployed people, a steady income. I think that this program should be expanded so that the free enterprise zone extends two hundred miles into the interior so that the program will positively affect other cities besides the border towns. Corporations need a greater incentive to build factories in this zone so I believe that Arizona should increase tax cuts and give the companies incentives to build more factories. However, for corporations to qualify for these tax reductions they must pay all of their employees at least a minimum wage of five dollars an hour. This is a compromise because the wage is lower than the United States minimum wage, but it insures that all workers will make a living wage similar to what they might make in America. Hopefully these conditions will be enough of an incentive for these people to work in Mexico instead of risking illegal immigration.
While the actions that Arizona can directly take are vital, I don’t believe they will stop even a small percentage of the illegal immigration. To truly combat illegal immigration, Arizona lawmakers need to pressure the national government to take a more comprehensive stand against illegal immigration by adopting a plan like the Marshall Plan that applies to all of Latin America. Currently the United States is spending $7.3 billion annually on border patrol and is projected to spend well over eight billion on a stateof-the-art border fence. A more sensible solution would be to re-distribute those funds towards an economic aid program that would benefit all of Latin America, because many of the illegal immigrants are actually coming from other Latin American countries through Mexico. Another viable option that Arizona lawmakers could propose, which would make an immediate impact, is to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement to include all of Latin America. The North American Free Trade Agreement made a significant economic impact on Mexico and it has also been very beneficial for the United States. Why can’t it work with all of Latin America?
Illegal immigration is obviously an ongoing and ever increasing problem for Arizona, but I believe with careful evaluation of the problem and implementation of some version of these two proposals, meaningful progress can be made to stem the problem. I understand that putting up a fence is the easiest and most visible way to address the issue, but it isn’t solving the root problem. It’s like trying to plug the holes in a sinking ship. Instead we need to throw these sinking Latin American countries a life preserver.