Immigration, Borderline Stupidity and Back Checking
Today is the longest day of the year making it entirely reasonable for hockey to be top of mind. Actually, that is entirely unreasonable and hockey would not be top of mind but for a season-distorting strike.
The strike means there are two or three games to go before we determine whether the Boston Bruins or the Chicago Blackhawks get to join the Miami Heat at a photo op in the White House.
Even if it were reasonable to be thinking about hockey on what our English friends call Midsummer’s Day, the last thing that would come to mind would be back checking. Only the most intrepid defensive zealots like struggling back toward their own goal to impede the efforts of speedy opponents to score against them.
Inevitably, this line of reasoning leads to the splendid work of North Dakota Senator John Hoeven and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker in saving the immigration reform bill from death by talking points.
The two Republicans wanted to make the pathway to citizenship contingent on achieving a 90% apprehension rate along the Mexican border. Turned out this was unattainable or maybe impractical or maybe it just didn’t poll test very well. Whatever the reason, they decided the problem could be solved by tossing $30 billion at what is now being called a “border surge.”
In Washington, where they are pretending to legislate about immigration, the border surge is the equivalent of back checking.
Let’s imagine two possible problems with the suggested approach.
First, $30 billion is just about five times the $6.5 billion initially budgeted for border security. That could be a problem if Paul Krugman turns out to be wrong and we actually do need to worry about how much money we spend.
Second, what if you decided to spend $30 billion to hire 40,000 intrepid defensive zealots (a.k.a. border agents), build a 700 mile fence and deploy a whole bunch of drones and other sensors only to discover that there aren’t really any speedy opponents headed toward your goal.
Turns out that politicians are not the only people who think about immigration. Investment professionals do too and, since they have money riding on it (sometimes even their own), they try to be pretty accurate.
Mexicans actually began returning to Mexico in 2004. This was well before the recession though that increased the number of people leaving. There were other reasons too. The Mexican economy was improving and there were more jobs available without the necessity of avoiding intrepid defensive zealots. Also, the number of people likely to try to jump our $30 billion fence is declining for the simple reason that there are less of them in the most likely age range.
The report I saw demonstrated this four very simple charts.
Back checking is no fun and spending $30 billion to back check is even less so. The only thing worse would be a discovery that the back checkers were chasing nonexistent speedy opponents.