Douglas Massey, outgoing president of the American Sociological Association and chair of the University of Pennsylvania's sociology department, presented "Mexican Immigration: Consequences of Failed U.S. Policies" on Monday night. Massey discussed how the social and economic fabric of Mexico and the U.S. has been affected by U.S. immigration policies. He noted that beginning in the early 1900s, the U.S. government recruited Mexicans to work in this country but instead of creating a mutually beneficial system, created an exploitive one that continues to drive down wages of legal immigrants today and costs billions of dollars in useless border patrolling expenses.
Since the passage of NAFTA, immigration has not increased significantly, but Mexicans who previously had come to the U.S. to work with plans to return to Mexico are opting instead to stay in the U.S. Increased border protection is not keeping migrant workers out, but it is encouraging workers who have already managed to enter the country to stay. Doubling the budget for border patrols has not added to the effectiveness of their efforts.
Massey offered solutions to the current dilemmas including increasing the quota of Mexicans allowed to enter the U.S. as migrant workers on short term visas in recognition that Mexico is our closest trading partner. The quota for Mexico should not be the same as nations with whom we have no real relationship. Massey also suggested that a work program be created under which workers would be charged $300 for a visa, a price they would have paid for an illegal one. If the government would create a system to collect the taxes owed by Mexican workers, these monies, combined with the visa fees, could be used to fund programs to educate their children in public schools and offer them some form of health care. Massey emphasized the need to stop situations in which employers were permitted to exploit workers. He also repeatedly pointed out the many ways in which the U.S. is hypocritical in its policies concerning Mexican immigration.
Massey is author of several books including "American Apartheid" and "Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration." His major areas of research have included international migration and Latin American society with a particular focus on Mexico. This lecture was part of a series sponsored by the Levitt Center focused on the topic of immigration and global citizenry.