From Alma Suzin Flesch, of New York, NY:
Without disagreeing with Professor Castañeda’s plea for more humane treatment of illegal immigrants, I would like to ask what he did while he was a member of the Mexican cabinet to improve the economic lot of his people and so stem the tide of illegal immigration into the United States.
From Christopher Brigham, of Somerville, MA:
We must support our government’s efforts to finally enforce our immigration laws. At a time of rising unemployment and financial uncertainty, we must protect United States workers from the wage competition brought on by mass immigration.
With state and local budgets stretched beyond repair, we cannot continue to provide benefits for anyone who wants to sneak into the country. If we want to create a sustainable society, we must recognize that there are limits to the number of people we can employ, house, feed and provide health care for.
From David C. Holzman, of Lexington, MA:
Jorge G. Castañeda, the former foreign minister of Mexico, should worry more about the mess in his own country than about United States policy toward illegal immigrants.
Mexico is actually relatively wealthy by world standards and used to have a substantial middle class, but corruption has changed that. In fact, our crackdown on illegal immigrants, which Mr. Castañeda opposes, might help Mexico deal with these problems.
Why? Because those who are willing to risk so much to sneak across the border are the same people who would be most likely to push for change in their own country should we continue to eliminate the incentives for them to come here.
By functioning as a safety valve, we are enabling our southern neighbor’s bad policies.
These three New York Times readers -- blue state residents all -- probably represent numerous other letter writers with similar opinions whose letters weren't published by the Times. This is worth remembering next time one reads an op/ed column advising the GOP that the way back from the political wilderness is to embrace an open borders policy welcoming unlimited unskilled immigration from south of the border (as if the GOP candidate in November's election weren't the most zealous advocate of such a policy). In fact, there are three reasons why this is a perfect time to advocate a more rational immigration policy, one similar to the policies of Canada or Australia, that seeks to attract immigrants with high levels of human capital.
First, with the bursting of the housing bubble, there is little demand for unskilled labor in the construction industry. Second, with the incoming Obama administration planning a massive stimulus which will include infrastructure spending, it would be better for that infrastructure work to go to Americans, who will spend most of their salaries at home (hopefully, creating a multiplier effect) than to illegal immigrants who will send much of their salaries to their countries of origin. Third, since the Obama administration plans to expand entitlement programs, including those that provide access to free or subsidized health care, it makes sense to limit immigration primarily to those immigrants with high levels of human capital who will tend to pay more in taxes than they will consume in government benefits.