The local newspapers have just published "Who Owns the Border," the best, compact description of border life that I've seen anywhere. It's a reasonably balanced look at the issues confronting residents of southeastern Arizona's border region, full of facts, statistics, impressions and information that should be required reading for anyone who cries "crisis!" or is otherwise concerned about the situation. It's not alarmist, like so many are around this issue.
The most intriguing part, to me, is the chart showing progress over the last decade in limiting illegal immigration. Since its height in 2004, it's been dropping steadily, and that drop is most pronounced over the past two years. This points to the best wayof dealing with the problem. People have stopped crossing illegally, in large part, because with widespread unemployment on this side, the jobs they used to come for are no longer available to them. Stop hiring the undocumented, and the undocumented will stop coming. Arizona's SB-1070, on the other hand, is a completely useless law that is costing the state money it can ill afford--requiring us to defend it in court, diminishing tourism, and making us look bad around the world. The law is good only for Gov. Brewer's cronies in the private prison industry. It does nothing to address the real issue--illegal crossers already know they're breaking the law, and they do it anyway because they want the jobs. Adding one more law doesn't keep them out. Neither do fences.
The only foolproof, permanent solution is to diversify and improve the Mexican economy, so that we can have good jobs for people on this side and they can have them on that side. Short of that, stopping the hiring is the only temporary answer that has a prayer of helping.
What's disturbing in that chart is the rise in marijuana smuggling across the border, tied to the increasing drug violence on the other side. The only way to stem that is to decrease the demand (and to interdict guns flowing south). That can be done by legalization--but that comes with a host of other problems, and anyone who thinks the cartels would simply go away is living in a dream world. It might also be helped by education. Anyone who uses dope from uncertain origins most likely has the blood of Mexicans on his or her hands. Maybe it's also a dream, but it would be nice to think that understanding this would make people a little more careful.
Immigration remains a problem, though not the full-scale invasion people pretend it is in order to make political hay. To understand what's going on down here, there are worse places to start than this newspaper supplement. Take a look when you can.