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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain

The political blog of a social entrepreneur

Don´t Build a Fence, Improve NAFTA

The US Border Fence between Mexico and the USA is advancing in the US Senate. Personally, I think that US Border fence is a wrong concept. My idea is that US should look at what Europe has done in terms of immigration and copy our model.

Mexico, USA and Canada have made something equivalent to the European Union, it is called NAFTA. Still there is a fundamental difference. In Europe we allow free movement of goods and people, within NAFTA goods move, but people stay behind. Interestingly, what Europe has found is that by creating job opportunities throughout the EU migrations inside Europe have actually been reduced. There was a time that Spaniards migrated to Germany in search of jobs. Now there are more Germans migrating to Spain than the other way around.

In my opinion USA should embrace Mexico and Canada and move border control to the South of Mexico (eskimo control does not seem to be a problem in the North NAFTA border…). Doing this and improving controls at a South Mexico, border with Guatemala and Belize –which is controlled jointly by all of NAFTA members– while allowing instead free movement of people between Canada, Mexico and USA is the way to go. To me, a gigantic wall with Mexico is exactly the wrong message to send to Mexico and to the world. It´s a failure of civilization.

Moreover, if Mexicans could move easily back and forth between USA and Mexico many less of them would stay in USA. Many workers stay simply because if they leave they can´t come back. Many in America wrongly believe that the whole world wants to move to the States. There are 450 million Europeans now who don´t even need a visa to visit the States, for example, but illegal immigration from Europe is just not a problem. Indeed, at Fon, the company that I manage, we have the opposite problem: it is easier for us to get visas for Europeans to go over to the USA than to get papers for the Americans who want to work for us in Spain.

I think that Americans have a seriously wrong view of how many foreigners in general and how many Mexicans or Canadians in particular would actually move to America and stay there if they had open borders inside NAFTA. When Europe had the Berlin Wall people would die trying to cross into Western Germany, but when the wall came down the surprise was that most people stay put. Building gigantic fences is the wrong way to go, improving conditions on both sides of the border is the right approach. Strengthen NAFTA, don´t build a wall.

Posted on September 29, 2006