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Smart Supply-Side Immigration Control

Over on the front page, I argue that a more intelligent and progressive approach to immigration would focus on the largely unregulated and substandard jobs that migrant workers fill, rather than on the individuals who work them.

It's a "big-think piece," and space required me to go short on the specifics. But clearly, a smart approach to immigration control would focus on both the demand and the supply.

On the supply side, a key issue is trade -- a subject near and dear to me for a long time. We see a lot of hyperbolic discussion of immigration, but virtually no acknowledgment of the way our trade policy and larger promotion of neoliberal orthodoxy worldwide fuel human migration.

A good way to understand the relationship is by looking at the history of immigration to America, and the tensions it has caused. There is always a modest flow of immigrants coming for all variety of reasons. That steady trickle doesn't lead to much acrimony among Americans. But that modest flow is occasionally punctuated by waves of mass immigration, and that's when people get touchy about the whole thing.

While individuals have all sorts of reasons for choosing to emigrate, those peaks -- "waves" is a good word to describe them -- always come in response to a shock somewhere else in the world. Those shocks might be a civil war, a natural disaster, a famine or an economic collapse.

Our trade policy, and the larger economic ideology we promote aggressively around the world, both contribute to these kinds of economic shocks and limit other governments' responses to them.

The current wave of elevated immigration began in the 1990s, and a large share of it has come from Mexico. A number of factors are in play, but a good way to understand my point is that much of today's Mexican immigration started with corn.

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