Saturday, June 9, 2007

If they don’t go back, someone else can pay!

One of the difficulties when discussing or legislating about immigration issues is that no matter how obvious it is that a border has two sides, everyone insists in resolving everything on just one. For instance since for the nation receiving a temporary migrant worker he is mostly a stranger, it must be more challenging for it to make sure that he will return once his authorized stay has expired, than for the sending country, for which that emigrant worker is just another neighbor.

In this respect I am currently working on the design of a program whereby reputable and private insurance companies in Central America (some with foreign owners) will offer to guarantee to the US government to pay a quite significant indemnity (minimum 100.000 US dollars) for each worker that covered by a specific temporary worker-program return insurance does not return home, in a timely manner.

Are we talking about an enforcement program that could have some objectionable human rights issues? Absolutely not! Since the premiums for the insurance will be paid by the migrants themselves, and the program contemplates giving them important discounts based on the collective behavior of the group, it is primarily about creating the right incentive structure, and knowing your client.

In this particular case, on both borders, an additional difficulty is that so many have got it fixed in their brains that a migrant worker is by definition a worker who wants to stay, no matter what, and this is absolutely false. The best antidote for any illegal immigration that I can think of is a true temporary program where everyone understands what it is all about, fully accept the underlying premises, and decide to do the best they can to benefit from the valuable window of opportunity that is being offered to them. In short, extremely good temporary migrant worker programs could be developed if people and lawmakers would just dare to reach out.