Latest UTRGV Border Business Briefs study focuses on immigration flows into US – Rio Grande Guardian

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EDINBURG, Texas – After studying immigration flows into the United States for UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Center for Border Economic Studies, assistant economics professor Armando R. Lopez-Velasco comes to the conclusion that a guest or temporary worker program would be desirable.

The Center for Border Economic Studies is part of the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship at UTRGV. Lopez-Velasco produced his 7-page analysis for the university’s occasional Border Business Briefs publication. It is titled “A snapshot of Immigration Flows into the US.” Click here to read it in full.

Among the graphs displayed in the brief is one showing permanent resident permits given by type of immigrant from 2000 to 2021. Another shows unauthorized immigrants residing in the US, between the years 1990-2018. A couple of pie charts show the origin of unauthorized population residing in the US between 2000 and 2018. Another graph shows Border Patrol’s budget as a percentage of GDP. And another graph shows Border Patrol arrests along the Mexican border. Yet another graph shows CBP arrest data by country of origin from 2018 to 2022. The final graph shows the number of unaccompanied children arrested at the Border by origin.

In his concluding remarks, Lopez-Velasco notes there are different types of immigrants and many different programs in the US that regulate immigration (directly in the case of legal immigration and indirectly via enforcement in the case of unauthorized immigration). He said his study attempts to present the state of immigration flows to the US and discusses some of the immigration challenges. Due to the complexity of the topic and in order to keep the discussion short, Lopez-Velasco said, his analysis does not attempt to discuss comprehensive immigration reform.

“With respect to unauthorized immigration, addressing push factors (violence, lack of opportunities, poverty, etc.) is clearly important but it is something that depends heavily on the institutions and quality of the government of the sending countries. What a host economy like the US can control is the level of legal migration allowed into the country as well as the type and level of enforcement,” Lopez-Velasco writes.

Armando R. Lopez-Velasco

“An enforcement-only approach is unlikely to control unauthorized flows and is also likely to impose high human costs. There is possibly a better solution that could represent a win-win situation for the US and to many would-be unauthorized immigrants: the possibility of a guest or temporary worker program.”

Lopez-Velasco said there are some advantages of a guest worker program when the alternative is unauthorized immigration.

“It would allow for a way to come and work for a category of people that currently have no legal way of coming to the US. The stay is temporary as opposed to permanent as the current system ends up inducing unauthorized migration with a long stay due to the high costs of crossing,” Lopez-Velasco writes.

“Since by definition a guest worker program allows people only temporary in US soil, in a decade there could be a larger number of people who would benefit from working in the US temporarily as opposed to the same stock of people over many years under unauthorized immigration. Then those temporary workers would return to their home economies with some capital.”

Lopez-Velasco continues: “Also, for national security issues, a guest worker program would be preferred over unauthorized immigration. Finally, other countries that are traveled during the journey to the US (e.g. Mexico) would also benefit from the existence of such program as many of the immigrants that are rejected in the US might end up in Mexican cities.”

Lopez-Velasco said some of the “big winners” of the status-quo are the criminal groups which charge significant amounts of money in attempts to smuggle people into the US or who kidnap or exploit foreigners while in transit to the border. 

“Because of that, many potential immigrants would prefer to apply for a legal temporary worker permit, thus leading to some tax revenue (cost of the permit) plus some savings as compared to an enforcement-only framework in that the pool of potential unauthorized immigrants would be theoretically lower. Finally, the journey to come to the US would not be as dangerous as it is right now.”

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