The flow of immigration -- legal or illegal -- is a sure index of desperation. Just as the Irish potato famine set off a wave of immigration, just as the Vietnam debacle threw the boat people to the sea, we have today a wave of immigrants fleeing from misery and desperation. The people we know as illegal immigrants do not want to become lawbreakers, but neither will they let mere laws stand between them and what may be their only chance to survive or attain some semblance of human dignity.
Immigration reform is needed, but that will not stop illegal entry or even discourage it very much. The only way to solve the problem is to start alleviating the misery that creates it. Only when people see hope at home can they afford to stop looking for a chance somewhere else, like the United States.
. . . I have long believed that a bilateral United States-Mexico development bank would go far to create new opportunities in Mexico and thus reduce the overwhelming economic desperation that causes so many Mexicans to flee northward. . . . I also believe that a free trade zone would create enormous new opportunities on both sides of the U.S.- Mexico border. Such a zone can work.
. . . We must face the fact that the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico each year is roughly equivalent to the number of new entrants into the Mexican labor force who cannot find work. Each year the Mexican labor force expands by about a half million workers more than the economy can absorb. This is the basic cause of illegal immigration. Our immigration lawbooks won't change that. What will change it is a program of economic development, and that is what we are proposing today.