Published on People Move

Can they?: Implications of Obama victory for migration and development

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What a moment in history! As soon as Obama was projected to be the next president of the United States of America, countless migrant mothers (I know one!) patted their children and said, with tears in the eyes, "You too have a chance to be the president of this great country!" Seems to me that overnight America has become more inviting to the immigrants. Has it? Will Obama follow through with his campaign promise, or will he change his stance? Should he? What would that mean from a development point of view?

On their website, Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan on immigration states the following:

  • Create secure borders via additional personnel, infrastructure and technology at entry points
  • Fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy
  • Increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill
  • Remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants
  • Support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens
  • Promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration

Several of these steps relate directly to migration and development. As I have noted before, most of the migrants are economic migrants, and therefore, migration benefits the migrants themselves, the employers who hire them, and the families back home who receive remittances and other kinds of help from the migrants. Economic underdevelopment is the root cause of outward migration. Low labor cost is the main cause for inward migration. An economic, development-based approach to the migration problem, therefore, is likely to have a higher chance of success than other approaches that rely on quantitative controls like walls and electronic surveillance.

 I'd love to hear your thoughts on these questions.


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

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