The Crazy Logic of Immigration Policy

I didn’t quite get why the US wants to build a fence on its southern borders. Now I understand. It’s to protect Mexico. I learnt this from a recent Wall Street Journal editorial piece that explained that the obligation of the Chinese is to hurt North Korea by accepting waves of North Korean immigrants.

On a more rational level, this policy does not make sense. Unlike the United States, of course, China doesn’t need massive inflows of North Korean immigrants in order to find enough low-wage labor. And if living conditions in North Korea are is as we hear, losing poor peasants to China would be unlikely to harm North Korea. But then, who reads the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal for sense?

Kirkpatrick, Melanie. 2006. “Let Them Go.” Wall Street Journal (14 October): p. A 6.

“If China is to assume what it considers to be its rightful place as a great power, now is the moment. The world is looking to Beijing as the only government with a measure of influence over its lunatic nuclear ward in the Hermit Kingdom. The question is, will it use it?”

“China says it favors “punitive” actions on Pyongyang for its apparent nuclear test this week, and there’s talk — so far desultory — of sanctions. But no one is speaking publicly about Beijing’s biggest source of influence: the 900-mile border it shares with North Korea. Opening the frontier to refugees would put pressure on Kim Jong Il to give up his nukes or watch his regime implode. As Mark Palmer, U.S. ambassador to Hungary in 1989, has noted, the East German refugees who passed through that country en route to West Germany sped the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

“If Beijing wants to send a message to Pyongyang about its nuclear program, it could announce that, effective immediately, it is taking several steps: It will stop deporting North Koreans, allow the United Nations to set up refugee camps, and permit the resettlement of refugees in third countries, from which they could go to South Korea, whose constitution codifies its moral responsibility to accept its Northern cousins, or to other countries willing to take them in. The U.S., which so far has accepted a mere eight North Koreans, could step up to the plate here.”

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