Illegal immigration is generated by economic need and desire. Poor Mexicans need work; many US industries, including but hardly limited to agriculture, need the labor. Presidents George Bush and Vicente Fox recognize this dynamic. They're discussing new guest-worker arrangements to reduce the illegality. Meanwhile, the flow of illegal migrants has slowed on its own, in tandem with a slowing US economy. These workers, apparently, are so connected to conditions in the US that they respond naturally to the ebb and flow of labor demand.
Mexico and the United States are drawing closer, as a growing partnership between their presidents attests. The benefits of this in economy and culture are substantial. But when the two nations draw closer on illegal immigration and narcotics, the costs are high.
The health of the cross-border ties depends largely on how both governments address these issues.
Narcotics, too, flow with demand, which remains way too high in the US. Drug seizures along the border suggest the cartels have stepped up their illegal commerce - aided, in no small part, by the NAFTA-driven increase in truck traffic (see story, page 1). Hubcaps and false truck beds can easily conceal drugs.
Messrs. Bush and Fox have plenty to work on here, too. Better joint policing and more effort to reduce the US demand for illegal drugs are key.
The partnership could improve lives on both sides of the border.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor