Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 211-231

First online:

U.S. foreign economic policy and illegal immigration

  • Sidney WeintraubAffiliated withLBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas

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It is often suggested that the most effective policy for the United States, if it wishes to curtail illegal immigration from nearby countries, is to manipulate foreign economic instruments to support their economic development. The Reagan administration's Caribbean Basin Initiative is responsive to this approach in its proposals for increased aid and trade and tax preferences for beneficiary countries. Analysis of U.S. trade, investment, and aid relations with migrant-sending countries leads to the conclusion that these preferences could have a marginal impact on job creation in these countries, but there is no assurance that a modest rise in economic opportunity will lead to a decrease in emigration in the foreseeable future. In addition, preferential trade and tax treatment for some countries involves a departure from U.S. policy and would lead to a clamor for equal treatment by other countries.