Sunday, December 30, 2012

America’s Other Immigration Problem

By Jacqueline Stevens and Dalton Conley
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2012

Many countries sending immigrants to the United States—and asking that America welcome those immigrants—themselves have policies that discourage Americans from moving there. This is a profound unfairness at the heart of our immigration policy, and one that almost no one acknowledges. The first step to domestic immigration reform may be overturning the restrictions that other nations, including Mexico, place on American immigration to their countries.

Mexico, while pressing for its citizens to work and conduct business in the United States, poses Kafka-esque obstacles to foreigners wanting to acquire legal residence and buy desirable property there. For instance, Article 27 of the Mexican constitution states: “Foreign citizens cannot own land within 100 km of the borders or 50 km of the sea; however, foreigners can have a beneficial interest in such land through a trust (fideicomiso), where the legal ownership of the land is held by a Mexican financial institution.” Of course Mexican immigrants to the United States can own land outright.

Hurdles to citizenship are higher in Europe than in the United States. For instance, Austria, Italy, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Spain require most applicants to have a decade of legal residency (PDF) before being able to naturalize, versus the five years or less required of those seeking to naturalize in the United States. Contrast the $2,500 fees for naturalization charged by Switzerland with the $680 application fee charged here. Many other countries, including China, Egypt, and Haiti, make it tougher for children of U.S. citizens born there to become citizens than vice versa. Bilateral agreements for citizenship would be fair, mutually enhance the respective economies, and reduce the xenophobia and antagonisms between nation-states so linked.


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