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To Stop Illegal Border Crossings, Create a Legal Channel For Mexico-U.S. Migration

Over the weekend, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl blamed the state’s wildfires on Mexican migrants who said “They have set fires because they signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them.” This led him to the conclusion that “the answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”

My colleague Marie Diamond notes that the National Forest Service says McCain is wrong about the origin of the fires. But it’s also worth noting that not only did John McCain used to not be a paranoid immigration hater, he used to understand that restrictive immigration policies are one of the main drivers of illegal border crossings.

After all, when I went to Mexico, I didn’t need to set any fires to keep warm, to signal anyone, or to divert law enforcement agents when coming back to the United States. That’s because not only is visiting Mexico as a tourist and then coming back home something a lot of people want to do, it’s something that’s perfectly legal. By contrast, lots of people want to come to the United States, work for a while, then go back home to Mexico. But in most circumstances, it’s against the law. If you create a legal way for people to do it, then nobody’s going to want to sneak through the desert lighting fires.

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