"The United States is spending billions on walls that don’t really keep migrants out (a University of California, San Diego, study showed that 97 percent of migrants who want to cross the border eventually get through), and on locking up and deporting people, many of whom return. Border enforcement, guest worker programs and pathways to citizenship haven’t addressed the problem. Instead they have sealed in many migrants who would have preferred to circle back home, attracted temporary workers who never left, and legalized migrants who then brought relatives illegally, causing the number of unlawful migrants to grow.
We can prevent this pain, and slow the flow of migrants permanently, only by addressing the “push” factors that propel migrants, especially women, to leave in the first place — and by helping families like Enrique’s avoid the heartache that his mother’s exodus began a quarter-century ago.
We can start by creating opportunities for women in just four countries: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which send three-quarters of all undocumented migrants here. The United States could increase aid to those countries to improve education for girls, which would lower birthrates. It could finance or promote microloans to help women start job-generating businesses. It could gear trade policies to give clear preferences to goods from these four countries. And it could work with hometown associations — groups of immigrants in the United States who want to help the towns they came from — to coordinate a percentage of the tens of billions of dollars that immigrants send home to Latin America each year toward investing in job-creating enterprises. (One Mexican hometown association helped build a factory in Oaxaca, which has employed many would-be immigrants.)
This targeted economic development would cost much less than the billions — $18 billion each year — we currently dole out for immigration enforcement." - Sonia Nazario, author of “Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother"