Can Microloans Keep Millions at Home?
November 05, 2006, 09:30 PM
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Microlending may well be a partial solution to America's immigration crisis waiting to be discovered, as well as a reasonable response to the real problem of worldwide poverty. It is an approach for development in poor nations that has been proven effective across many cultures, and it additionally promotes values of women's empowerment, community democracy and environmental preservation.

Microcredit banks, also known as "poverty banks," lend money to the poorest of the poor, many living on less than $1 a day. The small loans allow borrowers to buy a few animals or food-making equipment or a sewing machine — something that can make a significant difference in income.

The notion that microcredit can reduce illegal immigration is only a theory, but it makes sense. If Mexico's poor are given the opportunity to earn a living at home, they are less likely to illegally enter the United States.

"It seems to me, it's the poor who immigrate — at least illegally. The middle class and wealthy don't talk about coming to the United States," said Marshall Saunders, a San Diego retiree who founded Grameen de la Frontera in 1999. "To have a chance of stopping illegal immigration, or at least slowing it down, people in Mexico need to have a good economy." [U.S. could reduce illegal immigration by thinking small, Arizona Daily Star 11/3/06]

Microlending inventor Muhammad Yunus

For his creation of microloans and the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus was recently bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize. As a result, microlending will likely receive more attention in the next little while, particularly when the award is formally presented in Oslo December 10.

For example, PBS' Frontline/World recently had a segment about microloans in Uganda. The Oct. 31 broadcast also highlighted a program through the Kiva.org group by which an individual may provide a microloan to entrepreneurs in the third world.

The important message is that there is better way to help the planet's poor billions beyond the failed leftist approach of rescuing a small handful through immigration to the first world. Permissive immigration may assuage the do-gooder crowd's liberal guilt, but is actually harmful to countries like Mexico by encouraging corruption and discouraging development.

And on a planet of over six billion souls, the huddled masses cannot all come here.