Closing the Border and Opening the Door: Mobility, Adjustment, and the Sequencing of Reform

75 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2007 Last revised: 11 Sep 2008

See all articles by Timothy A. Canova

Timothy A. Canova

Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center


Since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Mexico border has become increasingly open for trade and private investment. But for the movement of people it is a Porous Border. Meanwhile, Open Border proposals are unpopular and unrealistic due to concerns about national security and the economic impact of low-wage immigrant labor.

Discussion is now dominated by Closed Border proposals to build a wall and further militarize the 2000-mile border. Each of these paradigms - the Closed Border, Open Border, and today's Porous Border - fails to address the painful dislocations in Mexican society that inevitably result from the Washington Consensus model of free market fundamentalism, a policy agenda that consists of fiscal austerity, privatization, and the liberalization of trade and private investment.

This Article considers proposals to close the border with a massive Marshall Plan wall of public investment. Such a border would be a central feature in a sequencing of reform, designed to address the underlying causes of illegal immigration, and intended to lead to an open border in the future.

Globalization has weakened the nation-state by undermining its ability to mobilize resources. This Article considers an alternative model premised on the activation of fiscal policy to empower the nation-state, address problems of mass dislocation, and reform U.S.-Mexico relations at the border. This model is contextualized through discussion of the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill of Rights, and the European Union's regional development program.

This Article considers proposals of architects, urban and regional planners, and scientific communities that would seek to attract people, technology, and industry to poor border and interior regions. A Closed Border, when constructed as a progressive and fluid response to adjustment demands, becomes a door for opportunity that will set the stage for a truly Open Border in the future.

Keywords: International Migration, Regional Development, Foreign Assistance, Fiscal Policy, Monetary Policy, Central Banks, Public Finance, Immigration Refugee, Citizenship, Immigration Law, Border, Homeland Security, National Security

JEL Classification: E58, F22, F33, F35, H50, H60, N14, O23, P51, R58

Suggested Citation

Canova, Timothy A., Closing the Border and Opening the Door: Mobility, Adjustment, and the Sequencing of Reform. Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 5, 2007, Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 08-55, Available at SSRN:

Timothy A. Canova (Contact Author)

Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center ( email )

3305 College Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
United States

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