How can we transform the U.S.-Mexico border? Opportunity zones.

In contrast to the deadening effects of fences and walls, opportunity zones can facilitate investment on the United States-Mexico border and help develop the workforce of the future. (iStock/CampPhoto)In contrast to the deadening effects of fences and walls, opportunity zones can facilitate investment on the United States-Mexico border and help develop the workforce of the future. (iStock/CampPhoto)

For centuries, walls have been used to divide people. The Great Wall of China was created to separate Chinese states and empires from the nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. More recently, the Berlin Wall separated West and East Berlin for over 20 years, and the Belfast Peace Walls (expected to be fully torn down by 2023) were used in Northern Ireland to divide Catholic from Protestant neighborhoods. But we have learned that building walls is not the right approach to immigration reform.

Control of the border between the United States and Mexico calls for a unique approach, not another obsolete idea. Our country is built upon the foundation of freedom for all people, and this freedom includes pathways toward becoming U.S. citizens. We must preserve the free market and opportunities for all Americans. So while we need to improve border security, we must not punish families who are seeking a better life, families whom history has shown can be significant contributors to this great nation.

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While we need to improve border security, we must not punish families who are seeking a better life.

There is a way forward, unexpectedly provided in the tax-cut package enacted in 2017 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), and that is a designation that the law calls an “Opportunity Zone.” An opportunity zone is an economically distressed community where new investments may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. (It is not to be confused with urban enterprise zones, which focus on tax incentives for employers who relocate to the area.) Sean Parker, the entrepreneur who co-founded Napster and was the first president of Facebook, introduced this idea during the Obama administration. Legislation to implement the idea was co-sponsored by Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, and Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and it was eventually included in the 2017 tax bill. As of the writing of this article, there are approximately 8,700 designated opportunity zones across the United States and the 16 territories. We propose to designate new opportunity zones on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico, not only to revitalize those communities (including Border Patrol agents and their families) but to help provide pathways to citizenship for new migrants.

Opportunity zones are proposed in each of the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

To date, the investment vehicles known as Opportunity Zone Funds have focused on traditional economic development activities and have been somewhat focused on real estate and construction. But we believe that opportunity zones can also leverage the new skills of those who are coming to the United States and who will be the workforce of the future. The future of the U.S. economy depends on it. We also need to ensure immigrants are welcomed into revitalized American communities.

With that in mind, we are proposing The Border Freedom Fund. Through “The Fund,” we can create employment, educational and housing programs that will help newcomers to meet citizen eligibility requirements. We will acquire real-estate properties—both housing and mixed-use developments located in designated opportunity zones along the border—that have strong long-term growth potential. We will use those assets to help provide more families with the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

Opportunity zones can leverage the new skills of those who are coming to the United States and who will be the workforce of the future. The future of the U.S. economy depends on it.

During a recent webcast, the accounting firm Ernst & Young surveyed more than 1,500 executives about how they plan to leverage proposed opportunity zones. A majority (52 percent) were unsure but said they were interested in exploring possible benefits. In addition, more than a quarter (26 percent) said they would develop property through a fund in which they invest with outsiders. We believe this shows there is a great opportunity to work in a collective approach to provide a cohesive immigration solution, but it also shows an opportunity to have those executives, and other investors, think differently about how to use the capital that is put into opportunity zones.

Ultimately, we are proposing public-private partnerships (PPPs) with bipartisan support to collaboratively tackle the challenges of the border with a humanitarian approach. The benefits of PPPs are clear: In creating a sustainable and reliable fund partnered with both the Democratic and Republican parties, we can offer a new economic paradigm to facilitate private investment in opportunity zones on the United States-Mexico border.

PPPs are complementary resources for governments to achieve goals in reducing the economic risks of infrastructure improvement. The Fund will work closely with public-sector leaders to make sure projects are investor-ready and to continuously develop innovative frameworks to meet the needs for U.S.-Mexico border services. Private investors can support capital expenditures and decrease the risk for developments on the United States-Mexico border. At the same time, the new opportunity zones can benefit all who live in border communities, including border security personnel, by providing more options for housing and more educational opportunities.

It is a win-win situation for everyone: The Fund helps to provide what we believe to be a comprehensive, economically intelligent policy with regard to immigration; border security improves over time; we avoid using taxpayer money and private investors receive a return; and we work together to design a balanced environment for efficient and sustainable border security implementation.

For more information, contact us at info@theborderfreedomfund.com.

J Cosgrove
6 days 1 hour ago

Tax free and they will prosper. That is what Hong Kong was

But better to put it on Mexican side. . Then put another zone on Mexico’s southern border.

Christopher McNally
5 days 22 hours ago

The writers display a stultifying ignorance of the problem which is only exceeded by the sophistry of their proposed solution. Almost everyone on Planet Earth understands that there is no need or advantage to attract more people to the US Mexico border. The problem is not that there are too few opportunities at the border, but that there are too few opportunities and too many hazards in the migrants' native countries. The writers propose more tax cuts for the rich to incentivize the poor to leave their homes and migrate to the US Mexican border. That is not a solution. It is, in fact, one cause of the problem. It would be better to promote development in Central America, particularly in a way that includes freely-organized labor, fair trade for peasant farmers, and interdiction of criminal enterprises supported by US tax dollars to corrupt dictatorships.

Mike Macrie
5 days 20 hours ago

Promoting development and honest government in Central America is great but how ? US taxpayers are not going to foot the bill especially in a US Isolation environment remember what are are President referred to these countries as. Central American Governments, Military and Police are corrupt, gangs operate at Will. This is why good people want to get out. US Aid is being siphoned off to these corrupt institutions. US companies are not going to invest in these unstable countries were corruption exist at every level.

Christopher McNally
5 days 22 hours ago

Xx

Roland Greystoke
5 days 21 hours ago

We do not need a wall. We need a wall and armed drone 24/7/365. But I was an NCO for 20 years and tend to go for the quick, fast and efficient solutions to problems like criminal aliens.

jamc1951@gmail.com
5 days 20 hours ago

Opportunity Zones is a great idea, but I think it works best when the border is orderly and free of the chaos of the last few decades. Walls divide but they also create order. In the Beginning, God divided the day from the night, the sea from the dry land—order from division. Science operates by dividing things into categories. We shouldn’t see the wall as a denial but as an ordering of the flow of immigration. By all means let us be creative in helping the people of Central America, but let us do so in a measured and rational manner.

Michael Cardinale
5 days 17 hours ago

My main objection is that the authors start with a Congressionally provided tax credit for investors and develop a pipe dream of prosperity for everyone along the border, especially immigrants, which will improve border security. Most of the article is nothing but assumptions and desires/goals to help immigrants, and US investors, with no evidence that they are correct or achievable. The only goal definitely achievable is enrichment of investors through tax credits (dodges?). The NFL is a proven success story of obtaining tax breaks, free land and government investments to enrich owners in exchange for providing jobs selling beer, soda and popcorn.

James Schwarzwalder
5 days 17 hours ago

On today's news on New Jersey Public Television there was a report on how unaccountable the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has been over the last eight or ten years in overseeing a massive tax break program given to large businesses who located new headquarters and manufacturing companies in distressed urban areas with the goal of generating new jobs that would be filled by residents of urban areas of high unemployment such as Camden NJ. Well, no one knows the number of jobs created for the tens of billions of dollars in tax relief granted to the companies who participated. No accountability. As far as I can tell the "Opportunity Zones" program that was contained in the new Federal tax code is fully subscribed already by towns that qualify. Strangely, the North and South Koreans have had an "on again" "off again" program of factories in or adjacent to the DMZ that has been successful when operating. Congress needs to decide what number legal immigrants are in the best interest of the country. Asylum claims are a "humanitarian issue", that as I understand it, are distinct from a Congressional consensus on what is a desirable number of legal immigrants. From news reports numerous U.S.employers are breaking the law by hiring illegal immigrants. It is not just that the undocumented are breaking civil law by surreptitiously entering the U.S., but some U.S. employers are complicit in breaking the law by hiring them. Our elected representatives need to address these matters. "The Wall" is only one aspect of a complex problem. Drug smuggling and related deaths is another aspect.

John Walton
5 days 7 hours ago

"opportunity zones" -- mostly designed by real estate developers -- we looked to relocate our laboratory in one a few miles from our plant -- the real estate values had skyrocketed even before the ink was still wet on the 2017 tax bill.

NAFTA created many "opportunity zones" in Mexico -- that's why your fractional horse-power motor is made in Mexico or China, not Missouri or Indiana.

Vince Killoran
5 days 6 hours ago

When will we learn? This is old wine in a new bottle. Republicans and neoliberal Democrats have been touting "enterprise zones" for decades. There is zero evidence that these empower the working poor. Jeff Cowie and other scholars, wrote about Mexican-American borderland "maquiladoras."

Deplorable Me
5 days 5 hours ago

Dumb idea. People will pour into these zones looking for work and opportunity....when it fails, (and it will)... there will be an "army" much larger than any previous caravans within a few miles of our border and the flood will be Biblical. Here's a novel idea.....Build. The. Wall. and let's concentrate on The American Dream for Americans

John Sharpe
5 days 2 hours ago

All this is fine except the people coming into the country need to cross into the US through a port of entry. Because the US southern borderline is not being respected and it’s being abused by human traffickers and drug smugglers all those other suggestions do not address those abuses and it is not an excuse to declare a physical barrier as immoral. What is closer to being immoral is being a hypocrite or offering ones questionable political beliefs as coming from from the mountain top.

Jessica Brown
4 days 14 hours ago

All this bullshit spills out of the mind of Mr president Trump You can not drive people out of the wall on the barrel of the gun unless they posses the real security threat to the country. You can put the wall on the God's green face of earth, but not in the heart of people. Human are born free of their race, their faith. I see it as posing more serious problems than bringing about solution down the road.
from Jessica Brown from nursing thesis help UK.

Thomas Laney
2 days 8 hours ago

The future of the U.S. economy depends on full employment at a Just Wage. Same as Mexico. Millions of Mexicans work in the Maquila zone. They are essentially slaves. They are paid $6 -$7 a day.

Any Catholic who thinks this fair needs to read Dorothy Day.

What's needed on the border is Mondragon-like investment.

NOT more Capitalism.

Thomas Laney
2 days 8 hours ago

The future of the U.S. economy depends on full employment at a Just Wage. Same as Mexico. Millions of Mexicans work in the Maquila zone. They are essentially slaves. They are paid $6 -$7 a day.

Any Catholic who thinks this fair needs to read Dorothy Day.

What's needed on the border is Mondragon-like investment.

NOT more Capitalism.

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