Startup Cities in Central America: A Long-Term Solution to Illegal Immigration?


The recent surge of undocumented immigrants from Central America has exposed gaping holes in our legal system. The New York Times reports that lawyers are restricted from meeting potential clients held in detention centers. There aren't nearly enough lawyers trained in handling these kinds of cases. And above all, what is to be done with the 46,300 unaccompanied children who were apprehended over the last ten months?

"We're very limited by, one, the short time that they're here and, two, the federal procedures," said Benny Agosto Jr., a Houston-based lawyer spearheading a task force created by the Hispanic National Bar Association to help migrants. "There is still the discussion over if the children should be brought to the front of the line. It depends on what federal judge, in what region you're in."

A short-term fix to American immigration crisis will depend on our legislators. But Honduras is looking much farther ahead, considering a radical solution that aims to permanently prevent the mass outflow of its citizens. As Reason TV's Zach Weismueller puts it,

Some call it a Startup City or Free City, others a LEAP Zone, and in Honduran law it's known as a ZEDE. They are politically autonomous, privately run zones that supporters believe could transform not only Honduras, but the entire developing world.

Weismueller's four-part video series, How to Grow a City in Honduras, examines the hopes and fears behind the birth of this bold experiment in governance. It was originally published on August 21st, 2014.

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  1. There aren’t nearly enough lawyers trained in handling these kinds of cases

    Yeah, that is the problem, not enough lawyers.

    1. Who is paying these lawyers?

      1. You are, along with welfare and services for the immigrants.

        1. Thanks, bordertards.

          1. Shoot that messenger!

            1. According to Cyto, child refugees, gangsters, and disease carriers, none of whom speak English or have an education, help our economy grow!

    2. Is there any universe where “not enough lawyers” is even considered a problem?

  2. Not enough lawyers? Free market failing us again!

    1. Single-payer legal care for the win.

  3. How about a startup city for libertarians? Other than Somalia (racist).

    1. Whenever I visit Singapore, I always visit the Monument to Free Trade. It’s not ostentatious, just a small obelisk nestled in a quite corner of the city (right near the Singapore Cricket Club, if I remember correctly). The plaque on the obelisk reads “Erected by the European, Chinese, and Native inhabitants of Singapore … [Dalhousie] emphatically recognized the wisdom of liberating commerce from all restraints under which enlightened policy this settlement has rapidly attained its present rank … and with witch its future prosperity must ever be identified“.

      I think of what once was, and could be again.

      1. They lost me on the part about witches.

        1. The girls in the red-light district would be willing to dress up as nurses too, if that’s more your thing.

    2. This might be it. If ultimately libertarians are right about the good consequences of a limited government and the competition provided by these zones actually leads to experimentation and optimization (the way it does everywhere else), then you’d expect the eventual result to be pretty damn libertarian.

      1. What will really happen is legislators will see all the wealth and prosperity, find one or two assholes who forcibly turned children into chimney sweeps, use that as an excuse to tax the living hell out of everyone, then claim it was a total failure. Salon will then have a field day.

  4. Cute, but I wouldn’t concern myself about illegal immigr’n in cx w these zones. Heck, anything that can be done to make people’s lives better anywhere reduces the need for them to migrate, period, but it’s not as if you need any reason to make people’s lives better other than the obvious one, duh. Also, zones of privatiz’n & deregul’n are going to have to be facilitated by the laws of the country they’re in, and why should those jurisdictions concern themselves with the politics of the countries their people might otherwise migrate to? It’s not like countries receiving immigrants rule the countries they’re coming from.

  5. With an average IQ in the low 80s and the inevitable poor education, Honduras will remain too incompetent and corrupt to accomplish anything beyond allowing people to escape.

    Wanna bet?

    1. Yes, your fatalism and bigotry notwithstanding.

      1. Science is racist as fuck, yeah.

        1. You don’t understand what science is.

        2. IQ tests are not science.

    2. How much? We can figure out terms.

    3. Fuck off. Ireland and many parts of southern Europe also had similar statistics; such tend to improve with access to higher-quality education and the means by which one can educate oneself, both of which are most often found in capitalist countries. The startup cities are also unlikely to be democratically-run, so they will most likely do just fine.

  6. If you can’t or won’t move people to where capital and good institutions are, moving capital and good institutions to where people are is certainly a decent alternative.

    The big problem is that we know moving capital is pretty easy, but we haven’t had anything like the institutional transplant that Honduras wants to do in recent history.

  7. What I’d love to see is a startup city that deliberately adopts an open borders policy, either from the start or once it’s figured out its institutional structure.

    Because while I support open borders, I know there’s no way the electorate in any western country will go for it in my lifetime, unless there’s already evidence that it works.

    1. My understanding is that the Honduran ZEDEs will have free movement of goods and people.

      1. They have an 80% honduran labor requirement. That’s going to fuck up attempts at bringing in people to work.

        If things go really well, maybe they’ll remove that limitation, but right now it doesn’t fit the bill.

        1. That limitation is bad but not that bad. There are going to be a lot of textile factories hiring a lot of Hondurans anyway. I hope a company with an ‘excess’ of Hondurans can sell a kind of credit so another company can hire more outsiders. People can still move in and out as they please anyway.

          1. We’ll see. I’m optimistic about the project, even if it falls short of the ideal.

            Somalia, for all the anarchy jokes, actually improved after the government collapsed. Some states are just so awful that it’s nearly impossible not to improve on them.

            1. Parts of Somalia improved other parts like Mogadishu were worse off in most ways. America should recognize Somaliland.

          2. Who needs credits? They could easily contract with each other for labor to fill the quota.

  8. There is a dude that jsut has no clule one way or the other.

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