DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- We know President Bush's plan to send National Guardsmen to help the Border Patrol keep Mexicans out of the United States is a transparent political ploy.
We know despite all the assurances by the Bush Administration,
sending 6,000 Guardsmen to the Mexican border will put an even greater
strain on a military force already stretched past the breaking point.
We know that the President underfunded the Border Patrol for years and only
started to pay attention to immigration when it became clear that this was
a good issue with his conservative base.
We know all this, but like every other insanely stupid policy idea
floated by this White House, political concerns and not logic are
The solution to making the U.S.-Mexico border less porous is not
building a wall to separate the two nations, with more agents and soldiers
to keep people out. Nor is it criminalizing immigrants, most of whom are
trying to seek a better life for themselves and their families.
No, the solution would be to do something about the economic
conditions that are prompting millions of Mexicans and Central Americans to
flee their countries.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), enacted in 1994,
was supposed to bring prosperity to Mexico, as well as the United States.
The prosperity that was promised did not come to either nation.
What NAFTA did to the American economy is well-documented. What it
did to Mexico has received much less media attention, but if you want to
know why so many people are risking their lives to come to the United
States, these statistics offer an explanation.
NAFTA permitted U.S. agribusinesses to undercut Mexican farmers
by allowing the United States to sell corn and other agricultural products
at a lower cost than Mexican farms can produce them. As a result, more than
2 million Mexican farmers have been forced out of agriculture in the past
decade, and the ones that still farm live in desperate poverty.
NAFTA allowed the big box stores such as Wal-Mart to enter the
Mexican market. Wal-Mart, which mostly sells goods made by low-wage workers
in China, put more than 28,000 small and medium-sized Mexican businesses
out of business over the past decade.
Wages for Mexican workers have fallen by about 25 percent in the
past decade. In the "maquiladoras," the American-owned sweatshops, the
hourly pay runs between 60 cents and $1 an hour, a salary that is not
enough to live on even at a subsistence level.
And now the ruinous effects of NAFTA are being imposed on Central
America. The Central American Free Trade Agreement, enacted last year,
means a whole new pool of cheap labor to be exploited. Today, 40 percent of
Central America's workers earn less than $2 a day
In 1995, there were 2.5-million undocumented Mexicans in the United
States. Another 8 million have crossed the border since then. And millions
more will flee in the coming years as the economies of our neighbors to the
south are driven further into poverty.
Instead of writing trade deals that exploit Mexico and Central
America, NAFTA and CAFTA need to be rewritten.
Neither treaty was originally designed as an economic development
program. Neither treaty promotes better living standards or worker rights.
Both treaties treat the region the way it has always been treated by the
United States, as a place to be plundered by the Mexican oligarchy and
multinational corporate interests.
Compare this approach to what happened in the European Union.
Before it admitted then-poorer nations, such as Spain, Portugal and Greece,
to the EU, they received massive investments in health care, education and
public infrastructure. Democratic reforms and worker rights were also
preconditions to entry.
Unfortunately, President Bush and the current Congress have no real
interest in encouraging fair trade, livable wages, safe workplaces or workers'
rights on either side of the border. They would rather encourage the global
economy's race to the bottom and turn the world into one big maquiladora,
as the low-wage factories just across the border that produce cheaps goods
for export are called.
They cannot see that putting human needs above maximum profits will
ensure improved lives on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. When
Mexicans are paid a livable wage, have stable employment and can enjoy a
life of hope rather than despair, there will be far fewer economic refugees
flooding our borders. This approach, not walls and soldiers, is what is
AR Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England
for more than 25 years, and was recently chosen by the Vermont State Press Assn.
as the best editorial writer in the state. He also edited "The George Seldes
Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright 2016 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.