NAFTA Increased Rate of Immigration
Repeal NAFTA = Restored Autonomy in Mexico, 07.01.2012 00:11
Part of promoting non-interventionist foreign policy is allowing for foreign nations to have self-determination and autonomy in their own economy. The greatest limiting factor to achieving democracy and self-determination in any nation is an unstable economy caused by unequal trade laws. This inequality between trade partners can occur because of different resource qualities or quantities or as a result of trade agreements that benefit one nation above another.
There are currently several “free” trade agreements labeled World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that were in existence since the early nineties. Both NAFTA and the WTO impose restrictions on domestic protections of workers and the ecosystem. While the WTO is a global free trade agreement NAFTA includes Canada, U.S. and Mexico. Several other notable politicians including Dennis Kucinich (D) and Ross Perot (I) have joined Sen. Ron Paul in efforts to first warn and then attempt to repeal NAFTA. This is truly a tripartisan effort to create change for the better by admitting to our nation’s collective mistake of implementing NAFTA and the WTO. Better to admit that we were wrong to join NAFTA and now can change our path than to continue making the same mistakes and ensuring our self-destruction and also dragging everyone else along with us. After all, neither NAFTA nor the WTO agreements were written in stone tablets and we are not under orders from anyone to continue on this negative path to failure.
In order to understand what repealing NAFTA would accomplish we need to understand what problems have been caused by implementation of NAFTA and also the WTO. We can focus on the example of Mexico with the understanding that parallel processes occur with the WTO in other nations in Asia and Africa. Prior to the passage of NAFTA there were many small farms remaining in both Mexico and in the U.S. Midwest, though the trend since WW2 was towards consolidation into larger agribusinesses that no longer resembled the original small farm model that could be tended by less than ten people and did not require input of intensive petrochemical derived fertilizers and pesticides. This process was occurring simultaneously both here and in Mexico, though it is safe to generalize that the greater availability of petrochemicals in the U.S. would have made the process of consolidation towards agribusiness swifter on U.S. farms. However, the passage of NAFTA began to swing the balance of consolidation into agribusiness faster on the Mexican side. This was accomplished by using NAFTA free trade bylaws to prevent protective tariffs from helping Mexican maize (corn) farmers from being undersold by imported corn. When the taxpayer subsidized corn grown by consolidated U.S. agribusiness corporations began flooding the Mexican markets, the local small farmers were unable to sell their corn for such a low price and still remain in business. Slowly but surely only a few years after NAFTA was passed into law the signs of Mexican farms going out of business and land being sold for cheap were everywhere. Their land was bought up by agribusiness corporations and the once independent small farmers of Mexico were now landless peasants forced to either try to survive in dangerous Mexican cities or attempt the northern passage to the U.S. through miles of harsh deserts. This is clearly not a good choice, as both options could result in death. This is the outcome of physical desperation caused by economic instability, and the evidence points to NAFTA as the primary culprit in creating the landlessness and poverty that afflicts the people of Mexico.
Once people comprehend that the source of illegal immigration is mostly from NAFTA induced poverty and landlessness, there are few realistic options to solve the myriad of problems caused by illegal immigration besides repealing the initial source the problem. All the other options proposed by the status quo politicians such as border walls, more agents, or amnesty lack the ability to solve the problems because they deftly dance around the source and only provide temporary quick-fix solutions that will only become expensive problems once they fail to work as proponents claim they would.
Generally we get a two-pronged approach from the establishment candidates; Republicans call for walls, camps and more police while Democrats call for amnesty, free schooling and other expenses. The claims made by status quo Republicans is that the walls, fences, detention camps and police will “teach those Mexicans a lesson” by discouraging them to remain here illegally. However, when given the harsh economic reality of life in Mexico, the threats of detention, barbed wire fences and other police state deterrents becomes surmountable in the face of starvation and death. The claims made by status quo Democrats is that we can “give Mexicans a better life here” by granting everyone amnesty and providing schooling to the several hundred thousand or more undocumented Mexican workers without displacing any domestic workers or lower income students in the process. It is certainly admirable to listen to the Democrats speak of the virtues of the hardworking undocumented Mexican farmworkers, though it is unfortunate that these noble Democrats besides Dennis Kucinich cannot bother to take the time to explain to the people of the U.S. that NAFTA induced poverty is the reason that the Mexicans come to the U.S. and submit to virtual slavery on the agribusiness plantations.
Given that the status quo Republicans and Democrats both cling to their false theories with grips tighter than a vice, we can dispel some of the standard myths perpetuated by the status quo Democrats and Republicans in advance of the debates.
Favorite Status Quo Republican Myth #1; Border walls, fences, police and detention camps are effective tools at preventing and deterring illegal immigration across the border.
Facts; The U.S. Mexico border extends for hundreds of miles across desert terrain that is mostly unpopulated by humans. This presents infinite possible crossing points where anyone with a shovel, ladder, wire cutters, blanket or other types of tools can either go over or under the fence and/or wall. Crossing options include bribery of border guards, smuggling in vehicles, swimming or paddling over the oceanic border, digging tunnels and other ways not yet discovered. The human mind is far more capable of getting around barriers than governments are at preventing these inventive methods of crossing without infringing on our shared civil liberties.
Status quo Republicans who promote detention centers, border walls and other police state tactics neglect to mention that hundreds of miles of concrete wall and barbed wire fence do not just appear magically overnight as if constructed by the border elves who accept payment in the form of small bags of cookies. One would surmise that the Republican mantra of “no more taxes” would include the price tag of the police state border wall, yet the status quo Republicans seem to omit the billions of dollars needed to construct and patrol such a megalithic infrastructure. This border wall construction project bears a steep price tag considering the long term effects at stopping undocumented immigration will be minimal. However, the Sonoran pronghorn that migrates between the U.S. and Mexico will indeed be effected by the border fence, though these nearly endangered species similar to antelope are not able to dig tunnels, climb fences or hide in cars when they wish to access the other half of their territory. The fastest land animal of North America stopped short by a fence designed to stop humans yet fails at the intended task. Detention camps require constant taxpayer input for staff salary, electricity, food and service staff. So does paying border agents to drive their SUVs back and forth across miles of desert dirt roads shining lights at creosote bushes in hopes of netting some undocumented immigrants. Finally and most importantly all of the above police state tactics are violations of human rights and U.S. Constitution’s protected civil liberties.
Favorite Status Quo Democrat Myth #1; If we grant amnesty, school and jobs to undocumented immigrants then they will have a better life here.
Facts; Amnesty is intended for people escaping political persecution in their home countries applied on a case by case individual level and cannot apply to conditions of economic poverty on such a large scale as it relates to undocumented Mexican immigrants who make land crossings onto U.S. soil. The original reason for limits on the number of immigrants coming into the U.S. was labor protection laws against reduced wages by allowing an influx of low skilled workers to depress wages. Many decades ago around the turn of the century new waves of immigrant workers were lured to U.S. factories by wealthy industrialists because the factory owners knew that the poorer the immigrant, the lower the wage they would accept as payment and the worse working conditions they would tolerate. The forming of labor unions after the depression included protections for domestic workers who would be easily replaced by newer and poorer waves of immigrants that would work for lower wages. That condition led to laws being passed that limited the yearly number of immigrants to protect wage stability. The levels of immigration remained steady following these wage protections and undocumented immigrants coming here in large numbers did not occur until after the passage of NAFTA. At some point in the early nineties the neoliberal economic model that supported NAFTA began to encourage labor unions to look the other way when growing ranks of undocumented workers were paid below minimum wage. By ignoring the depression of wages by undocumented workers, the labor unions have lost their effectiveness by endorsing corporate profiteering from paying undocumented workers low wages.
Undocumented workers who migrate here because of economic coercion often have family at home in Mexico that receives some portion of their paycheck. This results in a net loss of income returning to the local community where they live as their already reduced wages are leaving the U.S. economy entirely. Since the problems of political corruption within the Mexican economic system are not solved by people running away from it, a reasonable prediction is that the money that their relatives receive from the U.S. will eventually wind up in the hands of the Mexican economic elite through some form of coerced payments for energy, food, fuel, etc…
Low skilled documented workers are bearing the brunt of the waves of undocumented workers arriving from Mexico. The sign on the Statue of Liberty speaks of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” Under current conditions we should add another sentence (“Just don’t send them over all at once.”) For low skilled workers that are either naturalized, native born or legal documented immigrants, the influx of undocumented immigrant workers are direct competition for them. There is no way to avoid this reality, and status quo Democrats who claim that there is no job displacement from undocumented immigration are ignoring the low skilled domestic workers who remain invisible to them inside their elite circles of limousine riding neoliberal politicians. Many of the neoliberal proponents of the claim that there are enough jobs for undocumented workers live far from the states near the border where most of the job displacement occurs. There is no such thing as “unlimited jobs” as status quo Democrats often claim when defending perpetual amnesty for undocumented immigration.
Another reality ignored by status quo Democrats is that amnesty will not solve the problems of poverty and landlessness in Mexico caused by NAFTA and will need to happen in perpetuity. Here in the U.S. the standard of living can be lowered by wage depression as undocumented workers replace domestic documented workers and agribusiness plantations resemble the garment factories of the early century where newer poorer waves of immigrants displaced the previous waves of better paid workers from earlier waves of immigrants who were becoming naturalized and better able to defend their workplace conditions.
People can try to defend either side of the political status quo by making claims that either of the above concepts is working, though reality of the entire situation caused by NAFTA keeps coming to the surface. The sheer ineffectiveness of either of the two political parties’ claims is proof enough of their false logic. To listen to the debates between a status quo neoliberal Democrat and a status quo neoconservative Republican may be similar to how Alice in Wonderland would have felt when listening to Tweedledee and Tweedledum in the fictitious book by Lewis Carroll called “Through the Looking Glass”. These two comical characters were a laugh riot that appeared to the lost Alice wearing propeller hats and clown suits. As they spoke before Alice each one would argue a nonsensical point against the other twin. After a few minutes of their foolish debates Alice left their beach in obvious frustration of their nonsense arguments. As a Ron Paul supporter who believes repealing NAFTA is the only realistic solution to undocumented immigration, identification with Alice’s frustration with the silly talking twins is not difficult to feel. However, this frustration is based in the reality of the political foolishness having very serious consequences and getting away from the nonsense debates between the silly twins is not as simple as walking off the beach. Upon further examination the silly twins are not as dumb as they sound if only taking their arguments at face value. Unlike Alice’s harmless Tweedledee and Tweedledum, their status quo Democrat and Republican real life counterparts are not just engaging in nonsensical arguments to pass the time away on a beach in Wonderland. The real purpose of staged arguments between two status quo politicians is to distract from the actual source of the problem and the true benefactors of undocumented immigration.
There are a few beneficiaries of undocumented immigration, and they are often the same corporations that consolidated the small farms of the U.S. Midwest into agribusiness plantations and many were and still remain proponents of NAFTA. In the ranks of corporations that profited from NAFTA induced undocumented immigration are ADM, Conagra, Monsanto, Cargill and several other multinational agribusiness giants. Many of these agribusiness corporations lobby both Democrats and Republicans with generous campaign contributions, expecting payback in the favorable political decisions following their winning the election. If both Tweedledee and Tweedledum are lining the pockets of their clown suits with money coming from agribusiness lobbyists, then no matter which silly twin wins the election, the agribusiness corporation that contributed to both candidates will win regardless of the nonsensical argument made by either twin.
The reality of undocumented workers in agribusiness of animal processing operations such as feedlots and slaughterhouses are all dangerous and difficult work. If these are jobs that “most Americans would not be willing to do”, maybe there is a good reason for that. As a nation that fought a civil war to end slavery people in the U.S. are leery of slipping any chains on and entering into slavery. The chains that bind the undocumented immigrants into virtual slavery are invisible economic chains yet are almost as effectively real as steel chains. The invisible economic chains come from NAFTA created landlessness and poverty forcing people to either work in dangerous and difficult conditions as undocumented immigrants or remain in Mexico and become malnourished from living too many years in extreme poverty. The other choice of working in the U.S. as an undocumented worker on an agribusiness plantation, in an animal food processing plant, feedlot or slaughterhouse comes with severe risks to life and limb that could be far worse than deportation.
Take a hypothetical scenario where “Jesus” is an undocumented Mexican immigrant who crossed the desert and ended up in Nebraska working for a cattle feedlot owned by Cargill. Jesus was able to get a fake ID and Social Security number to appear unnoticed as a legal employee. After a few months of working there, Jesus sustained a severe injury from being trampled by the closely spaced feedlot cattle. After the injury Cargill learned that Jesus was an undocumented worker, they told him that he cannot obtain treatment for his injury, nor is there any job protection or future opportunities at Cargill for physically disabled workers that are not documented. Nor does Jesus qualify for unemployment as all his documents are false. In the end Jesus learns that as far as Cargill is concerned, he and most of his coworkers are disposable and they are easily replaced by another undocumented immigrant coming across the desert from Mexico. Maybe Jesus understands that the dangerous nature of the jobs at Cargill would probably have resulted in other injuries and even deaths of undocumented workers who came before him. How easy for Cargill to simply tell the injured undocumented workers to take off and then replace them with another undocumented worker. He wondered how much money Cargill saved on medical expenses by using disposable undocumented workers instead of documented workers that would have more rights and options for legal recourse.
The above hypothetical story about injuries sustained at Cargill by an undocumented worker is repeated with different names, injuries and locations throughout the U.S. on a regular basis. The industrial food industry depends on disposable undocumented workers to replace those who become injured on the job. The process of food industrialization into agribusiness plantations and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) represents a near total loss of food sovereignty for the U.S. populations as very few people are involved in food production outside of undocumented workers and the corporate hierarchy that exploits their disposable labor for profit. The process of food industrialization also decreases the nutritional value of the food and subjects the animals to tremendous cruelty in the feedlot system. One possible outcome of repealing NAFTA could be an incentive for people to restore the small independent farms to the U.S. Midwest that were consolidated into giant agribusiness corporations.
Under NAFTA the people of Mexico and the U.S. are losing their economic sovereignty and stability to ever growing agribusiness giants that thrive off of taxpayer subsidies and virtual slave labor of undocumented immigrants. The trends begun after WW2 of small farms being bought and consolidated into agribusiness corporations in the U.S. began to occur at increasing rates in Mexico following the passage of NAFTA. When small farmers in Mexico were forced to compete with taxpayer subsidized agribusiness imports made legal under NAFTA, they could not sell their maize (corn) at the same low price as the subsidized agribusiness corporations from the U.S. could. Now the agribusiness corporations that promoted NAFTA were able to profit from the Mexican undocumented workers who had lost their farms from subsidized corn flooding their market. In this process both the U.S. and Mexican people have lost control of their food sovereignty when NAFTA encouraged consolidation and losses of small independent farms.
The same pattern of subsidized crops from U.S. agribusiness flooding markets in third world countries is by no means limited to Mexico. Several years ago during a free trade summit in Cancun, Mexico a rice farmer from Korea committed suicide in public. He committed this tragic act not because he didn’t want to live, but because the WTO laws enabled the flooding the Korean market by subsidized U.S. agribusiness rice. This drove the Korean farmer out of business and he lost his small farm to bankruptcy. When he took his own life during that free trade summit, he also spoke for all his fellow rice farmers throughout his nation that were enduring the same losses as a result of WTO removing protective tariffs against subsidized rice. Other nations including Haiti were undergoing the same losses of small farmer autonomy in the face of subsidized rice.
By repealing NAFTA Ron Paul would help U.S. and Mexican people by restoring Mexican sovereignty and autonomy in their home nation. There is also a right for people to be able to have a better life in their home country. If every person in Mexico and other third world countries needs to come to the U.S. in order to have a better life than we will run out of room very quickly and most likely become a third world country ourselves. We need to be able to give people the chance for a better life in their home nations by removing obstacles like NAFTA and the WTO that uses unfair bylaws to prevent economies from protecting their economies from subsidized imports.
Repealing NAFTA will not repair the Mexican economy overnight, and trying to correct the negative change of hands of farmland taken from small independent maize farmers and sold to agribusiness corporations will be a difficult task. However, the first few steps on a new path are often the most difficult to take. In order for the Mexican people to breathe again, the boot of NAFTA must first be removed from their neck. It is difficult to try to help people relearn breathing when there is a boot pressing down on their throat! Relearning breathing is comparable to relearning small independent farming and the boot represents NAFTA laws disabling protective tariffs against taxpayer subsidized imported foods flooding their markets and driving independent farmers off their land.
We here in the U.S. also need to remind ourselves that agribusiness consolidation into large plantations dependent upon petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides is a rather recent trend and that prior to WW2 and NAFTA the small independent farmers of the U.S. Midwest could be very productive by using permaculture methods of crop diversity rotations that combined with animal fertilizers formed a closed energy cycle that did not require additional chemical inputs to remain functional. If the small independent U.S. farmers need some help to feed the additional population increase following WW2, maybe suburban residents would be willing to convert their lawns to farms and grow some extra vegetables to cover the losses. Restoration of food sovereignty can be accomplished by repealing NAFTA and restoring the sanity of growing food on small independent farms and supplementing with home grown vegetables.
We ask that Sen. Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and others who have this awareness can work together across party lines to repeal NAFTA in 2012, and electing Sen. Paul to office of U.S. President would make this goal a more probable outcome. Either we choose that option or endure another four years of poor frustrated Alice watching the silly twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum spinning one another’s propeller hats during their nonsensical debates.
NAFTA increased rate of undocumented immigration from Mexico to U.S.;
"While there has been some media coverage of NAFTA's ruinous impact on US industrial communities, there has been even less media attention paid to its catastrophic effects in Mexico:
NAFTA, by permitting heavily-subsidized US corn and other agri-business products to compete with small Mexican farmers, has driven the Mexican farmer off the land due to low-priced imports of US corn and other agricultural products. Some 2 million Mexicans have been forced out of agriculture, and many of those that remain are living in desperate poverty. These people are among those that cross the border to feed their families. (Meanwhile, corn-based tortilla prices climbed by 50%. No wonder many so Mexican peasants have called NAFTA their 'death warrant.'
NAFTA's service-sector rules allowed big firms like Wal-Mart to enter the Mexican market and, selling low-priced goods made by ultra-cheap labor in China, to displace locally-based shoe, toy, and candy firms. An estimated 28,000 small and medium-sized Mexican businesses have been eliminated.
Wages along the Mexican border have actually been driven down by about 25% since NAFTA, reported a Carnegie Endowment study. An over-supply of workers, combined with the crushing of union organizing drives as government policy, has resulted in sweatshop pay running sweatshops along the border where wages typically run 60 cents to $1 an hour."
"This report reveals the basis for farmers' concern about NAFTA and its model of export-oriented agriculture. For the past seven years, Midwestern and Plains states wheat farmers; ranchers in Montana, Texas and other states; vegetable, flower and fruit growers in California; lumber mill owners in Louisiana, Arkansas and Washington; vegetable growers in Florida; chicken farmers nationwide and others have suffered declining commodity prices and farm income while a flood of NAFTA imports outpaced U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico.
Yet it was not farmers in Mexico or Canada who benefitted from U.S. farmers' woes. Millions of campesinos throughout Mexico have lost a significant source of income and left their small corn farms. Some became farm laborers working in squalid conditions for poverty wages on large plantations growing produce for export to the U.S. Others moved to Mexico's cities where unemployment is high. Canadian grain and dairy farmers also face steeply rising debt during the NAFTA era. This report also documents the rise in Mexican staple food prices, such as in tortilla prices, even as the price paid to Mexican corn farmers dropped 48%.
However, NAFTA has brought seven years of good fortune to many of the agribusinesses that pressured Washington, Ottawa and Mexico City to negotiate and ratify NAFTA's corporate- managed trade terms. Since NAFTA stripped away many safeguards for the folks who produce raw agricultural products, relative power and leverage has grown for large agribusiness conglomerates to exert pressure on both farmers and consumers."
NAFTA, Mexican Corn and the Commons
How American industrial agriculture threatens Mexican biodiversity and social stability.
By David Bollier
The modern part of this story starts in 1988, when a cadre of free marketeers within the Mexican government, led by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, decided to throw their lot in with the “free market.” In a sense, it was understandable. The Mexican economy has long been beset by notorious corruption and inefficiency. It was thought that the NAFTA treaty with the U.S., which went into effect in 1994, would create millions of jobs, new industrial centers, and encourage rural villagers to move to cities, where they could get social services. The U.S. and multinational corporations were only too happy to encourage the Mexican government to adopt this vision since it would open the doors to cheap and plentiful labor right across the border.
The sixteen years since NAFTA shows how misguided this whole fantasy really was. It was based on the dangerous fictions that “labor” and “nature” are simple economic units of production: inert, fungible and responsive to “market signals” such as prices and wages. In fact, NAFTA was no blueprint for Mexican economic development. It not only did not provide protected spaces for domestic production, it ran roughshod over people’s identities and local loyalties. As Canby writes, millions of Mexican farmers
“consider growing corn more than an economic activity. It is something closer to a defining way of life. Since NAFTA, to the surprise of government planners in Mexico City, many indigenous farmers…have in effect chosen to withdrawn from the national economy, some weaning themselves off expensive chemical fertilizers and subsisting on the corn they can grow, harvest and barter. Economists refer to this phenomenon as a ‘retreat to subsistence’….
This, at least, has been the response of many indigenous communities and family farmers. Others have not had the courage of luck to retreat to subsistence. In Juarez, multinational corporations relocated about 100,000 jobs to China, where wages were one-quarter the already-low wages in Juarez. This disinvestment cleared the way for drug cartels to become the largest employer in the city and for violent crime to skyrocket.
Meanwhile, because NAFTA eliminated tariffs on corn imported from the United States, American corn quickly undercut local markets, driving an estimated 500,000 farmers from the land each year. About half of them, searching for a way to support their families, try to enter the U.S. illegally.
A Mexican economics professor, Alejandro Nadal, cannot fathom why the Mexican government essentially consented to dismantling the community-based corn economy in the country: “There were 3 million corn producers and five people per producer family. That’s 15 million people. Then there were transporters and other attached industries – 22 million people – a quarter of the country’s population. Before putting your corn sector into NAFTA, wouldn’t you think about it twice? They government had no single study for why they put corn into NAFTA.”