[Letter to the Editor of the Louisville Courier Journal; April 3, 2006]
How long will the debate on immigration reform carry on without addressing the root cause of the demographic phenomenon that has fueled the migration of millions of undocumented workers into the U.S.?
Ask almost any undocumented worker in the U.S. for his/her story. Ask the right questions, and you will invariably discover that economic conditions in his/her home country have worsened in the last 10 to 15 years, accelerating in our closest neighbor, Mexico, since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
Estimates by reliable sources put the number of Mexicans displaced from their former occupations by NAFTA at several million. The beneficiaries, some who helped design NAFTA, include such mega-corporations as Cargill, ADM and Wal-Mart.
Those living in poverty in Mexico increased from some 56 million in 1994 to more than 70 million today. This is because NAFTA allowed U.S. corn exporters to flood the Mexican market below the cost of production (thanks to corporate consolidation, over-production and massive subsidies of U.S. production), and it allowed Wal-Mart to build an estimated 500 superstores in Mexico and purchase hundreds of stores that do not have the Wal-Mart name on them, displacing millions of small family businesses.
Can we wonder why Mexicans have turned up in virtually every corner of the U.S.? Can we blame these hard-working people? All roads lead to Rome. Let us cease to blame the victims of our own policies and cut the hypocrisy. Demilitarize the border. Repeal NAFTA and other policies of economic predation. They harm workers on both sides of the borders. Cease the war on the poor. That is the only long-term solution.