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NAFTA, Immigrants and the Discussion That is Not Happening

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  • peaceandjustice2005
    NAFTA, Immigrants and the Discussion That is Not Happening The African World By Bill Fletcher, Jr. BlackCommentator. com Executive Editor Bill Fletcher, Jr.
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2008
      NAFTA, Immigrants and the Discussion That is Not Happening

      The African World
      By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
      BlackCommentator. com Executive Editor

      Bill Fletcher, Jr. wishes to thank David Bacon for the recent
      discussion that inspired this commentary.

      One of the more interesting aspects of the current Presidential
      primary season is the renewed discussion of the North American Free
      Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Implemented January 1, 1994, and by no
      coincidence sparking the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, NAFTA
      was a major step in the economic integration of the USA, Canada and
      Mexico under the domination of the USA.

      Sold to the US public as a means of addressing globalization and
      improving our chances of competing in the global market place, NAFTA
      was fervently opposed by various social movements and constituencies,
      particularly organized labor and environmental groups. Both groups,
      and others, were deeply suspicious of the motives and actuality of
      NAFTA. Their concerns, as it turns out, were largely justified.

      Though NAFTA did result in the introduction of some new jobs, what is
      critical is the net effect of NAFTA. If one factors in losses and
      gains, the net impact has been the loss of approximately 900,000 jobs
      in the USA.

      Unfortunately, much of the NAFTA debate stops here or within a few
      feet. NAFTA most certainly has drained jobs as well as placed
      restrictions on the ability of jurisdictions to direct their local
      economies. It has encouraged the growth of sweatshop and
      near-sweatshop labor along the USA/Mexico border. This is the side of
      NAFTA with which many of us are familiar. Many of us remember Ross
      Perot's famous comment concerning NAFTA representing the giant sucking
      sound of jobs being drained away from the USA and going to Mexico.

      This is not the entire story. And, while it is good that Senators
      Clinton and Obama have reopened the discussion concerning NAFTA,
      neither of them have drawn much attention to the impact that NAFTA has
      had on Mexico, and thereby on us in the USA.

      What is critical for us to grasp on this side of the Rio Grande River
      is that NAFTA has had a devastating impact on the Mexican economy.
      Through forcing the Mexican farmer to compete with USA farmers, rural
      Mexico's economy has been turned upside down. The reality is that the
      Mexican farmer has been unable to compete, and as a result there began
      - in the mid 1990s - a migration of rural Mexicans into the larger
      Mexican cities. Finding few job opportunities, the migration moved
      north toward the USA. This was accompanied by the impact of NAFTA on
      the Mexican public sector, which also suffered severe body blows,
      thereby undermining what little social safety net the people of Mexico
      had.

      This side of the NAFTA equation is critical to discuss because it
      helps us understand why hundreds of thousands of Mexicans chose to
      leave their homes and head north. Contrary to the xenophobic,
      anti-immigrant rhetoric many of us have heard, it was not because
      `…everyone wants to be in America…' but rather as a direct result of
      policies initiated by the USA and their allies in Ottawa and Mexico City.

      I thought a great deal about this recently when I was moderating a
      debate on immigration within a labor union. The vehemence of some of
      the anti-immigrant speakers, including - and very unfortunately - an
      African American woman, was not only deeply unsettling, but equally
      lacking in any historical context. While the focus of the
      anti-immigrant speakers was allegedly undocumented immigrants in
      general, there was nothing in their language that indicated that they
      were thinking about Irish, Poles, Russians, or anyone other than
      Latinos, and most particularly, Mexicans. When confronted with this
      question of NAFTA they had nothing to say. Interestingly, they could
      also not explain why they had nothing to say about any other ethnic
      undocumented worker besides Latinos.

      It is commonplace in the USA to think in terms of what affects us, and
      particularly the notion that whatever harms us in the USA must be
      among the most catastrophic things to affect the planet. Rarely do we
      stop and think about the actual consequences of the actions of the USA
      on the rest of the world. Rarer still has been our consideration of
      how the actions the USA initiates, whether treaties like NAFTA or
      military actions such as the 1980s Central American wars, end up
      boomeranging.

      A real change in the White House would be for the leaders to see
      beyond the Rio Grande and thereby actually see what is happening here.

      Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is
      also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the
      immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. Click here to contact
      Mr. Fletcher.

      BlackCommentator. com

      www.BlackCommentato r.com

      link:

      http://www.blackcom mentator. com/267/267_ african_world_ nafta.html
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