Monday, February 25, 2013

Immigration: Obama goes where the imbecile Bush feared to tread

by Richard Mellor

When Clinton signed the North American Free Trade agreement (NAFTA) it had a number of consequences.  It sped up the export of US jobs as US manufacturers shifted production south of the border to take advantage of cheaper labor power.  By 2010, more than 500,000 US jobs were displaced according to the Economic Policy Institute. This also had the effect of lowering wages in the US as NAFTA never contained provisions that protected Mexican workers from super exploitation and US firms demanded concessions to compete.  The threat of moving was used more and more as a form of economic terrorism to force US workers to accept concessions.

NAFTA threw Millions of Mexican subsistence farmers off their land; destroyed their way of life as there was no way these small farmers producing corn could compete with US agribusiness which is highly mechanized by comparison and which by 2002 was subsidized to the tune of 40% of net farm income.

Having no means of subsistence, many of these landless Mexican peasants headed north.  As I have said many times before, the relationship between the global power and its southern neighbor reminds me very much of that between England and Ireland which supplied the colonial power with a steady supply of cheap labor and cheap food.

By 2007 more than 850,000 people were caught trying to cross in to the US illegally through our southern border. You cannot stop people trying to feed themselves and their families. The politics and economic behind it all is hidden.  The role of US imperialism in that part of the world, an area the US capitalist class considers their “back yard” is unknown to most Americans; the invasions, government coups, assassinations of opponents to the US multinational corporations that have plundered the region's resources, poisoned its environment and exploited its workers, we don’t hear too much about that.

As was the case with the Irish in Britain, these southern immigrants come under assault in all sorts of ways.  They are firstly raped, robbed and beaten by those they pay to transport them here. They have been murdered by their guides or US border agents as has been the case on more than one occasion.  If they find work here, their undocumented status makes them most vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation by landlords and employers. They are blamed in the media for the taking of jobs “real” Americans could fill and as a burden on the taxpayer.

In bad economic times they are the perfect scapegoat, they are poor, foreigners, a different nationality and more often than not, although not exclusively, a different color; a perfect part of a divide and rule strategy.

Responding to this xenophobic warfare, Republicans pushed the imbecile Bush to do more.  By 2007 they demanded that he “deploy four drones” along the border, build 105 radar and camera towers and increase the number of border agents to 20,000 while building more fencing.

Where Bush failed though, Obama has not feared to tread.  In his first term the Obama administration spent $73 billion on immigration enforcement. Presently the US has 120 drones scouting the border, has installed 670 miles of fencing, erected 300 towers and beefed up the border agents to 21,394, 18,500 of them on the US Mexican border according to Bloomberg Business Week.  The results have been favorable as immigration agents deported close to 1.5 million undocumented workers in the past four years. The reduction in border crossing most experts agree is also due to the crash as fewer jobs were available and many immigrants returned home.

As I pointed out in a previous blog, for workers it is in our economic and class interests to oppose these measures and the racist and xenophobic attacks on undocumented workers. There was a headline in my local paper a few weeks ago about Latino’s being the most populous ethnic group in the state before too long. “The Latinos are coming, my god, the Latinos are coming.”  But which Latinos? I would argue as a worker it is “our” Latinos, people from the same class background as the vast majority of us, wage earners-----workers.  The 11million or so undocumented workers already in the US pay their dues and have paid them a thousand times over.  They work in the worst jobs for the lowest pay and face savage discrimination at times.  They are the butt of racist jokes and are denied basic human services by politicians who are millionaires ( and billionaires) and who whip up this climate of fear in order to divide us and drive all workers to conditions that prevailed before the rise of the CIO in the 1930’s and the civil rights movement that followed.

I don’t intend to beat a dead horse but to side with the anti-immigrant crowd on this issue is disastrous. We cannot escape the effects of having a 2000 mile border with a low waged economy and super exploited workers. For workers not to have an independent position on this issue means the bosses win all round.  Leaving aside the $73 billion of our money being spent on militarizing US society which will be used against US workers as we resist the destruction of our living standards in the future (drones will be used against us and so will the border guards to break strikes and protests against austerity), having cheaper labor just across the border also weakens us in other ways.  As I wrote some time ago in a piece I distributed at work:
“But even if these workers and peasants don't come here to the US, staying in their home countries will have basically the same effect. It will increase the supply of Labor, further driving down wages (Labor’s price) and increasing the rate at which capital invests since there would be even greater profits to be made there. Obviously this would mean further job losses here in the U.S. Thus, we cannot escape the affects of the conditions of those workers and peasants, no matter if they come here or stay in their home countries. The only real difference is that if they come here, the effects of this forced competition are more visible to us.”

A Mexican farmer doesn’t leave his family, his children and his country without being forced to either by the gun or through economic terrorism. Neither does an African migrant in Europe. While it isn’t realistic to simply call for the opening of all borders when on one side wages and conditions are higher than the other, as it would simply depress the higher in favor of the lower which would be opposed by higher paid workers and divide the class an alternative is to recognize class solidarity, overcome nationalist sentiment and do what we can to build links with workers south of the border or any workers no matter where they may be, and join with them in raising their wages and standard of living. We must join with them in the struggle against global capital launching a global offensive of our own.  We must build an independent political party of our own that will break the monopoly the two Wall Street parties have over the political process and prevent them from moving production by taking over the industry; the Democrats will never do this.

We only have to think of all the money we spend on defense and militarization of our borders and immigration control and what effect that has.  We can’t as Americans travel in half the countries of the world.  Our standard of living is declining; our jails are the most populated in the world, our health care is dismal; the inequality gap is wider than ever before, and our young people will, if they are lucky enough to have a job, will be able to retire at 80.

We need more allies not enemies; we’ve got plenty of them on Wall Street and in Washington.  We call them, "fellow Americans".

Some reading:
Hey Look, Somehow the Border Got Secured Businessweek Feb 25, 2013

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