As the debate over the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law dominates Washington’s discussion of immigration, new pressure has been put on Obama to come forth with a concrete stance on immigration policy.
Within this discussion, there lives the idea that if we change immigration law, somehow our nation’s immigration crisis will cease, or at least improve. If we have better protection at the border, less people will enter illegally or if we create a path to citizenship for those who are already in the United States, we will have somehow done due justice.
Though changes are no doubt necessary to our nation’s outdated immigration policy – nothing will change unless we address the underlying factors that cause migration to the United States: agricultural, trade, and labor policy.
When NAFTA took effect in 1994, the bill promised to allow Mexico to “export goods, not people,” by increasing employment opportunities in Mexico and closing the gap between U.S. and Mexican wages. Mexican migration since the agreement, though, has more than doubled, we are to the point where about nine percent of the population born in Mexico is now living in the United States. (http://www.migrationinformation.org).
Part of this mass migration has to do with the fact that, from 1994 to 2010, US exports to Mexico have increased 400 percent, while Mexico failed to invest in the technology, infastructure and research and development to effectively compete.
Looking to where people are migrating from helps solve a part of the puzzle: the states with the higest rates of emigration are Guanajuato and Michoacan. These are the states with the largest sector of their economy vested in agriculture.
With NAFTA came a flood of exported below-cost corn from the United States. Between 1995 and 2006, the government paid out $56 billion in corn subsidies (http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=00000&progcode=corn). Corn is our most lavishly subsidized food crop by a long shot; since 1995 it has drawn more subsidies than wheat ($22 billion), soybeans ($14 billion), and rice ($11 billion)--combined.
All of this government aid helps corn flow south in a torrent and all of this government aid helps to put Mexican corn farmers, well, out of business. I saw this all to much in Bernal – a place with empty farms, hungry mules (and people) and a unifying hope in the town of sending sons northward.
For more info, check out: http://prospectjournal.ucsd.edu/index.php/2010/04/nafta-and-u-s-corn-sub...