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June 12, 2007

Deepa Fernandes on a real solution to immigration

WBAI radio host Deepa Fernandes comes across with some clear thinking on immigration:

I have spent years researching immigration policies and talking about immigration with citizens and migrants alike. While some immigrants certainly do aspire to stay permanently in the U.S., many wish they could have remained in their home country and earned a living wage there.

But trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA and free trade agreements with many Caribbean and Asian countries, coupled with IMF and World Bank policies that have gutted social welfare programs in many of these countries have forced millions into migratory patterns to eek out a living. When their village or rural town becomes unviable, most people move to the nearest big city. Cities in all these countries are far from able to provide meaningful employment for the masses and the migration continues until a decent paying job can be found. In this part of the hemisphere, that place is the United States.

Simultaneously, U.S. workers have suffered because employers can hire, en-masse, a workforce that has few rights, no benefits and accepts paltry wages. But somehow, this exploitation of undocumented workers has been transformed into the idea that immigrants are the ones to blame for “taking” plum “American” jobs.

So here’s my solution. Let’s go to the root cause of the problem. Let’s deal with why people can’t stay in their home country and earn a fair wage, and lets then look at why there is a race to the bottom for wages and job conditions here in the U.S. In sum, the domestic immigration problem should be tackled through trade and labor policies...

Imagine if we could end, or at the very least massively reform, NAFTA, CAFTA and all the free trade agreements the U.S. has with other nations. Let’s push for fair trade or even take some of the huge budget that is spent on militarizing the southern border (because let’s be real, it hasn’t worked and more money for stadium lights, unmanned drones and border patrol agents is not going to stop people coming in search of work) and lets invest in jobs that will keep people where they want to be: in their home country. If one could earn $7-10 an hour in Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica, Peru etc, you watch the flow of undocumented immigrants dry up. And while this may seem a pipe dream, with political will, it is possible.

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Comments

concerned citizen

Hello Todd,
I am really glad to read your posting on immigration. I have posted the same idea elsewhere and I credit citizen.typepad.com to post your comment, that is "Our immigration policy needs to be considered along with our trade policies".

You have hit the root cause of the problem and I feel relieved that I am not alone. You asked why people would risk their life to sneak into the US for a low-paid job with no benefits. Why would US allow such inhuman business practice and claim to support human rights with a straight face? Where are the penalties for these illegal businesses?

I wonder if our government is trying to use these illegals to compete with cheap Chinese labor. They know it's inhuman so amnesty is the compensation for them. After this batch of illegals are legalized, the corporations with our government's silent approval will use the second batch of illegals, again, to compete with the cheap Chinese labor. The Congress can write one bill after another. If the administration will not enforce it, we are wasting our tax dollars to pay these congressmen and women. No walls will keep people from seeking survival. These are mostly good people. If we enforce the failed 1986 immigration bill, we will not need another bill. Penalizing the illegal employers will also keep the illegals stay in their home country to better their political and economic system for their future generations.

Yes, we need to consider immigration together with our trade policies.

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