The Southern Surge

May 20, 2008

With all the recent public attention to immigrants’ costs and benefits to the U.S. economy it is time to examine the causes rather than just the results. The mass migration of people from their homes at an annual rate of 800,000 a year can only be seen as a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The depopulation of rural Latin America is the ruthless destruction of a way of life. While it is true that for decades Mexicans seasonally crossed the border to exchange their labor for meager wages, the traffic in recent years from their farms to cities in the U.S. and Mexico has exploded. What cruel force is so powerful that it can drive fathers and mothers to leave their children and the bucolic life, the only one they have known, to trek across vast deserts? Let us be honest. They are not coming to vote for millionaire tax cuts and environmental deregulation. The facts are that the international trade agreements, NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO have suffocated subsistence farmers. In the past their oppressive governments, supported by U.S. foreign policy, bled the poor, but at least allowed their hosts to survive.  Now the masses’ only survival option is to risk a perilous migration, work in the most grueling industries, and suffer employer intimidation for sparse wages. These economic refugees are the fuel for the globalization engine for cheap goods and cheaper labor, regardless of the human cost. The world’s only superpower must use the obscene corporate profits and force the ruling elites to rebalance the social contract. President Kennedy proposed the Alliance for Progress by stating, "The money will be used to combat illiteracy, improve the productivity and use of their land, wipe out disease, attack archaic tax and land-tenure structures, provide educational opportunities, and offer a broad range of projects designed to make the benefits of increasing abundance available to all." International corporate agri-business derides "Free Trade" and crushes the livelihood of our Southern neighbors at our peril.

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