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Inequality, Mexico and Immigration
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November 13, 2007, 02:52 PM
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Laura Carlsen writes at Americas Program, Center for International Policy:

The concentration of power and wealth has led to Mexico`s status as one of the most unequal nations on earth. NAFTA is not working for Mexicans—not as a development model, or even an economic model that can be sustained into the near future.

To enter into an agreement that failed to take into account the needs of vulnerable sectors of the Mexican economy and then wash our hands of the consequences is not only unfair, it entails consequences for the United States as well. Uncontrollable immigration is one of them. Although immigration is an integral component of globalization, it violates human rights when people no longer have the option of staying home and are deemed criminals in the receiving country. ….. Much of the U.S. debate on immigration has reflected a stinging backlash against Mexicans that deepens animosity and conflict. But common problems and shared responsibilities require working together and seeing the whole picture—not as an "us-against-them" scenario but as a complex and highly integrated region of persons with equal rights and similar aspirations. [NAFTA, Inequality and Immigration, November 6, 2007]

Every transfer of a green card is the granting of something with an economic value of $225,000 or more. If such grants are not accompanied by benefits to the existing US citizenry—or motivated by a clear moral mandate they share, such grants will be perceived and treated as theft and crime.

I agree NAFTA has been largely bad for Mexico`s poor. I also would suggest NAFTA and the resulting immigration have been bad for America`s poor-and economic inequality has also been growing in the US. We need to look at a range of solutions that solve problems in both countries.

Saying that illegal immigrants have no option to stay in Mexico is a bit hyperbolic. Mexico is an average country compared to the rest of the world. Most Mexicans never come to the US or attempt to do so. Where I think illegal immigration is politically important is that it has provided a way for Mexican elites to get their most ambitious and least content citizens out of their country—and force a wealthier neighbor to deal with them. We have a lot of armchair leftists in the US—but Mexico has a real and recent history of revolutions. If Mexican elites didn`t have the "safety valve" of illegal immigration, they would be facing serious problems at home—and frankly they largely have themselves to blame.

We need solutions here that contain economic inequality in both the US and Mexico—and for the US that means containing immigration has to be part of the package. I also think this will also be much easier if we create a rapidly expanding, technically competitive economy in the US. If we can get that, I sincerely hope we in the US can be cooperative with a Mexican government or political movements that are aspiring for something compatible.