From the May 2006 Idaho Observer:
Invasion of the campesinos!
In 2001, President Bush announced his intention to declare amnesty for the then estimated 7 million Mexicans living illegally in the U.S. Almost immediately thereafter, as if on cue, the numbers of illegal crossings increased dramatically. Since the well-organized, well-attended and well-publicized pro-amnesty demonstrations of March 30 and May 1, 2006, a new surge of illegal crossings is being reported. The first law of investigative journalism is "follow the money." The first rule of problem solving is correctly identifying its "cause(s)." In the case of illegal immigration, we have a rapidly increasing population of Spanish-speaking people invading our country and openly expressing their allegiance to the country they just fled. Because the fourth branch of government (the corporate media) is setting the rules of public discourse on the subject, we are cleverly mind-manipulated into choosing sides: We are either in favor of amnesty or against amnesty. Regardless of whether we are "for" or "against" amnesty, our opinions are worthless because we’ve just taken a stand on an effect of the problem—not its cause. The following article, which addresses the cause of the campesino invasion, began with the question, "What could be causing millions of poor Mexican people to flee the place of their birth for a better life in America?" Researching the answer to that question revealed introduced us to Article 27.
In 2001, President Bush announced his intention to declare amnesty for the then estimated 7 million Mexicans living illegally in the U.S. Almost immediately thereafter, as if on cue, the numbers of illegal crossings increased dramatically. Since the well-organized, well-attended and well-publicized pro-amnesty demonstrations of March 30 and May 1, 2006, a new surge of illegal crossings is being reported.
The first law of investigative journalism is "follow the money." The first rule of problem solving is correctly identifying its "cause(s)." In the case of illegal immigration, we have a rapidly increasing population of Spanish-speaking people invading our country and openly expressing their allegiance to the country they just fled. Because the fourth branch of government (the corporate media) is setting the rules of public discourse on the subject, we are cleverly mind-manipulated into choosing sides: We are either in favor of amnesty or against amnesty. Regardless of whether we are "for" or "against" amnesty, our opinions are worthless because we’ve just taken a stand on an effect of the problem—not its cause. The following article, which addresses the cause of the campesino invasion, began with the question, "What could be causing millions of poor Mexican people to flee the place of their birth for a better life in America?" Researching the answer to that question revealed introduced us to Article 27.
by Don Harkins
The "illegal immigration" issue, which has been a growing problem for years, is suddenly frontpage news. But the controversy is being manipulated by the media so that American citizens have no recourse but to respond to the effects of the illegal immigration problem because they have not been provided with the information necessary to understand its cause.
The same can be said of the poorest of the Mexican working class streaming into the U.S.—their desperate flight from the land of their birth is their response to the effects of a problem. The difference is they are powerless to address its cause and have no recourse but to seek opportunities elsewhere.
The cause is the backroom deals that led to the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that went into effect January 1, 1994.
Mexico is a country of about 105 million. Estimates of undocumented Mexican nationals currently in the U.S. range from 11 million to 30 million. The figure is scandalous for two reasons: 1. Our best guesses of the undocumented (illegal) population in the U.S., during "wartime," are equal to a hole big enough for 19 million people and; 2. The conditions in Mexico are such that 10 percent to 30 percent of her total population has already left.
Making matters worse for both the American people and the impoverished Mexicans are the policies of the U.S. and Mexican governments, which are promoting the exodus south of the border and escalating social tensions north of the border.
The NAFTA playing field
Many groups formed in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to oppose NAFTA during the Bush I administration when it was introduced. The opposition did not have enough lobbying power to prevent the Clinton-era passage of NAFTA, but its proponents in government and industry promised that "free trade" would benefit workers, consumers and businesses. But, 12 years later, we can see that workers and consumers have not benefited from the arrangement and the only businesses that have prospered are large corporations.
NAFTA is a huge document. The treaty itself is 741 pages with 348 pages of annexes and 619 pages of footnotes. Few people besides the authors and their attorneys have ever read the 1,708-page NAFTA text. At the time of its passage through the U.S. House and Senate, it was common knowledge that the politicians who voted for it had not read the text in its entirety, nor could they have understood it’s devilish details even if they had taken the time to read it.
Following are a few general concessions that were agreed upon prior to NAFTA being ratified by the member nations:
1. All three NAFTA nations drop restrictions on agricultural imports.
2. Government subsidies for small farmers—dropped.
3. Government subsidies for multi-national, multi-$billion agribusiness corporations—encouraged.
4. The tenets of the agreement would supersede national environmental and labor laws; disputes were to be settled by a NAFTA tribunal and private corporations would be allowed to sue national and local governments in this pro-NAFTA forum.
The effects of NAFTA
Between 1995 and 2002, the U.S. lost 38,310 small farms. Between 1996 and 2001, Canada lost 11 percent of its family farms. In both the U.S. and Canada, agribusinesses such as Arthur Daniels Midland, Carghill and Monsanto have prospered substantially.
The cost of food to American consumers rose 22 percent between 1994 and 2002.
Because the import barriers had been lifted, agribusiness corn was dumped on Mexican markets at prices less than what it cost Mexican farmers to produce. This had a tremendous impact on Mexico; corn is to Mexico what rice is to China. The price of corn tortillas, the staple Mexican food, increased by 50 percent in the cities and more in rural areas. The prices paid to farmers for their produce decreased by 70 percent.
Unable to make a living any longer, an estimated 1.8 million Mexican farmers and their families were forced to flee their lands and seek employment in the cities. Mexico, which has been growing corn to feed its people since time began, has traditionally raised more than 40 varieties of corn. These heirloom varieties of corn are in the process of being lost as agribusiness is replacing them with monocultured, genetically-modified, nutritionally-deficient varieties that can produce higher yields at less cost.
In order for the NAFTA treaty to be ratified, the Mexican government made a critical concession: It repealed Article 27 of its Constitution. This concession is, arguably, the lead domino that was politically-tipped to trigger the current exodus of illegals into the U.S.
Article 27, which was part of Mexico’s post-revolutionary Constitution of 1917, broke up the hacienda system under which most of Mexico’s arable land had been owned by a few wealthy families/absentee landlords who traditionally treated their campesinos (peasant workers) like 16th century European serfs. Article 27 allowed a Mexican subsistence, small plot-owning, family-farming class to emerge.
Then President Salinas of Mexico repealed Article 27 in 1994 to clear the way for Mexico’s participation in NAFTA. The repeal of Article 27 reopened the door for absentee landlords to acquire Mexican farmland. Since NAFTA made it impossible for these subsistence farmers to compete against agribusiness, they lost their land. As the land has come available, it has been purchased by agribusiness.
Prior to the implementation of NAFTA, the "Zapatistas" attempted to resist what was seen as the corporate takeover of Mexico. Though the uprising is ongoing, it was effectively put down by the Mexican military.
NAFTA destroyed and displaced the Mexican subsistence farmer class, forcing a flood of rural people off their land and into the cities to seek employment. The resultant increase in the labor pool caused the price of labor to go down, attracting widget-producing corporations in the U.S. to move production to Mexico. "Maquiladoras," large expanses of factories, popped up along the U.S./ Mexican border. The living and working conditions of these places are horrible and are accurately depicted in Michael Moore’s infamous film "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The economics of this NAFTA-created system demands that young children must leave school and go to work so families can earn enough to survive in squalor.
In 1999 the Border Committee of Woman Workers in Mexico reported that, since 1994, manufacturing wages had fallen by 20 percent according to official figures. Furthermore, a study by the Economics Faculty of the Autonomous University of Mexico found that Mexican salaries have lost 81 percent of their buying power in the last 20 years.
Meanwhile, under the tenets of NAFTA, even if the Mexican government wanted to improve the wages and working conditions of its people or protect its own environment from toxic degradation, the NAFTA tribunal, under Chapter 11 of the agreement, sides in favor of business, as in the Metalclad case. "Bill Moyers Reports: Trading Democracy" [Feb., 2002] provides an excellent overview of how NAFTA member governments are powerless to protect their people or the environment from corporate polluters and labor pool abusers.
NAFTA is THE reason why millions of Mexicans have fled to the U.S. If the situation were reversed, NAFTA would be THE reason millions of Americans would be fleeing their native land for Mexico (or Canada).
Heading for civil war
It is evident that political leaders on both sides of the border have more allegiance to the corporations whose greed-driven business practices have adversely affected the internal order of Mexico to such an extreme that at least 11 million Mexican nationals have sought refuge in the U.S.—adding to the 35.3 million documented Latinos already living here legally. At this time, there is no political or media pressure being placed on corporations operating under NAFTA to engage in honorable business practices, observe ethical labor relations or abide environmental laws. In fact, the opposite appears to be true: As corporations prosper under NAFTA, they become more powerful and more abusive of people and environments.
In other words, the problem of illegal immigration will continue until everyone in Mexico (and other Latin American countries) with a desire to immigrate has done so or America erupts in civil war—whichever comes first.
We are being goaded into civil war. Mexican nationalism is being financed by the U.S. government through education, entitlement programs and its refusal to take the drastic measures necessary to round up illegals, send them home and close the borders. Mexican nationalism is being promoted by the corporate broadcast and print media which have cast the well-organized and well-attended nationwide March 30 and May Day pro-amnesty rallies in favorable light. Conversely, those well-intended Americans who believe that entering our country illegally is a criminal act are characterized as racist, discompassionate and intolerant.
The circumstances described above are giving these generally simple, poorly educated, historically-disenfranchised peasant-class people a sense of safety—and political power—in their phenomenally large numbers. The energy generated when large numbers of people are all going the same direction is now being harvested by militant Hispanics demanding Aztlan (the southwest U.S.) be returned to Hispanic control. Curiously, though the fact that more and more Mexicans are joining the Aztlan chorus is an obvious threat to national security, state and federal law enforcement appear to been "standing down" for years. We have no alternative but to believe that these socially-divisive and national security-threatening activities are being conducted with the tacit, if not active, approval of the highest offices in U.S. government.
We should be proud and supportive of the Minutemen, American Patrol and the other groups of American citizens who have formed neighborhood watches and committees of safety to protect each other, each other’s property and national security from foreign invaders. We should also have compassion for the millions of nonviolent, hardworking people forced to flee their country.
The people aren’t the problem here. Common people, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, generally desire only to have a decent life and a safe place to raise their children. The current crisis is being engineered by those who exploit, rather than honor, the simple needs of common people. American workers and Mexican workers alike, are pawns in this Orwellian "free-trade" game and are equally expendable.
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