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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

June, 2006

 

Border Frenzy
By Edward W. Miller, M.D.

"Shut the door, they're coming through the window. Shut the window, they're coming through the door"
(Song by Mann-et al . Recorded in London, 6/2/34 )

Over the past months a campaign of racism, laced with terrorism threats has been spawned in the media regarding the millions of illegal immigrants still coming across our southern border. This brouhaha has also been encouraged by those Republicans who, upset over Bush's poor showing in the polls, are eager to get their failed Afghan and Iraqi wars out of the headlines. Responding to this non-crisis, and to the millions who marched in American cities supporting the immigrants, our President on May 15th in a rare Oval Office address to the American people outlined "four proposals" he would welcome included in the forthcoming congressional Bills being debated in both House and Senate.
The Bush proposals: 1) Deploy 6,000 National Guard soldiers at our border with Mexico, to be replaced with Border Patrol Agents as they are trained. Increased funding for detention facilities, extended barriers, roads and surveillance equipment. 2) Create a "guest worker program" with visas for temporary workers, particularly seasonal agricultural laborers. 3) Create a program to allow eventual legal residency status and citizenship for some of the 1.2 million illegal immigrants presently in the US, 4) "Tamper-proof" identification cards to help assure both workers and their employers of the legality of their status. (San Francisco Chronicle 16 May 2006)

Bush avoided comment on the House Bill passed on Dec. 16, 2005 which would criminalize both illegal immigrants and their families as well as their American employers, and rebuffed Bush's entreaties to include avenues for foreign workers to gain legal

employment. Under the House bill, employers would have to confirm the authenticity of an employee's Social Security number against a national database or face fines of as much as $25,000 per violation. The bill passed 239/182, with 36 Democrats joining 203 Republicans to vote yes. As the Washington Post reported: (17 Dec., 2005) the House Bill "was adamantly opposed by an unusual coalition of business lobbies; ethnic groups, such as the National Council of La Raza; religious organizations; and labor unions that contend the measure is too harsh on illegal immigrants and imposes unworkable requirements on employers." A Senate version, co-authored by McCain and Kennedy is being discussed.

The ongoing immigrant frenzy is nothing new. America's history records bitter campaigns against one immigrant group after another: the Irish, the Chinese, the Polish Jew and the Japanese (60% of the Japanese interned in WW II prison camps were American citizens.) Back in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act banned immigration of all Chinese males. Chinese females had already been excluded. In 1902 Congress excluded all Chinese indefinitely, a ban not lifted until 1943.

Some may remember President Reagan's campaign to: "Free Jobs for Americans," when 6,000 illegal immigrants were forcibly seized, deported and their then-available jobs widely advertised. However, when Americans discovered the working conditions would be ($3.25/hour for a 50-hour week), they walked away in disgust. In every case we have looked back at our behavior with shame, but our collective conscience has often required years before attempts at reparation were undertaken. When the Japanese left the camps, the government granted them $25 per person or $50 per family plus train fare home. In 1948, Congress made partially personal compensation of $20,000 to each surviving prisoner.

In a more recent example, reported from Sacramento on September 7th, 2005 by Steve Lawrence (Assoc. Press): State Senator, Joseph L. Dunn, (D. Garden Grove) responding another dark, little-known chapter in American history, had established a state fund to pay reparations to survivors of a massive deportation of Hispanics in the 1930's, during the Hoover Administration. Senator Dunn noted in the background sheet for his three Bills (SB 645, SB 670 and SB 1500): "With the massive rise in unemployment, the state and federal government focused its effort on the "immigration problem," specifically the Mexican population, as a scapegoat for the nation's ills during the Great Depression. After decades of encouraging Mexican immigration to the United StatesÉ The United States Government in close cooperation with states, cities and counties, undertook an aggressive and illegal program to remove nearly two million people of Mexican descent from the United States. Most of the involuntary deportees were either US citizens or immigrants in this country legally. The deportees were rounded up in large groups, put on locked and crowded train cars that rode them across the border, abandoning them in the rural interior of Mexico.

Others were removed by intimidation. "Dunn's three bills recognize the illegal deportation, establish a commission to review facts and initiate a reparation fund for the few survivors who have returned to the US and number less than 5000.

Particularly in times of depression when jobs are scarce, some politicians have resorted to racial immigration issues, which have at times threatened to bring our "melting pot" to a boil. Many remember that in the mid 1990s, political groups, championed by

Governor Pete Wilson, bombarded Californians with a campaign of lies to support Proposition 187 which undermined the medical and educational programs for immigrants. Proposition 187 has never been fully implemented because of court and legislative

challenges, was followed by Washington's miserable Immigration Bill and an equally vicious Anti-Terrorist Bill.

Since the beginning of history, people have emigrated to foreign lands to escape wars, famines, religious persecution, economic depressions or just to give themselves and their children a better life. Religious persecution brought us the Pilgrims. A potato famine and English colonialism, the Irish, while political upheaval in Europe before and after W.W.I brought the Polish and Russian Jews.

Washington's political and military meddling in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, our military devastations of Korea and then Vietnam, and our bombing destruction of those ancient kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia forced thousands of these people to seek asylum in the United States. Our ongoing drug war against the indigenous Indians of Columbia plus our pesticide spraying (a replay of Vietnam) is today edging those people north into the US. Add to these tragedies those maquiladoras in Mexico where a slave population, underpaid by multinational corporations, labor 12 to 14 hours a day, and exist in the squalor of plywood and corrugated-tin housing of dirt floors and open sewers, where children, denied a decent education, sleep three to four to a bed, arising to play in streets of alternate dust and mud.

The perception that we can change history and exclude from our shores those seeking a better life here is an insanity. We have thousands of miles of shoreline plus extensive borders with both Canada and Mexico. Today, San Diego County's fifteen foot steel fences topped with razor- wire, patrolled by police and the military, with dogs, helicopters, infrared detectors and even satellite surveillance have shifted the border crossings east into the Arizona desert where those who don't make it die of thirst amongst the mesquite. While the Coast Guard patrols our coastal waters day and night, container cargoes of bodies dead of heat and oxygen lack arrive in our ports. Corpses of drowned Cubans float ashore onto our southern beaches, while to our north, native Iroquois Indians are charging $700 a head to shepherd refugees across from Canada.

According more recent statistics (fiscal year 2002-04 ) from the Homeland Security Office of Immigrant Statistics (HSOIS), total non-immigrant admission to the US was over 30 million, 23 million for pleasure, 4.5 million on business, 22 seasonal agriculture workers (H-2A) and seasonal non-agriculture workers, 86,968. In the year 2000, again according to the Urban Institute, 36 percent of immigrants (11 million people) were legally documented, 32 percent (9.9 million) were naturalized citizens, 28 percent (8.5 million) were undocumented, and 4 percent (1.3 million) were "legal non-immigrants" (such as students or temporary workers).

As of 2000, the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants was from Mexico (54 percent). Other sources include El Salvador, Guatemala, Canada, Haiti, and the Philippines. Recent estimates by the US Department of Labor suggest that approximately 1.3 million US citizens migrate between states, working in the agricultural industry. There are now between 9 million and 11 million undocumented people according to the 2000 US census living within the United States.

In 1996, SF Chronicle columnist Jonathan Marshall reported that, with such extremes of wealth and poverty at the US-Mexican border," whenever the peso fell, each decrease in Mexican wages resulted in an eight percent jump in illegal border crossing.

Increased enforcement along the US-Mexico border, which now costs more than $2.5 billion annually, has not decreased unauthorized immigration, according to a 2002 study by the Public Policy Institute of California. Instead, which study found the number of unauthorized immigrants is increasing. Responding to those manufactured fears of "terrorist attacks" by Bush's Homeland Security crowd in Washington, plus the present economic chaos in Mexico produced by NAFTA and maquilladora jobs being transferred to China, 12,000 Border Patrol Agents are already serving on our Southwest border with Mexico.

Washington's "fear campaign" has also encouraged well over 7,000 US citizens to volunteer as MINUTEMEN to help keep aliens from entering the US illegally. New Mexico's Hispanic Governor Bill Richardson and Arizona's Governor Janet Napolitano added to the Washington "fear agenda" by declaring states of emergency saying that countless pleas to the Bush Administration and in particular, the Department of Homeland Security had "gone unanswered" while reporting that: "A total of 469 people were kidnapped in 2004, and 47 Americans are still missing, while their abductors are demanding ransom in excess of $100 million."

Political corruption in Mexico under more than 70 years of PRI Party reign, with privatization scams, reduced subsidies for Mexican farmers, plus the economic deprivations encouraged by NAFTA have brought economic collapse to Mexico. President Clinton had extended Salinas a $6.5 billion USD line of credit, followed ten months later with another Clinton bailout as the peso tumbled again. Under NAFTA the liberalization of corn and grain markets, supposed to be phased in gradually over fifteen years, was implemented within eighteen months. Mexico's national system of import tariffs and quotas was repealed while state assistance for farming equipment, seeds, and marketing was reduced.

Constitutional rights for communal land were changed to accommodate foreign investors and Mexico's biggest rural employment program was dismantled. NAFTA undermined Mexico's economy by opening the door to US Agribusiness, as our giant corporations flooded the Mexican market with millions of tons of soybeans, wheat and corn, made cheap by US taxpayer's "corporate welfare."

NAFTA thus undercut tens of thousands of Mexican farmers whose livelihood depended on selling their own crops at local markets. Impoverished, they fled to cities slums in search of jobs and failing, emigrated north to support their families. To make matters worse, as Mexico's major importer, our own economic slowdown is devastating Mexico's export market.

Meanwhile, US corn growing enterprises like Arthur Daniel Midlands, Inc. which receives 40 percent of its income from federal subsidies, now accounts for 25 percent of corn consumed in Mexico, having forced Mexican corn farmers to abandon growing for local markets. Thus Mexico has gone from producing most of its food for domestic consumption to importing 40 percent, primarily from the US. Writer David Morris (MITF Spring 2006) points out that "NAFTA succeeded on its own terms. Trade volume soared from 30% of Mexico's GDP in 1990 to 55% in 2005. Foreign investment soared 225% and while worker productivity rose 60% from 1995 to 2003, real wages declined by 5% and are lower today than when NAFTA took effect."

When J.B. Penn, US under secretary for agriculture, visited India last year he was given a message by India's trade minister, Kamal Nath that Washington should heed. Kamal warned that: "Importing food was as good as importing unemployment," adding: "We can open up markets as requested by Penn, provided the US is willing to provide a visa to every farmer displaced as a consequence of the import of cheaper and highly subsidized food,'' -Dec. 13, 2005 Devinder Sharma, NEW DELHI

We Americans might well learn from our European friends. Before the wealthier EU nations admitted economically-disadvantaged Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland to their Union, EU countries invested hundreds of billions of dollars to raise the living standards of these poorer four, so that with their EU open border policy, the richer nations would not be inundated with economic refugees. It worked! Morris (MITF-Spring 2006) reports that this EU effort boosted the per capita GPT of those four countries from 65% of EU average to 78%. He notes that in Mexico, " In the maquiladora sector which accounts for most exports, 97% of components are imported, only 3% produced in Mexico, so the spillover effect... on the broader economy is limited." Morris adds: "The only thing keeping the wolf from Mexico's door" is the migration safety net , noting that in 2005 Mexicans in the US remitted home some $20 billion dollars.

In addition to taking our Agri-Business millionaires off corporate welfare, we should offer Mexico a Marshall Plan with a government-enforced "living wage" for Maquiladora workers.

Socially- sensitive foreign investment would, in the long run, prove less expensive in terms of dollars, human lives, and flawed relationships with our southern neighbors, than our hunkering down behind an expensive and failing Maginot Line, supported by voluntary militias and now, a National Guard.

Mexico's President Vincenti Fox, who violently rejects Bush's trained killers, (our National Guard) at his border, is presently suing nine multinational corporations in the WTO for receiving illegal agricultural subsidies from their governments. Fox charges "Dumping" i.e. selling their products at below production costs, which "corporate welfare" makes possible. The New Zealand Herald reported ( Feb. 10, 2003) that the Bush administration, its talks with Mexico having failed, was bracing for lawsuits by Mexico aimed at whittling away at US Agribusiness subsidies.

The Golden Rule is not only a humane but an economic statement. Americans should turn off the light in Miss Liberty's torch and inscribe in large letters on her base: "I've got mine, to hell with you," until we relearn our often-forgotten lesson.



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