Sunday, June 24, 2007

Along the border

By way of introduction, my friend Manny doesn't get nearly the blog traffic he deserves, especially when it comes to thoroughly and passionately covering one of the more pressing human rights crises of our times:
A deadly week in the Sonoran Desert
Border Patrol agents have found five dead illegal border crossers since Monday, including two Thursday in the Interstate 19 corridor.

The U.S. Border Patrol rescued an illegal immigrant Tuesday trapped in a 30-foot-deep well on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

The woman had climbed down to find water for her sister and her three nieces.

The five had been walking through the desert with four others for several days when the 29-year-old woman, her sister and her sister's daughters, age 6, 10 and 16, stopped because they had run out of water and were too weak to continue in the 112-degree heat, said Border Patrol spokesman Sean King.

Five women making their way to El Norte - only to find that the promised land was only a mirage. Instead of prosperity, what they found was dehydration; instead of survival, they were met with bee stings and anaphylactic shock.
Lost in the discussion of the influx of undocumented workers crossing the US-Mexico border is the influence of NAFTA (pushed through Congress during the first year of the Clinton regime), along with the draconian policies of WTO, IMF, and World Bank (glorified loan sharks):

In Mexico, “Poverty has risen by over 50 percent during the first four years of NAFTA and wages in the manufacturing sector have declined,” reports the Data Center.

A 2004 report published by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means states that “At least 1.5 million Mexican farmers lost their livelihoods to NAFTA.” The situation is only expected to worsen in 2008 when Mexico is required to comply with a NAFTA deadline to totally eliminate its corn and bean import tariffs. Many policy experts predicted that farmers displaced by NAFTA would migrate to the United States.

Indeed, a comparison of U.S. censuses of 1990 and 2000 shows “the number of Mexican-born residents in the United States increased by more than 80 percent,” states Jeff Faux in “How NAFTA Failed Mexico,” The American Prospect (July 3, 2003.) “Some half-million Mexicans come to the United States every year; roughly 60 percent of them are undocumented. The massive investments in both border guards and detection equipment have not diminished the migrant flow; they have just made it more dangerous. More than 1,600 Mexican migrants have died on the journey to the north.”

While NAFTA is responsible for the latest “migration hump,” it is not the sole culprit. Practices by bodies like the World Trade Organization, “along with the programs dictated by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, have helped double the gap between rich and poor countries since 1960,” reports Noam Chomsky in The Nation. The ensuing foreign debt deprives these countries from accumulating capital to develop competitive industries and has lead to mass migration northward.

After NAFTA was passed by Congress in 1992, “the agreement raised concerns in the United States about immigration from south of the border,” according to “NAFTA, The Patriot Act and the New Immigration Backlash” by the American Anthropological Association. To counter the predicted influx of Latin Americans, President Bill Clinton signed The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. “The 1996 Welfare Reform bill included anti-immigrant and other measures that eliminated many social services for undocumented immigrants,” the report states. The current ICE raids are a result of these long term policies.

More recently the ethanol boom has further pushed Mexican (and Guatamalan) families to the starvation point, as the price of corn has skyrocketed. With nowhere to turn, folks make the dangerous trek through the Sonoran Desert in order to find work and to feed families. On that note, I'll close with a few more words from my amigo, Manny:
Until enough people "Get It" that the magnetic force of migration is due to utter desperation - the darkest night of the soul - the inner-most circles of mental hell - and not just some American™-prismed view that border-crossers don't respect our laws, then the deaths will continue unabated.

Imagine a situation where you had absolutely nothing. The system had completely screwed you and your family out of livelihood. Do you do what you need to do to survive? Or do you just give up?

I respect those who choose to cross the barren lands of their ancestors because they have chosen to live.

If you have some discretionary funds, please consider sending a donation to No More Deaths and Humane Borders - two organizations that understand that there is a disastrous human rights crisis occurring everyday in the Sonoran Desert. They are providing water stations and dignity to the victims of this economic war.

Your support is truly the difference between life and death. Especially now that the summer has arrived with a vengeance.

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