Delegation to Mexico
Topics: NAFTA -- Immigration -- Corn
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In the United States we think of Mexican immigration as being from Mexico to the United States, but, in fact, there are two types, internal immigration from the countryside to the cities, and immigration to the United States. Both types have many of the same causes, and both have increased in the last dozen years since NAFTA came into effect.
What are the causes?
As tarrifs on corn and other agricultural products produced by Mexico have decreased, imports of these products from the U.S. has increased. It is not only that large agro-businesses in the U.S. can grow some products more cheaply on larger plots of land, but that the U.S. subsidizes farming by making payments to farmers of billions of dollars. Mexican subsidies to farmers exist, but on a much smaller scale, and they are decreasing. The result has been the displacement of 1.5 million farmers who can not compete with lower priced imports from U.S. producers. In theory, these lost jobs were to have been replaced by manufactoring jobs, as the U.S. dropped tariffs on Mexican manufactored goods, giving Mexico an advantage due to cheaper labor costs. In actuality, Mexico has had a net loss of more than a million jobs. And the new jobs don't pay as well as the old ones.
Farmers leave the countryside and flock to the city. But there are not enough jobs in the city, and the result is that employers can pay ever lower wages. Mexico's "advantage" for free trace was cheap labor, but cheap labor is not an advantage for the laborers, but only for their employers.
Furthermore, as more free trade agreements are negotiated with other parts of the world Mexico has seen the same result as had previously occurred in the U.S. Manufactorers left the country for other areas of the world where labor was even cheaper, such as China, India and Vietnam. Of the factory jobs that were created after NAFTA, a third have since been lost. Without provisions in the treaties to ensure that factory workers are paid a living wage in whatever country they work, there is nothing to stop this "race to the bottom" where workers are paid less and less.
The loss of their livlihood in the countryside, migration to the cities, and not enough or lost jobs in the cities, create the conditions that make migration to the United States a matter of survival rather than choice.
Migration, within Mexico and to the U.S., has doubled since NAFTA was implemented in 1994.
At the same time, funding for border patrols has increased. Eleven thousand Border Patrol agents patrol 2000 miles of borders. This has not caused any decrease in immigration, but it has made it more dangerous. It has caused immigrants to enter through though dangerous desert land that is not so heavily patrolled. In the past seven years 3000 people have lost their lives attempting to enter the U.S., 460 in 2005 alone.
For more information, see: www.lawg.org .