By Laura Miller
No matter what your opinion on Arizona’s immigration law, Laura Miller makes the point that immigration is based on agricultural policy, both in the US and Mexico. ~ Ed.
With Arizona having passed the draconian Senate Bill 1070, sections of which were blocked by US District Judge Susan Bolton last July, it is high time to seriously think about why so many migrants are coming to the US from Mexico and Central America in the first place, which is something most US policymakers don’t want to talk about. And the reasons for them coming, more often than not, are rooted in agricultural policy, both in the US and abroad.
I had the privilege of traveling with the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First’s “Along the Immigrant Trail” reality tour in 2007. For eleven days, we traveled a southward “trail” throughout Mexico, from the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez binational metropolitan area, down to villages in Oaxaca (southern Mexico). In El Paso, Texas, we saw the hollowed-out skeletons of former factories; El Paso used to have hundreds of light manufacturing industries (particularly garment factories).
When the US, Canadian, and Mexican governments signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, those industries closed up shop and moved south of the border, where the labor is cheaper. Since 1994, El Paso has become an eerie contradiction of being an economic desert, surrounded by tomato and chili fields which have “jobs” for cheap migrant labor, and where beer is cheaper than water.
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