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March 2005
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Immigration and justice

On April 1, American vigilantes will begin patrolling US/Mexico border areas in an effort to stem the increasing wave of immigrants from Latin America, according to Newsweek. Despite massive funding and personnel increases for border patrol, the article reports, illegal immigration has risen sharply over the past few years. Disputes between the US and Mexico regarding the status of illegal workers frequently strain relations between the two, with the Mexican government fearing human rights violations (this is not without a bit of irony), and the US healthcare and legal systems overwhelmed by illegal residents, to say nothing of the xenophobic terror their presence causes for people with small brains.

My current reading includes Paul Farmer’s brilliant Pathologies of Power; his work explores systemic injustice and its effects on the poor, especially in terms of basic human rights. Farmer has lived and worked as a physician in Haiti among the poor for over twenty years, and his vision of Latin America is piercing. The dehumanization of neoliberal thought, which has been blamed by many in Latin America for the increase in suffering and poverty, is one of his many well-articulated insights.

Farmer shows how neoliberal thinking ultimately constructs society as a machine and people as simply component parts; they are assigned value based on their production and contribution to this system, and there is no place for the poor. Furthermore, the “bottom line” triumphs over ethical concerns. This portrait shows capitalism at its cruelest and most oppressive, utterly unconcerned over the effects of globalization on the poor.

The US has been responsible for much political and economic suffering in Latin America, funding repressive governments, arming terrorists, enforcing trade embargoes, and, in terms of corporations, callously coming and going in search of ever-cheaper labor so that wealthier North Americans can continue their orgy of materialism. Urbanization in Latin America has brought with it stratospheric unemployment rates and social unrest. An El Salvadoran bishop pointed out that poverty has increased in his country through the presence of multinational corporations, despite the fact that they offer employment. The reason for this is that inflation bursts into bloom when a multinational corporation impacts an economy, and prices rise to the point that people can no longer afford electricity and food. Another problem is that such corporations contribute to economic instability by their refusal to negotiate any sort of contract with governments. If they find a cheaper labor source, they pack up and move. For people who have left their village land to seek employment in urban centers, this is devastating, and they have no recourse.

Given this suffering that we, in the national sense, are responsible for, should there be so much frenzy over illegal immigration? We, after all, are in many ways the cause of the poverty, suffering, and unrest in Latin America.


Comment from liz
Time: March 30, 2005, 4:52 pm

The only reason why there’s all this frenzy over illegal immigration is because people don’t want to extend to others what they’ve been given. The problem at hand is that it’d probably destroy our economy if we opened our doors completely. I’m not completely for these tight immigration laws, but what good does it do to allow these immigrants to come in if there are no official jobs for them? I mean, there’s always migrant work, and there always will be migrant farmers, but I almost feel that encouraging this kind of immigration and border crossing fosters the idea that it’s okay that migrant farmers have no rights. That it’s okay that these people continue to live this lifestyle, without concrete education, without health benefits. (But then again, they don’t pay taxes, so that’s a tough call…)

Anyway. Deep thoughts, as usual. :)

Comment from Simon
Time: March 30, 2005, 6:51 pm

Okay, nothing to do with imigration, just a note to say that I installed the stuff you and I spoke about, and it’s working great. So I am sending you a big Northwestern hug and kiss as we’re both Northwesterners (albeit I was born in the southest, but lets gloss over that).