We have spent billions trying to prevent people who live to the south from coming to the United States, which they all do because they are desperate for even the slightest opportunity to earn enough money to survive on. The only time we were successful in reversing their immigration was when opportunity was relatively better in their home countries, and it became preferable to be there.
But we are fighting the wrong battle, because letting in a lot of new immigrants, of whatever level of skills or education, would be highly beneficial to us. Our present demographics will cause real problems with our national budget as the mass of Boomers retires. Increased immigration would help redress this economic imbalance, as Robert Reich points out, by providing a new source of tax revenue and workers to replace those who are retiring.
New immigrants would be highly beneficial to the US.
But a reversal of our ugly treatment of Spanish-speaking immigrants, on whom we depend heavily, and who we should be thankful for, seems unlikely at the present time, regardless of the fact that it is stupid and bigoted from the first. So the most effective way to keep the millions of desperate souls from the south out, assuming we are unable to act in our own interest, is to make it possible for them to survive at home. That is, make it possible for them to earn a living in their own countries. Almost all of them undertake the long, costly, and dangerous trip to El Norte because it is not. And we want to prevent them from coming despite the fact that such a policy will hurt us. That makes no more sense than a dozen of our other policies.
Why are they so poor to begin with? There are many reasons, beginning with a history of European exploitation during days of colonization that even today funnels money into the accounts of a few very rich families. There is a long history of exploitation of the people and removal of wealth through corporate activities and things like the political awarding of monopoly rights. In other words, much of the poverty in countries to the south was caused by our greed.
Much of the poverty in countries to the south
was caused by our greed.
Latin America has woken up to this injustice, and is about midway through the process of shaking off the yoke of US imperialism, neoliberalism, and hegemony. Newer Latin American economic cooperative efforts explicitly exclude the US from their organizations. In some cases, countries have simply refused to pay punitive national debts they were suckered into by the IMF, after which their economies began to recover. In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa has set the country on an economic course that will specifically benefit the people rather than corporate capitalist powers. Several other southern presidents have done similar things, following the lead of Venezuela’s newly deceased and beloved president, Hugo Chávez. Each time the southern countries seize control of their own economy—their own destiny—the Important Money Powers in the US object and predict terrible consequences, none of which ever happen.
It’s an uphill battle to get the US to help these countries overcome their legacy of exploitation from all sides, because corporate capitalism in the US is the main offender, and capitalism virtually owns our politicians. US money powers would prefer that the Latin poor continue to support US corporate wealth.
But if it’s important to keep southern immigrants out of the US (and of course it’s not; the opposite is true), helping them to ease the poverty of their own people is the easiest way to do it, because fences and border patrols have been wildly unsuccessful in the face of their desperation.
If it’s important to keep
southern immigrants out of the US,
easing their poverty is the easiest way to do it.
Listing the causes for Latin American poverty, as I have done above, is very nearly the prescription for its cure. Here are the things these countries must do: Reject the hegemony and control demanded by US neoliberal corporate interests. Void or refuse to honor exploitative laws imposed by foreign powers. Void all laws awarding monopolies to individuals or families. Establish a national policy of improving the lives of the people, with a constellation of laws designed to accomplish this. Renegotiate the utilization of all natural resources so that the bulk of their benefits improves the lives of the people, rather than foreign corporations. If necessary, nationalize industries such as oil or mineral extraction, and distribute nearly all of the profit to benefit the people. Use national wealth to help the people obtain health care, education, and savings for old age.
There is another step we could take: void NAFTA. Although we didn’t adequately foresee the terrible result of the NAFTA arrangement, it caused havoc in several countries. This occurred because the agreement was supposed to promote free trade, but what actually happened was that subsidized US crops flooded southern markets, destroying the livelihood of millions of farmers. That’s not free trade, and in fact literal free trade is inherently impossible. The worst hit was Mexico, but Haiti was also affected, as were others. NAFTA should be invalidated, and no new so-called Free Trade agreements made, because such agreements are always manipulated by the more economically powerful interests for their own benefit. Free Trade is never actually free.