Global Village or Gated Community?
One thing is for sure: if you want to have political power in the United States, you cannot propose legalization of drugs, or a flexible immigration policy. Senator Dennis D. Concini (D. AZ.) discovered the former toward the end of his career at state attorney general when he suggested that decriminalization of drugs was the only intelligent policy for our nation.
He was approached by the spin doctors and told that while decriminalization might be intelligent policy it was not something that could be sold to the American people or to his fellow politicians. He quickly modified his views in time for the U.S. Senate race, and to this writer's knowledge, never raised the matter again.
President George W. Bush is discovering pressures from his own party (as well as Democrats) forcing him to backpedal on his accords with Mexican President Vicente Fox to follow through with the letter and the spirit of NAFTA and formalize procedures for Mexican workers coming north of the border. Despite Bush's personal belief in a dynamic inter-American economic and immigration policy, he has been told by his advisors to go slow.
Drugs and immigration are two areas in which "public opinion" has been mobilized by various pressure groups as well as government policy makers to essentially polarize the nation and insure that no rational accords will be developed. It is not in the self-interest of the DEA, the FBI, state and local law enforcement, DARE and other Law Enforcement Administration Program recipients to change the current policy on drugs. Nor is in the interest of the Federal
Department of Prisons, the state and county departments of corrections and their thousands of employees, to retreat from the present philosophy.
With the USSR out of the picture, mobilization of federal resources, Including the armed services, demands that there be some clear and present danger. Threats of not enough oil or too many drugs are acceptable solutions for armed intervention, whether in the Gulf of Persia or the mountains of Colombia.
The immigration policy is, of course, even more complex. Statistics are available on both sides of the question. Arguments can be made which tend to show that, while those in favor of reducing immigration are short-sighted, those in favor of a more open policy are ingenuous. But there is a rational path independent of the rhetoric and the equivocation of partisan-applied statistics.
The New York-based "Project USA" has a "Truthmobile" which goes around the country, appearing at local parades and festivals, putting banners on bridges, warning of the dangers of immigration. Their latest effort is a street-wide banner which reads: "In your 20s? Immigration will double U.S. population in your lifetime." The director of the project based this incendiary statement on the fact that the 2000 census showed the U.S. had a population increase of 13.2 percent over the past ten years, despite the fact that women born in the U.S. had a fertility rate of less than 2. Result: the increase in population was due to immigration and the higher birth rates among immigrant mothers, especially Mexicans. He went on to say that the rate of immigration wasthe highest its ever been in the history of the United States and that we were selling our birthright, degrading our cities, and destroying our heritage. He was immediately charged with being racist and the argument was mired downin name-calling and rhetoric.
A better approach would be to analyze his figures, determine what increase was a natural one for a developed nation, add that figure to the immigration figure, and that figure to minority births. This was not done. If it was we would be able to determine that immigration added less than a third to our population growth over the past ten years.
Rate of Immigration Less Now than 80 Years ago.
An even more useful statistic would be not the actual number of immigrants in any given period but the percentage of immigrants. By almost any reasoning or statistical analysis, the rate of immigration is not even close to being as high as its been percentage-wise in the past. In the 1840s when the population of the U.S. was about 20 million, there were 1,500,000 legal immigrants admitted to the U.S. The following decade, 3,000,000 came to our shores. Most of these immigrants were German and Irish and radically changed our schools, our churches, and our politics, and also created a backlash similar to that experienced by Mexicans today in California.
Between 1860 and 1900 some 14,000,000 immigrants were admitted to the United States, with 18,600,000 arriving between 1900 and 1930. In 1907 alone there were 1,280,000 legal immigrants to the U.S. Given the United States population during the 1900-1930 period, immigration accounted for about 1% of the U.S. population. Given today's population, immigration actually constitutes about .003%. As far as Mexicans are concerned, the IRS estimates that between 100,000 and 200,000 cross the border each year to reside permanently in the United States. The rest are seasonal workers who return home after the harvests.
While Mexicans might seem to be the most visible of these immigrants,this is largely due to the fact that the U.S. labels people from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Cuba and Puerto Rico (not to mention all South Americans) as "Latino." Thus, effectively substituting for a melange of diverse cultures and societies, a convenient "racial" envelope. Since Mexico is our closest "Latino" neighbor and the most visible in our news reports, these other immigrants are perceived as part of the same group. In fact, however, Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Guatemalans and El Salvadorians have come to the U.S. as refugees from bloodbaths and government reprisals due to American intervention in those countries. Cubans have come to the United States as part of an on-going public policy to embarrass Fidel Castro and hasten the end of his government. Puerto Ricans already have citizenship privileges in the United States and need no permits to enter the mainland. "Too many Mexicans" indeed!
The Economic Impact of Immigration
Immigration is one of the bases of economic growth for any nation, but more particularly for the United States. This is classical economics which even the most conservative of analysts accept. New workers increase the supply of goods and services with their labor, and they also increased the demand for goods and services as a result of their wages. This widening circle increases the wealth of all nations but especially the people within the host nation. It has worked very well for the United States for the past two centuries of its existence and will continue to do so. There may be short term job replacement in low level labor and services industries, but this is more than offset by the new jobs that immigrants create by their own work and earning. Their spending creates a increase in demand for groceries, housing, clothing, and the businesses which supply those commodities invest their expanding profits in new jobs and machinery. It is the cycle which has led to American economic growth and prosperity.
It is perhaps no accident that the lowest period of immigration in the United States was during the Great Depression. Fear, recession, unemployment provoke anti-immigration movements, and these in turn help put on the brakes which insures the slowdown of the economy. If anyone doubts the positive impact of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans on the U.S. economy today, I suggest reading the reports of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce as one of many examples of the millions of dollars that are poured into the U.S. economy by this particular group each year.
Immigration and Welfare
Several years ago the argument could be made that the impact of immigration on social service providers was a financial burden. However with the welfare reforms of 1996, this objection has not only melted away, it has actually provided some ammunition for the opposition. Undocumented workers in the United States, approximately 3,000,00 of them, pay U.S., state and local taxes both as workers and consumers. They also have social security taxes deducted from their payroll checks, and recover none of the benefits from these payments.
Many Mexican workers return home after a season or two in the fields. The funds taken out of their paychecks by employers ends up in he U.S. Treasury, not in the pockets of these workers. Of those workers who remain, none are eligible to secure unemployment compensation, SSI, or soial security retirement, because they are not legal residents. Much is made of the fact the children of these workers use our schools and our emergency medical services and a dollar cost is usually fixed to determine that. However, I have yet to see the dollar value of the payroll taxes, sales taxes, and social security payments of these 3 million undocumented workers, deducted from this figure, which would give us a real social cost (or profit which is more likely) to our nation.
Negative Perception Belies the Reality
Yet, according to a Newsweek poll, 60% of Americans see the current levels of immigration as bad, 59% percent say many immigrants wind up on welfare,and 47% think we should make it more difficult for Latinos to come into the country. What is going on here? Well, the "racist" argument which I mentioned was the knee-jerk response to "Project USA" has some merit here.
In an article by Tom Morganthau entitled "America: Still Melting Pot?" after discussing how the bulk of immigrants to the U.S. are now from Latin America and the Caribbean, states that "upwards of 80 [of immigrants to the U.S.] are persons of color: so much for the myth that U.S. policy is racist." Well, I don't know about the "myths" of U.S. policy but the statement itself is racist. In the 1840s until the time of the Civil War, the Irish who were members of the Celtic race were considered inferior to Anglo- Saxons, a lower breed. Scientific studies were done (including the psuedo-science of phrenology) to show that the Irish were" less evolved as a race than either the Indian or the Negro." It was not until the Civil War, when the North needed them as troops that the Irish became "white." Now, most Latin Americans, except the native peoples and those artists and poets with strong ties to the indigenous cultural roots, consider themselves to be "white" people.
In Mexico one even sees beer commercials in which it shows a young man choosing both the güerra (the blond girl) and the (güerra) or light beer. In Colombia and Costa Rica where the native peoples were long ago exterminated by war or disease, there is little question that the citizens are white. Yet, U.S. society persists in these arbitrary classifications: white, black, hispanic. It is a policy that fosters racism even when it is used in a benevolent way. Just as the government funding for "minority" (read "persons of color") projects is demeaning and divisive.
An anthology funded by the National Endowment for the Arts which feature the best black writers in America, or the best Chicano writers, or the best woman writers, demeans the art of those included by its very exclusiveness. When the committee in Stockholm gave Toni Morrison the Nobel Prize for Literature they did not give it to her because she was a woman or because she was black. They gave it to her because she was a great writer, the same as Octavio Paz, Seamus Heaney, Joseph Brodsky or Nadine Gordimer.
Racial politics is a part of America. It has always been how we defined ourselves as a people. As late as 1846 when the U.S. Marines entered the "Hall of Montezuma" conquering Mexico and taking three fifths of the country, there was so little sense of national unity that the band played three different national anthems: "Hail Colombia," "Yankee Doodle" and the "Star Spangled Banner." Americans were defined in the 1840s and 1850s not by what they were but by what they were not. A true American was not a Negro, an Indian, a Chinaman, or an Irishman. We think we've come a long way in the past 150 years. All of our textbooks paint American history as a series of progressions. The reality is that much of American history is circular, and many of the attitudes and beliefs of our forebears are inscribed in our laws and our culture. Political correctness and diversity notwithstanding, America remains a nation which expanded its territorial limits and its dominance over the hemisphere not by tolerance of other cultures but by exterminating them (Native Americans), conquering them (Mexicans, Filipinos), enslaving them (African-Americans), or by demonizing them (Irish, Italians).
The richest 1% of the country still owns most of its productive capacity and still calls the shots. Who's up, who's down, who's out or who's in is merely the "bread and circuses" which the Caesars provide to keep us from thinking too much.
What Happened to Globalization Theory?
The rich nations which praise globalization, liberalism, free markets, free flow of investment and capital, are rejecting their own principals when it come to free flow of labor. One of the reasons that poorer countries are falling further and further behind as a result of globalization and the new economy is the curtailment on freedom of movement. Rich countries have largely excluded the free flow of labor into their markets since the postwar period. Low-skilled labor is not free to flow across international boundaries in search of more lucrative jobs. While immigration in the U.S. and Europe is certainly significant, it is very small (less than the rate of 70 years ago) compared to the dramatic increases in world population over that period.
Europe and the U.S. together in a given year admit only 0.04 of all potential immigrants. This would not be so critical if wealthier nations were sending capital as well as technologies to developing nations so that growth of poorer economies would be insured. However, while foreign direct investment increased from 4% to 12% of the world GNP in the past twenty years, little has ended up in the poorer countries. According to Bruce Scott of Harvard, "70 percent went from one rich nation to another, 8 developing countries received 20 percent, and the remainder was divided among more than 100 poor nations." Most of the poorer nations are exporters of agricultural commodities and minerals, and these categories have decreased as a percentage of world trade from about 70 percent at the start of the century to about 20 percent at the present.
Growth in world markets has shifted to manufactured goods, services, and informational technologies. The opening of capital markets in developing countries has merely resulted in takeovers by international firms, draining the raw materials from these nations (reminiscent of the worse days of mercantilism and colonialism). Meanwhile the wealthy nations continue to insure that barriers exist against immigration and agriculture, so that "real" economic growth which results in a higher standard of living for the people has become more and more remote. Note that I use the term "real" economic growth to distinguish it from published figures by common economic indicators published by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, The World Trade Organization, and others. These indicators, using transfer figures, statistics from machiladoras, and "exports" (which amount to onemultinational in a poor country processing a segment of a product and then exporting it to wealthy country for final completion), is hardly indicative of the true economic picture of a nation or of what free trade is meant to be.
The Pressure Valve
The Washington consensus, one-size-fits-all, neoliberal globalization policy, simply does not work for developing nations. The poor nations should be allowed to do what their rich neighbors did to become developed. They should not be forced to conform to the World Bank's laissez fair approach. With an economy with low wages and low growth industries this is the surest way to guarantee poverty in a developing nation. The result will be more illegal immigration, violence, and even terrorism as the desperate populationstake what options remain open to them. Most Washington analysts are well aware that one of the primary functions of immigration in the latter part of the 20th century has been to operate as a pressure valve for the ravaged economies of Central America and the Caribbean. Economies that had been crippled by natural disasters, by years of exploitation, by corporate greed, by American intervention and manipulation, could tie up U.S. military resources for the next century and make of Latin America a tumultuous bog of terror, war, and unrelenting hostility, that would make the worst years of Viet Nam seem like a walk in the park.
To take but one glaring example, in this century the United States has had an active military presence in Nicaragua, for fourteen years. When you export a military force to another country, instead of a cultural and economic presence, the results are predictable. The young people of Nicaragua have learned a great deal about from our years of occupation. However, they are not the things businessmen, scholars and teachers would have taught them. They are what young people learn from forces of occupation, from Yankee movies and young soldiers. Groups of teenagers there wear the colors similar of L.A. street gangs, graffiti abounds even on churches and cathedrals, and American automatic weapons make the slums of Managua one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Strong religious training, respect for elders, civic virtue, and a strong spiritual consciousness, values which characterize most Latin American countries, have been gradually eroded. How long before we've exported that culture of violence to other Latin American neighbors, where in combination with poverty and desperation, it will pose a continuous threat to the security and sustainability of the Western Hemisphere?
Each year millions of people are displaced by fratricidal wars, invasions by neighboring states, droughts, floods, earthquakes and famines. The number of refugees and asylum seekers world-wide in 2001 was 14, 544,000. From the ethnic cleansing in the Balkins, and the subsequent bombings by NATO war planes came hundreds of thousands. But not to the U.S., althought the U.S. was instrumental in their displacement. They went to Germany, to Turkey, to Sweden, to Belgium and Macedonia. Millions of people terrorized by the internecine warfare in the African states, by disease and famine, 3,346,000 to be exact, fled their homes. Again, they did not end up in America.
People in the Congo fled to Cameroon, to Angola and the Central African Republic. People in Sierra Leone fled to Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. Refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia fled to Mexico, to Belize and Costa Rica. The refugees from the Palestine-Israeli conflict fled to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yeman, and Syria. Much is made of how the United States is a haven for the politically oppressed, those displaced by terrorism, by famine, by war. In fact, the United States plays a very small role in the arena of refugee relief. Out of 14,444,000 refugees in 2001, the United States admitted 481,500. Less than Iran, less than Pakistan, less than Tanzania, and proportionally less than many smaller countries with far more limited resources. When one considers that in some instances, the United States by its military actions (the Balkins and Iraq) or its undermining of popularly chosen governments (Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador,) and its support of military regimes (Chile) or right wing paramilitary who kill civilians (Colombia) has been to a large extent responsible for several million of these displaced civilians, the claim that the United States is a benevolent and compassionate force on the world stage clearly is not supported by statistical data. In this era of globalization the United States has a glutton's share of the world market, the world's resources and the world's energy, but a miser's share of the world's responsibility for the alleviation of the misery, the disasters, the displacement, and the devastation that daily oppress its fellow global citizens (much of which it has directly or indirectly caused).
Reasons for An Immigration Policy
We don't allow immigrants into our country because we are a nation of soft-hearted humanists. The number of refugees refused admittance to our country is clear evidence of that--whether it be the Jews in the 1930s or the Nicaraguans in the 1980s. Our national policy is opportunistic and self-referential. Although the United States is not averse to presenting the image of a nation committed to international altruism, national interest is always its primary motivation. So it is with immigration. There are practical reasons why we historically admitted immigrants, and without exceptions they were in our enlightened self-interest. They continue to be so. More productive people create more markets, and in a capitalist society growth is necessary for economic prosperity. Where are we going to export our cars and refrigerators? To Guatemala, where the average worker makes less than $2 a day? Unless we find ways of increasing capital investment, technology and growth in developing countries, stagnation and economic recession is inevitable without immigration.
The present U.S. birth rate indicates that American couples are not even reproducing themselves in the 21st century. Without immigration there will be a net loss of labor for the productive and service markets, resulting in a lower standard of living for our children. Despite xenophobic and racial hysteria to the contrary, immigration adds to the strength of a nation. The more homogenous a people are, the weaker their line grows over time. Immigrants add a burst of energy to a nation and, while this often causes conflict, it serves to make a nation less decadent, less apathetic. Rome is a perfect example of what happens to a people who become isolationist and degenerate, while the million Irish added to the United States in the decade of 1840-1850 provides an example of how a nation is strengthened by an influx of immigrants who provide a new dynamic to a lethargic nation.
Demographics can change the economic conditions, even if they do not immediately change attitude. Italy with Europe's lowest birthrate will continue to need manpower. The stock of France's unskilled labor is largely depleted. Nevertheless, xenophobia prevails in downtown Rome and Bologna, while in France the police wanted to pack thousands of illegal immigrants on trains until they were reminded that the French Jews were sent to "resettlement camps" by the Nazis in the 1940s. In Pakistan, thousands of Hindus, are forced to wear armbands identifying them as such-- remnants of the shameful ghetto policy of the Hitler era.
Immigration Policy in the Future
President Bush in conjunction with President Fox of Mexico had planned a major immigration initiative which is stalled at the time of this writing. An agreement to expand the guest-worker program and to legalize currently employed illegal immigrants had support from Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Catholic Church and many members of Congress including Republican congressmen from the farm belt states. The guest-worker program would dramatically reduce the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico--about 150,000 last year--and save the lives of migrants who die in the deserts and mountains of the Southwest. Legalization of currently employed illegals would simply regularize their status, and enable them to secure the benefits that their taxes and social security contributions have entitled them to.
Mexico, which incidentally has many thousands of people living illegally in their country (over 6,000 U.S. citizens in the Guadlajara area alone) each year offers a "regularization program" to legalize documents (out-of-date tourist and student visas) as well as issue documents to those who have none. Many of these are retired Americans and Canadians who immediately become eligible for Mexican social security, free hospitalization, and reduced costs for prescriptions. Something similar should be done in the U.S. A comprehensive agreement on border safety and guest-workers should include an equitable program in the United States for "regularization" of Mexicans.
The rich nations of the world, along with the World Bank, and the IMF, need to agree on a more pragmatic approach to developing nations. They should not be forced onto the fast tract of globalization, privatization, free trade, and "comparative advantage" strategies. Insisting on the merits of the neoliberal system will result in rising poverty, increased levels of illegal immigration, as well as kidnapping and terrorism as the more desperate poor take advantage of the only options available to them. The less developed nations should be allowed to do what the rich nations were allowed to do in order to get ahead. The United States could use its leadership in this area to force the IMF and World Bank to forego laissez-faire demands for low-wage, low-growth industries in Latin America. The past twenty years has seen substantial liberalization throughout the world. Free-floating currencies, free flow of capital, lowering of trade barriers, and uneven but steady economic growth. During that same period, governments' control over the movement of people has tightened virtually everywhere. With the exception of the European Union, immigration controls are far tighter than they were a hundred years ago. As Bruce Scott notes, "the salient issue is that rich nations who laud liberalism and free markets are rejecting those very principles when they restrict freedom of movement."
We need to move beyond "the one size fits all" economic blueprint for globalization, we need to see the inconsistencies in our ideologies. Then we need to develop a case by case model which will insure a healthy economy at home, as well as a secure and decent place for our neighbors in this hemisphere. This means a flexible immigration policy, divorced from rhetoric and self-serving moral justification on the one hand, and isolationists, racist, and xenophobic motivations on the other. Our immigration policy should serve the long-term interests of our hemisphere. It should be focused on both economic development, flow of capital, and flow of workers in the Americas.
Europe, Africa and Asia are developing their own regional models, some faster, some slower. But our priority must be the security and sustainability of this hemisphere. For two centuries Mexico and the rest of Latin America has been low priority except when it came to mercantile interests. Even today, once sees more in the newspapers and on television about Bosnia, Israel, Palestine and Iraq. Not one of those nations poses the danger to our national security as does a turbulent, hungry, diseased, insolvent Latin America. Not one of those nations promises so much in terms of long-term security, cultural diversity, and prosperity as does a Latin America which is secure, affluent and productive.
"Will the Nation-State Survive Globalizatuon?" by Martin Wolfe.
Foreign Affairs. January/February 2001. pp. 178-190.
"The Great Divide in the Global Village." Foreign Affairs.
January/February 2001. pp. 160-177.
"The Diversity Myth" by Benjamin Swartz. The Atlantic Monthly. May,
1995. pp. 57-69.
"Immigration: Is America Still A Melting Pot?" Newsweek. August 9,
"Bush Aides Weight Legalizing Status of Mexicans in U.S. NYTimes.com
July 15, 2001.
U.S. News & World Report. July 2, 2001, p. 9 "16,700 refugees
received asylum in the U.S."
World Refugee Survey, 2001. www.refugees.org/statistics/wrs01_table2.pdf
Sincronía Winter 2002
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