Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reforming Immigration Laws Is Not The Answer. The Problem Is Poverty, Not A Lack Of Passports.

(Wall in Tijuana marking the deaths of people trying to get into the U.S.)

When Marie Antoinette, the "It" girl of pre-revolutionary France, was told that the people were starving because they had no bread, she said "Let them eat cake." She thought this was a reasonable solution -- a way to solve the problem. But she was wrong, because she did not understand or acknowledge what the real problem was. The problem was that the people were desperately poor and could not afford to buy bread or cake.

Now, as then, the problem in this country and the world with "immigration" isn't really a problem that can be solved by making visas, "guest" worker programs, or passports more readily available, will not be solved or even ameliorated by amnesty programs. The problem isn't "immigration" -- the problem is poverty. Desperate, grinding, hopeless poverty in which much of the world lives.

Two Percent of the people in the world own Fifty Percent of the world's wealth. If we simply take that 50% away from those 2% and redistribute it, that would allow people to stay in their own countries and live decent lives. It is never a good thing, not a real solution, to promote policies and programs to make it easier for poor people to send their children to other countries to do slave labor, so they can send money back home. That's not much of an answer to anything.

The "solution" being proposed of making it easier for people to immigrate is a bubble-headed approach, a denial of the reality. It is not progressive, liberal, or kind to suggest we should "help" the mothers of 12 year old children send their children to the U.S. to mow lawns and scrub our toilets. We're not really "helping" when we do that.

The real problem is that the U.S. has, throughout its history, oppressed, militarily invaded, attacked Mexico and South and Central America, stolen resources, propped up dictatorships, tortured, murdered, disappeared people, sponsored despots and dictators, all for the sole purpose of driving the people into the dirt and leaving the entire continent subdued so U.S. multinational corporations can extract the wealth with minimal interference or expense.

That is why these countries have to send their children to the U.S. as slaves. Because the U.S. has destroyed their countries. Why don't we just pay reparations to the people -- people to people -- and let them re-build their own lives. That along with staying out of their countries and letting them finally use their own resources for the benefit of their own people. That would be a real solution to the real problem -- the problem of poverty, and of hoarding of wealth by the few. Let South and Central America finally be free to develop their own economies without interference from the U.S. If Mexico has any brains, they should look south instead of continuing to align themselves with the U.S. and against their Central and Southern American neighbors.

One of the pet projects of many progressives in the U.S. and in other countries is the support of movements to "reform" immigration laws. Essentially they propose that anyone who is living in a country without having the permission of the country to be there should be granted amnesty, a right to stay and to become a citizen. They also propose that all other people should be allowed to move freely into the magnet countries, to work, live, go to school, use all the public services available to citizens, and to become citizens if they choose.

The people who support these "reforms" of immigration laws are entirely short-sighted in their analysis, although they may well be compassionate in their motivations.

The end result of these "reforms" will simply be to flood developed countries with the desperately poor people from third world countries, to smash all countries down to poverty, destroy nations that now provide a decent living for their own citizens. Moving millions of poor people into a developed nation has the effect of draining the resources of the developed nation. The surge of desperate workers also has the effect of bringing down wages, working conditions, benefits, and eliminating job security. It is simply a fact that when there is a labor shortage, workers have more power in negotiating with their employers for better wages, benefits, working conditions, and they have more job security because it is difficult to replace them. And the opposite is also true: when there are thousands lined up to fill one job, the wages plummet, benefits are non-existent, job security is eliminated. This is simply a fact.

Current TV had a two-hour special on about immigration around the world, and they showed the desperate measures taken by the poor to reach a developed nation where there might be jobs. One segment was on Africans who cross the ocean in rafts to reach Italy in the hope of finding work there. Many die on the voyage. For those who survive, once they arrive in Italy, the illegal immigrants are unwanted, live under bridges, and have miserable lives. But even sleeping on the ground under a bridge is a better life for them because there is no work in their own countries.

One segment showed young people from Guatemala who jump onto tanker trains (they call it the "Death Train"), hang onto bars to ride through Mexico. Among the dangers are that they may slip, lose their grip, fall asleep, or get hit by something and fall off the train, get run over by the train, and have arms or legs cut off. This amputation from the trains is so common that there is a special recovery home in Mexico which provides help to all the people who have lost arms and legs because they fell off the trains. Once they reach northern Mexico, they still had to walk for three days through the desert to reach the United States.

(Waiting For The Death Train)

Why do they do it? Because there is no work in their own country, there is extreme poverty, and they need to find work, at whatever the risk, so they can send money home to support their families.

The United States has a long and disgraceful history of intervention, use of military, secretly funding death squads, training military right-wing dictatorships in torture, fomenting coups, destroying efforts at democracy nevermind socialism, opposing efforts to use the resources for the benefit of the people, in Mexico, Central America, and South America. We have created such chaos, disruption, and despair throughout the region that there is nothing there for the people, so of course they try to leave. But where should they all go? Why shouldn't they stay in their own country and be paid reparations for the harm we have done. Or even just "help" so they can support themselves on their own land. See

"Central America, circa 1979-87. According to Americas Watch, ... 40,000-50,000 Salvadoran citizens killed by death squads and government forces during this period; still higher numbers in Guatemala. Chomsky, N. (1988), The Culture of Terrorism, p. 101"

"Central America, 1981-87. Death toll under Reagan in El Salvador passed 50,000 and in Guatemala it may approach 100,000. ... Death toll in region 150,000 or more. Chomsky, N. (1988). The Culture of Terrorism, p. 29"

"Central America, 1982-84. Admiral Bobby Inman, former head of NSA, ... complained that the CIA was hiring murderers to conduct operations in Central America and the Middle East. Toohey, B., and Pinwill, W. (1990). Oyster: the Story of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, pp. 215-6"

Of course this ignores the direct involvement of the U.S. in staging the coup in Chile in 1973 to overthrow Allende and install a military dictatorship, and our support for similar coups, military dictatorships, and bloodbaths against the citizens in Argentina. Not to mention our ongoing military occupation of the nation of Columbia to support another cheap despot and dictator.

Whenever there is massive immigration from one country to another, we need to look at the reasons. Sometimes it's war, sometimes it's drought or other environmental problems. But in this country, the cause of immigration from Mexico and from Central America is extreme poverty and destruction of their own countries. Since the U.S. has treated much of the area as a colony for decades, using our military to prop up dictatorships and supporting our corporations in stealing the wealth, the U.S. should begin paying reparations to the people of the countries that we have harmed.

Instead of demanding more liberal immigration laws, we should demand real assistance for the people of those nations. Instead of finding a cot for some recent child immigrant to sleep on, we should send them back to their own homes (to their own mothers) with money to build houses, and with investment programs to create jobs, with the education and tools to develop sustainable agriculture to feed themselves and their communities.

How do we pay for this? We have a wealth tax. Take the 50% of the wealth that is owned by 2% of the population. Simply take it away from them. Tax it, or assess a fee on it. Call it whatever, but take that wealth, liquidate, and use the money to rebuild these countries. It's really very simple. And I'll bet 98% of the people in the world would support that policy. As for the other 2%, if they don't like it, tough.

The problem is not immigration. The problem is poverty and the destruction of their own countries. Let's help them rebuild so the children can stay home with their own mothers, which is as it should be.

"World Wealth Levels, Year 2000"

"The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth according to a path-breaking study released today by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER)."

Other findings:

The richest 1% of adults own 40% of the world's assets.

The richest 10% of the people own 85% of the world's assets.

The bottom 50% of the people in the world only own 1% of the wealth of the world.

A household that has $2,200 per adult in total assets ($4,400 total assets for a married couple) is the top 50% of the wealthiest people in the world.

The study also has a factor which it uses to describe the inequality of wealth in the world, which is very high. The number they calculate using their own formula is 89%, which they describe as meaning that if one person took 99% of all the wealth, and the other 9 people in a group had to share the remaining 1% of the total wealth, that is how our world is divided up today.

Authors of The World Distribution of Household Wealth, December 2006, include
James Davies, Professor, in the Department of Economics at the University of Western Ontario, and
Edward Wolff, Professor of Economics, New York University. For full article, see:

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