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Connecting the dots …

Meyerson gets it right on NAFTA and immigration.
 
 
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Harold Meyerson has a great piece in today's WaPo:

The public is skeptical, rightly, about the benefits of globalization, but the process of harnessing it, of writing enforceable rules that would benefit not just investors but most of our citizens, is hard to even conceive. And so globalization is experienced by many Americans as a loss of control. Manufacturing moves to China, engineering to India; que sera, sera .

Except on our borders. With the number of immigrants illegally in the United States estimated at 11 million, the tensions between Americans and Mexicans -- chiefly, working-class Americans and working-class Mexicans -- are rising. And those are tensions that congressional Republicans, who don't look to have a lot of other issues they can run on this fall, are eager to stoke.

In December the House approved a bill by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin that would turn all those undocumented immigrants into felons. […]

But the most striking aspect of the assault on undocumented immigrants is that it has no theory of causality… There were just 2.5 million such immigrants in the United States in 1995; fully 8 million have arrived since then.

Why? It's not because we've let down our guard at the border; to the contrary, the border is more militarized now than it's ever been. The answer is actually simpler than that. In large part, it's NAFTA. […]

NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, could not have been more precisely crafted to increase immigration -- chiefly because of its devastating effect on Mexican agriculture. As liberal economist Jeff Faux points out in "The Global Class War," his just-published indictment of the actual workings of the new economy, Mexico had been home to a poor agrarian sector for generations, which the government helped sustain through price supports on corn and beans. NAFTA, though, put those farmers in direct competition with incomparably more efficient U.S. agribusinesses. It proved to be no contest: From 1993 through 2002, at least 2 million Mexican farmers were driven off their land. […]

So if Sensenbrenner wants to identify a responsible party for the immigration he so deplores, he might take a peek in the mirror. In the winter of '93, he voted for NAFTA. He helped establish a system that increased investment opportunities for major corporations and diminished the rights, power and, in many instances, living standards of workers on both sides of the border. Now he and his Republican colleagues are stirring the resentments of the same American workers they placed in jeopardy by supporting the corporate trade agenda.

Meyerson gets what many miss when discussing the resistance to corporate free-trade deals: in large part, aside from the "teamsters and turtles" coalitions in the U.S., the movement is a widespread agrarian uprising. We tend to take our food production for granted -- agriculture accounts for less than 2 percent of the American economy -- but in many places it's not only about sustenance, but employment.

From "terminator" genes that prevent farmers from saving seeds from year to year to the privatization of water and the elimination of price supports for staple crops, these folks are losing their jobs and their way of life. When they do, those boots are made for walking.

And it's high time that we put two and two together when it comes to NAFTA and immigration. Trade is a wedge issue that can divide the corporate right from their base. Progressives need to wake up and start to use it as such.

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer .