March 6, 2008 - Issue 267
NAFTA, Immigrants and the Discussion That is Not Happening
The African World
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor
One of the more interesting aspects
of the current Presidential primary season is the renewed discussion
of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Implemented January
1, 1994, and by no coincidence sparking the Zapatista uprising in
Sold to the
Though NAFTA did result in the introduction
of some new jobs, what is critical is the net effect of NAFTA. If one
factors in losses and gains, the net impact has been the loss of approximately
900,000 jobs in the
Unfortunately, much of the NAFTA debate stops here or within a few feet. NAFTA most certainly has drained jobs as well as placed restrictions on the ability of jurisdictions to direct their local economies. It has encouraged the growth of sweatshop and near-sweatshop labor along the USA/Mexico border. This is the side of NAFTA with which many of us are familiar. Many of us remember Ross Perot’s famous comment concerning NAFTA representing the giant sucking sound of jobs being drained away from the USA and going to Mexico.
This is not the entire story. And, while it is good that Senators Clinton and Obama have reopened the discussion concerning NAFTA, neither of them have drawn much attention to the impact that NAFTA has had on Mexico, and thereby on us in the USA.
What is critical for us to grasp
on this side of the
This side of the NAFTA equation is
critical to discuss because it helps us understand why hundreds of thousands
of Mexicans chose to leave their homes and head north. Contrary to the
xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric many of us have heard, it was not
because ‘…everyone wants to be in
I thought a great deal about this recently when I was moderating a debate on immigration within a labor union. The vehemence of some of the anti-immigrant speakers, including - and very unfortunately - an African American woman, was not only deeply unsettling, but equally lacking in any historical context. While the focus of the anti-immigrant speakers was allegedly undocumented immigrants in general, there was nothing in their language that indicated that they were thinking about Irish, Poles, Russians, or anyone other than Latinos, and most particularly, Mexicans. When confronted with this question of NAFTA they had nothing to say. Interestingly, they could also not explain why they had nothing to say about any other ethnic undocumented worker besides Latinos.
It is commonplace in the
A real change in the White House
would be for the leaders to see beyond the
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.