A project of the Center for Community Change

Immigration 10: Border Walls – True Costs in Dollars and Human Lives

Today, Duke at The Sanctuary bring us a powerful post on migration causes and costs (both in dollars and in lives). The effectiveness of “prevention through deterrence” and the concept of a border wall is also explored.

It is an ABSOLUTE must-read.

In the mid-nineties US policy towards Mexico changed in two significant ways that eventually set the stage for the current “immigration crisis.” In January 1994, NAFTA went into effect and a new era of prosperity and progress was to begin in Mexico. At the same time, a new strategy was enacted along the southern border intended to stem the flow of unauthorized migrants. The policy of “prevention through deterrence” involved quintupling border-enforcement expenditures, building new fortified checkpoints, high-tech surveillance, and deploying thousands of additional Border Patrol Agents. Additionally, border barriers were built along portions of the California and Texas border to prevent migrants from entering through the most highly trafficked urban areas.

More than a decade later it’s become evident that the promises of these two policies, rather than bringing economic change to Mexico and decreasing unauthorized migration to the US, have led to conditions that more than doubled the flow of migration….and brought added death to the border.

NAFTA, while bringing trade and investment to Mexico, has had unintended negative consequences on both sides of the border for working people and the poor. Whole segments of the US manufacturing sector have been relocated to Mexico resulting in job loss for US workers. At the same time, the lifting for trade restrictions in Mexico have allowed cheaper US commodities to enter the country, decimating Mexican agricultural markets and throwing millions of small farmers out of business. Additionally, the availability of even cheaper labor sources in places like China has forced manufacturing wages to go down.

As for the policy of “prevention through deterrence”, all it has really accomplished in the past fourteen years is a movement of the routes of migration from relatively safe urban areas like San Diego and El Paso to the hostile desert and mountainous regions where enforcement is difficult. This “funneling effect” of forcing migrants into least hospitable areas has had devastating effects for those on both sides of the border. A study released by the University Of Arizona examined the consequences of shifting migration patterns from California and Texas to Arizona and found it had increased migrants deaths by 20-fold.

The failures of NAFTA to bring prosperity to Mexico are well documented. It’s moved 19 million more Mexicans into poverty, forced more than a million small farmers off the land due to the lifting of restrictions on cheaper US subsidized agricultural products, lowered real wages, and in the end forced “millions …to abandon their native homelands. Entire indigenous nations — the Zapotecs, the Mixtecs, the Tzotzil Maya — have moved by the tens of thousands, creating the largest migration of Native American peoples in North America since the Trail of Tears in the late 19th century.”

While trade policies have brought suffering to the poor of Mexico, border policies have brought death.

Click here to read the full post.

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