Recently in Mexico Category
There has been a lot of talk lately about Mitt Romney being the poster child for vulture capitalism. This referring to the practice of opportunistically feeding off of struggling workers, prioritizing making profits for shareholders of big corporations over the creation of good jobs for working families. But what about the effects of vulture capitalism on immigration?
During the past few weeks of Egypt's social unrest leading up to President Hosni Mubarak struggling to hang on to power, a particular topic has been on my mind: how food pricing, deregulated genetically-modified food, and corporate greed link together to result in social symptoms like what we're seeing in Egypt or like what we have been seeing on the immigration front right here in the United States. I blogged about this very same topic over at Project Economic Refugee, focusing on how food prices have contributed to social instability in Egypt and in Mexico. On that post, I referenced an article that was published on The Nation magazine on corn pricing's impact on migration from Mexico to the United States that referenced how:
By some estimates, dispossessed farmers account for almost half of the 500,000 or so Mexicans who, until the recent recession, immigrated illegally to the United States each year.
Dreamer Hector Lopez was deported earlier this year to Mexico. He'd been brought to the U.S. as an infant and hadn't known he had no legal status until he was arrested this year by immigration agents. He came back across the border in an act of desperation and was detained upon reentry. He applied for asylum, but was only released recently through the efforts of advocate Ralph Isenberg. He was reunited with his family in Portland yesterday.
I keep watching for evidence of a policy shift from DHS on their current practice of locking up and deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth, and wondering when President Obama's actions will catch up to his words of support for Dreamers. Hector was arrested in August, after Julia Preston reported in the New York Times that the administration had stopped deporting Dreamers. John Morton, head of ICE, claimed in the article:
In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood . . . As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here.
Evidently ICE has decided that Morton's statement represented a vague aspirational observation that wasn't translatable into concrete policy or practice. Or, less charitably, it was a lie.
While it's true that, in limited cases, ICE has exercised favorable discretion to allow Dreamers to stay in the U.S., in the majority of cases, Dreamers in removal proceedings have been treated no differently than anyone else. Even in those few instances where the agency has chosen not to deport, ICE has only been swayed after intense organizing from supporters and activists has resulted in national media attention and support from politicians. It's unfortunate that Preston's story from this summer seems to have become the conventional wisdom--it was even cited in a recent decision (pdf, FN38) by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a legal argument--because it simply isn't the case that ICE has adopted a policy to stop deporting Dreamers.
Hector was a Dreamer and he was deported just like thousands of other undocumented youth this year who didn't have access to the network of Dreamers and allies that have held off ICE in a handful of cases. President Obama's words in support of Dreamers ring hollow in the face of his agencies' coordinated efforts to deport as many DREAM-eligible youth as possible. I hope that Hector's release from detention represents a change in policy in how DHS processes Dreamers, but I fear otherwise.
Hector's story as told in the Oregonian represents one happy (and possibly temporary) outcome out of thousands of stories of heartbreak and family separation this Christmas:
Hector Lopez of Milwaukie walked off a Southwest Airlines flight Christmas Eve into his mother's arms at Portland International Airport, returning from a four-month deportation odyssey to Mexico even though he did not know until he was arrested that he is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
His mother, Sara Flores, and his 15-year-old brother, Luis, grabbed Lopez and hugged him tightly as they cried together; still and video photographers captured the scene as dozens of arriving passengers swirled around the reunion. Friends brought signs and balloons.
CORRECTION: In an email to Tony Herrera, the President of the advertising agency which represents Corona, wrote the following:
Tony--Also see the comment that was left by Kristin Fletcher, another representative of Cramer-Krasselt, below. My original post was written as follows:
Thank you for reaching out to us and bringing this ad and the Citizen Orange discussion to our attention. Prompted by your note, we looked into the origin of this ad as it wasn't created by the agency and it appears to be a spec piece done without client input or approval by an aspiring art director.
We're not sure how it made its way onto the blog you forwarded, or others for that matter, but wanted to let you know. We'll also make sure this is clarified on Citizen Orange and the other blogs that posted the ad.
Again, appreciate you bringing this to our attention.
President / CEO
www.c-k.comPeter Krivkovich - Email (8 October 2009)
It's always fun to see faulty nativist logic twisted on itself. Laura Martinez at Mi Blog es Tu Blog found this priceless piece of advertising (sombrero tip to The Mex Files):
Drink us and we'll hire more Mexicans in Mexico.UPDATE I: See conversation between myself and RickB of Ten Percent in the comments of this post for added context.Corona Advertisement - Mi Blog Es Tu Blog
(28 September 2009)
When I was in college, 3,000 miles from where I am today, I was really stunned and distraught to read that many Border Patrol agents were Mexican-American. Though I knew very little about border dynamics at the time, I was struck by the lack of ethnic compassion and recognition of shared immigration stories. Deciding and then undeciding to do thesis research on the topic, it's ironic that by the force of fate, I ended up living and working on the border 3 years later and once again thinking about this tension.
What I initially found puzzling now makes a lot more sense. Although the explicit aim of the BP is to intercept illegal immigration, my conversations with BP agents have led me to believe that they are not consciously nativist in their aspirations. Rather I've found that they're focused on their personal goals for the job, "securing America" and "securing their jobs", their versions of doing good and doing well.
Even though Nogales is a more tranquilo border city than the ones in the news (Tijuana, Juarez), I don't usually linger too long near the line because as a guera (light-haired, light-skinned), I'm recognized as an American (which I am mostly), assumed to have money (which I don't really), and solicited for a taxi, taxi or to buy pharmaceuticals or souvenirs "for your boyfriend", as I'm told in impressively unaccented English. This interaction, sort of amusing and novel the first time I crossed 5 months ago, lost its appeal pretty quickly and I've trained hard to maintain an as-uninterested-as-possible expression on my face to reduce the solicitations to buy stuff. It's sort of worked. It also helps that I'm chaparrita (short) so I blend in more if I travel alone.
A few days ago I had the chance to linger for a longer while and observe the pedestrian traffic on the Mexican side. I wasn't exactly surprised by what I saw, since I have been a foot pedestrian for a while now, but standing there and doing nothing but watching, I became newly aware of the contrasts and different degrees of privilege before me, all coexisting for brief moments as they pass and don't pass each other. These are the people that I share foot space with on the Nogales border:
- The most privileged crossers: American-passport carrying retirees venturing into Mexico on an excursion to try burros (burritos), buy cheap medicine among the sea of pharmacies and perhaps a mask or some animal horns (no joke, I saw retirees carrying this as a souvenir a few weeks ago).
- The second most privileged crossers: Mexican-Americans with US passports, mostly residents of the border on the US side, going to visit their families, work, conduct business, and carry out the million other activities that link the two sides. I think of this group as the second most privileged because they tend to have less disposable income than the retirees and are often treated rudely by Customs officials for being Mexican.
- The semi-privileged crossers: A little known but large group totaling several million border residents who after proving their ties to Mexico (through business, employment, family, property, or other ties), i.e. that they are only entering the US for a temporary stay, applied successfully for border crossing cards that entitle them to enter the US, 25 miles inland, and up to Tucson 65 miles away in Arizona, for a period of 30 days. This group, a huge chunk of border traffic, is semi-privileged because they have to jump through a lot of hoops to cross legally, and even when they do their movement in the US is limited.
- The non-crossers: The majority of Mexicans do not qualify or cannot afford visas to the US and cannot cross through legal means. (Mexicans who hail from areas south of the border do not qualify for the border crossing cards.) Those who want/need to cross but can't are forced to cross illegally. When I lingered, I watched about 25 crossers in camouflage dark green, blue and black clothing. It wasn't clear to me which of them were preparing to cross and which had just been deported. Some carried Homeland-Security issued plastic bags with clothes in them. I'm not sure whose clothes they were. Although I was intensely curious, I respected their privacy and held back from asking questions since they were either about to embark on a possibly deadly journey or had been forcibly returned from one.
I feel like it's so obvious, but I still need to point out how incredibly unfair it is that people like me can cross on a whim, that the hierarchy of border crossers exists and that the "non-crossers" have to risk their lives to cross. On a return visit to the border on Friday, I snapped these two shots. The first is a small section of the wall in which Nogalenses have attached crosses to mourn the Mexicans who have died crossing. You can't see it in the picture but the crosses bear the names of the dead.
And this is the graffitied sentiment on the wall generated by unequal border policies and the resulting deaths.
For those who don't know Spanish, the graffiti reads, "BORDERS, SCARS ON THE LAND."
In an ideal world, I would advocate for the erasure of borders. In the real world, I want to push for a sensitization of borders to people's needs and wants, to be with family, to work, to travel, to move more freely.
The border crossing card that allows the semi-privileged crossers entry into the US may be the model that we need to build off of. This card could possibly increase Mexicans' and other foreigners' access to the US and create reciprocity between US immigration policies and the freer immigration policies of countries that allow us unlimited entry. Obviously the border visa card would need to be revised - 25 miles and 30-day restrictions just don't cut it - but it is a start. The border visa card could even win over conservative Americans. Its laser technology means authorities can regulate who is entering, and because it allows people to come and go, it is likely to reduce "illegal" immigration. This is by far not the only solution, but one that seems fairly obvious for this border resident.