Recently the right-wing governor of Texas, who just happens to be named Abbott, announced that the state will install a barrier made of buoys along a section of the Rio Grande to deter migrants from entering the US. As is so often the case his measures, which also included a commitment to spend $5.1b on other border security measures, was met with howls of indignation by immigration advocates who argued that this deprives migrants of the right to seek asylum from persecution. Those supporting the measure pointed out that the river crossing was dangerous with many drowning in the attempt and up to 30 bodies being recovered every month.
Conflicting ideas on migration but little debate on why we have a worldwide refugee crisis
Much the same conflict of ideas is occurring all around the world including Australia but far more so in Europe where the number of migrants from Africa and the middle east reached over 6000 in January this year double that of the same period in 2022, not to mention approximately 8.2 million Ukrainians. There has been much debate on why migration should be restricted with counter-arguments as to why borders should be open to all, but very little examination as to why we have a worldwide refugee crisis. It is of course a complex issue with many factors which unfortunately still allows some to be selective and put the blame on capitalism, socialism, totalitarianism, religion, tribalism, racism or whatever they happen to dislike.
However the problem in the US is largely self-inflicted and has its origins in policies and actions that are a little easier to dissect since most of those attempting "illegal" entry are their neighbors from the south. In no particular order of importance the causes of the refugee crisis in South America could be distilled down to;
Illegal drug empire
a) The US population has an illegal drug habit that is large enough to fund a huge criminal network that smuggles drugs into the US by the ton. They have armies that have waged wars against any one who opposed them, stolen land and destroyed or corrupted governments. One such cartel - Clan del Golfo became not only the producer and smuggler of cocaine but ran extortion rackets illegal mining and arms smuggling ( guns obtained from the US with drug profits ) They carried out attacks on government officials as well as kidnappings, torture and assassinations of opponents, all of which made life extremely difficult for locals. The head of the organization, Otoniel when arrested admitted to smuggling 107 tons of cocaine.
US Invasions and regime changes
b) The US has a long history of invading South American countries, seven since 1934, but others have had their governments toppled by CIA sponsored revolution. These invasions were designed to remove any left-leaning government even when elected by popular vote and install governments that were sometimes undemocratic, unpopular, or extremely right-wing but were "all the way with the USA" .
US Economic sanctions
c) As well as invasions the US uses economic sanctions that are currently in force against Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This has crippled economies and led to the loss of employment that caused residents to migrate. The US also has control of the IMF and has been able to modify its approach to lending towards a neo-liberal agenda that included enforcing deregulation, cuts to public services and elimination of tariffs on nations already in financial strife.
d) Large corporations are not adverse to taking advantage of developing nations and US companies have exploited many of its southern neighbors in a process known as Food Imperialism.This involves taking control of their economic lifeline and turning countries into "banana republics" with a single cash crop. The United Fruit Company gained control of 42% of Guatemala's land and obtained exemption from taxes or import duties as well as taking almost all of its railway tracks.
Its a situation that should cause concern to Australians.
e) NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement allowed US cheap (subsidized) corn to be sold in Mexico which sent many of their farmers broke and created about one million unemployed farm workers. Like all free trade agreements, it threatens national laws on the environment and can even prevent action to safeguard human life such as anti-smoking campaigns. NAFTA also cost US jobs when their employer shifted to Mexico into what were called Maquiladoras - foreign-owned manufacturing plants that employed Mexicans on low wages with some of the worst working conditions in the world.
Pushing the American dream
f) Then last but not least is the propaganda that floods our media with the mystical promise of life in America - the Great American Dream. Getting a green card is like winning the lottery and any migrant who does "make it", like Arnie Schwarzenegger, ( Murdoch ?) in the US gets all the attention while those who fall by the wayside are ignored. The reality is that the US needs a refugee crisis to provide the cheap labor that runs their agriculture, construction, and service industries. 73% of crop farm workers are immigrants and only 24% have work papers. Lobby groups flood the media with dubious research papers which show that not only do industries need the cheap labor provided by migrants but they cannot afford to pay them any more than the minimum wage ($7.25/hour) because it would push up the price of food and create hardship for other low-income Americans. ( it also funds exports ) However there are some that don't get paid. The 2023 Global Slavery Index (GSI) estimates that on any given day in 2021, there were 1.1 million people living in modern slavery in the US, a prevalence of 3.3 people in modern slavery for every thousand people in the country. ( an estimated 41,000 slaves in Australia but many more in the supply chain)
Donald Trump on illegal migration
During his election campaign, Donald Trump took advantage of those who were concerned about migration, - 60% of registered voters, but much higher in the rust cities and enough to win Michigan. His promises to fix the migration crisis and build a wall were watered down and then restricted to “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” He had no intention of stopping the flow because he uses undocumented workers in his construction business. While president he secured at least 1,256 guest worker visas mostly as staff at Mar-a - lago.
Trump's hypocrisy typical of the ruling classes
And herein lies the problem, governments not only tolerate but welcome the refugee stream because economists see migration as largely positive for the economy and the individual ... According to economic research, migrants add to the purchasing power of an economy, which creates more work including for low-skilled nationals ... In an economist's view, migrants — whether they arrived as economic migrants or refugees — are a potential source of valuable labor that benefits the host society. There were many learned papers that followed this line including one from the OECD with the view that refugees were not a burden but an opportunity. It is a theme that allows governments to ignore the crisis they produced on the belief that migration is a solution that forgives all sins.