ILLEGAL* IMMIGRATION TO THE U.S.:
MYTH vs. REALITY
by John Spritzler
October 17, 2023
The URL of this article for sharing it is https://www.pdrboston.org/illegal-immigration-myth-vs-reality
There is an important fact about illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America that many people do not know. The reason for the massive illegal immigration is primarily because American Big Money, for decades, has been using our government to do things to force millions of people to have to illegally migrate into the United States to survive.
If Americans knew this key fact, then they would be focused on stopping Big Money from doing this, rather than focused--as the mass media (and increasingly neo-Nazis) want us to be--on whether, or how, to stop these illegal immigrants from immigrating. We need to get the facts straight in order to have a proper debate.
Big Money wants millions of Mexicans to be forced to illegally immigrate for two reasons: 1) it makes them a source of super-cheap labor because their illegal status makes them easy to cow into submission, and it enables employers of American citizen workers to force those workers to accept lower pay and worse working conditions or be replaced with illegal immigrant workers; and 2) it makes the illegal immigrants a perfect scape goat to be the object of anger that we would otherwise justifiably direct at Big Money because of the very real hardships we citizens suffer due to Big Money.
Big Money for decades has conspired with local elites in Central America to make life-threatening conditions for poor people the norm there, which is why so many of those people are seeking some safety inside the United States by illegally immigrating. The fact is that the immigration laws and procedures are designed to prevent the vast majority of these overwhelmingly good and decent people from Mexico and Central America from being able to legally immigrate, and they know it.
Yes, Americans have a right to limit immigration into our nation. This is discussed at some length below. And yes, under normal circumstances people should only immigrate legally. And yes, the massive illegal immigration causes some very real problems for American citizens. But when Big Money--for its own very selfish reasons--forces millions of people to immigrate illegally, and then declares them to be criminals for doing so, the moral--and practical!--response is not to preach to the illegal immigrants about the importance of obeying the law, but to stop Big Money from forcing people to illegally immigrate.
And guess what? The people who want to stop Big Money from doing this the most are the illegal immigrants themselves! We should treat these people as friends with a common enemy--Big Money. We should not treat them like dirt by deporting them as if they were our enemy.
DETAILS, EVIDENCE & CONCLUSIONS
American Big Money, for decades, has been using our government to do things that have forced millions of people south of our border to have to illegally migrate into the United States to survive.
Immigrants from Mexico
NAFTA was all about getting cheap labor to undercut American citizen labor. Big Money got the federal government to subsidize agribusiness so it could dump very cheap corn into Mexico to force small Mexican farmers out of business and force them to survive by seeking employment the only place they can find it--in the United States or in the cheap labor maquila factories newly set up just south of the Mexican-US border. The U.S. government even made it a condition of the NAFTA agreement that Mexico eliminate the section of its constitution that gave Mexican peasants rights to the land that would have enabled them to stay in Mexico and remain farmers despite the dumping of cheap U.S. corn.
This article (PDF, give the PDF files time to load) by Citizen.com reports:
Before NAFTA, Mexico only imported corn and other basic food commodities if local production did not meet domestic needs. NAFTA eliminated Mexican tariffs on corn and other commodities. NAFTA terms also required revocation of programs supporting small farmers. But NAFTA did not discipline U.S. subsidies on agriculture. The result was disastrous for millions of people in the Mexican countryside whose livelihoods relied on agriculture. Amid a NAFTA-spurred influx of cheap U.S. corn, the price paid to Mexican farmers for the corn that they grew fell by 66 percent, forcing many to abandon farming. From 1991 to 2007, about 2 million Mexicans engaged in farming and related work lost their livelihoods. Mexico’s participation in NAFTA was conditioned on changing its revolutionary-era Constitution’s land reforms, undoing provisions that guaranteed small plots (“ejidos”) to millions of Mexicans living in rural villages. As corn prices plummeted, indebted farmers lost their land, which newly could be acquired by foreign firms that consolidated prime acres into large plantations.
According to a New Republic exposé: “as cheap American foodstuffs flooded Mexico’s markets and as U.S. agribusiness moved in, 1.1 million small farmers – and 1.4 million other Mexicans dependent upon the farm sector – were driven out of work between 1993 and 2005. Wages dropped so precipitously that today the income of a farm laborer is one-third that of what it was before NAFTA.” The exposé noted that, as jobs and wages fell, many rural Mexicans joined the ranks of the 12 million undocumented immigrants competing for low-wage jobs in the United States.
A State of Iowa government document (PDF) reports:
NAFTA put Mexican farmers out of business. It allowed U.S. government-subsidized farm products into Mexico. Local farmers could not compete with the subsidized prices. As a result, 1.3 million farmers were put out of business, according to the Economic Policy Institute. It forced unemployed farmers to cross the border illegally to find work. In 1995, there were 2.9 million Mexicans living in the United States illegally. It increased to 4.5 million in 2000, probably due to NAFTA. The recession drove that figure to 6.9 million in 2007.
The New York Times reported in 2003:
The more than $10 billion that American taxpayers give corn farmers every year in agricultural subsidies has helped destroy the livelihoods of millions of small Mexican farmers, according to a report to be released on Wednesday.
The BBC reported in 2004:
US maize ‘threat’ to Mexico farms
The North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) is having a severe effect on rural Mexico, TVE’s Earth Report programme for the BBC claims.
Nafta was set up 10 years ago by Mexico, Canada and the US to promote competition and efficiency. But US maize farmers, propped up by subsidies, are outcompeting their Mexican counterparts. As a result, US maize is flooding Mexican markets, threatening to put traditional farmers out of business.
Citizen.org describes (PDF) the disaster in 2004 this way:
As a condition for NAFTA, Mexico was required to amend the historic land redistribution provisions of the post-Revolution 1917 Constitution which forbade foreign ownership of land and had redistributed lands seized from large landowners to a system of ejidos under which peasants and indigenous communities were granted rights to small plots of land that could not be sold. When these progressive land rules were dismantled for the first time in 80 years, small farmers were threatened with forfeiting their land for bad debt. This has been the fate for hundreds of thousands of campesinos, who have been put at a devastating disadvantage by dumping of corn and other agricultural products by U.S. agribusiness.
At least 1.5 million Mexican farm livelihoods have been lost to NAFTA so far. In 2002 alone, an estimated 600 Mexican farmers were forced off the land every day. Deprived of their livelihoods, most of these displaced farmers have had little choice other than to become economic migrants, streaming into northern cities in search of scarce maquila factory jobs, or making increasingly desperate efforts to cross the border into the U.S. More than 1600 Mexican migrants have died attempting to reach the U.S.in the past five years. If NAFTA is fully implemented many more Mexican farm families will be displaced; with some estimates as high as 15 million or about one in six Mexicans.
Political Research Associates in a 2014 article titled "Globalization and NAFTA Caused Migration from Mexico," recounts many ways that NAFTA and other U.S. government policies have forced Mexicans to illegally cross the border to enter the United States (PRA says this should more accurately be called "migration") in order to survive, and concludes:
In fact, while debating bills to criminalize undocumented migrants and set up huge guest worker programs, four new trade agreements were introduced, each of which has caused more displacement and more migration.
Immigrants from Central America:
“Rio Grande border to US sees 57,000 young migrants in nine months”
This was the headline of a Guardian article in 2014. Tens of thousands of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala were fleeing danger in their home countries and seeking relative safety in the United States. Why were they in such danger? The Guardian gives the immediate cause without bothering to give the underlying cause:
The Department of Homeland Security reports that the surge in minor refugees is due to widespread violence. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 50% of the minors it interviewed “reported experiencing violence or having received threats from gangs, drug cartels, or state actors, such as the police.”
Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates and one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, according to the US State Department.
El Salvador’s murder rate hit an all-time high in May 2014, it’s got the second-highest murder rate in Latin America, and the US State Department even issued a travel warning for Americans considering going there.
Honduras, from where a significant proportion of the migrant children come, has the world’s highest murder rate, child murders are up 77% from just a year ago, and many child murders are thought to be gang-related.
But why is this gang violence so extreme in these nations? Here's why.
The super rich who rule the United States have for decades violently (extremely violently!) killed whoever in these countries have ever tried to create a decent, equal, safe and democratic society there instead of the oligarchic dictatorships that have kept people in abject poverty and terror for the pleasure of themselves and the protection of U.S. corporate profits.
Liberal President Jimmy Carter, no less than conservative President Ronald Reagan, worked to keep ordinary people in Central America living in violent nightmare of terror by the rich against them.
Carter backed the murderous Somoza regime in Nicaragua (while uttering mere words of concern about its human rights violations, of course.) Read about this here, where the Harvard Crimson reports:
In a letter to President Carter, Nicaraguan church leaders charged that the U.S. has helped maintain Somoza's power through "brute force," and called for an end to U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan government. The annual American contribution of twelve million dollars in economic aid continues to flow into Somoza's coffers even as his troops attempt to institute their reign of terror in the cities of Nicaragua.
Noam Chomsky wrote about Carter's support for the brutal Somoza regime as follows:
When his rule was challenged, by the Sandinistas in the late 1970s, the US first tried to institute what was called "Somocismo [Somoza-ism] without Somoza"-that is, the whole corrupt system intact, but with somebody else at the top. That didn’t work, so President Carter tried to maintain Somoza’s National Guard as a base for US power.
The National Guard had always been remarkably brutal and sadistic. By June 1979, it was carrying out massive atrocities in the war against the Sandinistas, bombing residential neighborhoods in Managua, killing tens of thousands of people. At that point, the US ambassador sent a cable to the White House saying it would be "ill advised" to tell the Guard to call off the bombing, because that might interfere with the policy of keeping them in power and the Sandinistas out.
Our ambassador to the Organization of American States also spoke in favor of "Somocismo without Somoza," but the OAS rejected the suggestion flat out. A few days later, Somoza flew off to Miami with what was left of the Nicaraguan national treasury, and the Guard collapsed.
The Carter administration flew Guard commanders out of the country in planes with Red Cross markings (a war crime), and began to reconstitute the Guard on Nicaragua’s borders. They also used Argentina as a proxy. (At that time, Argentina was under the rule of neo-Nazi generals, but they took a little time off from torturing and murdering their own population to help reestablish the Guard-soon to be re named the contras, or "freedom fighters.")
Carter also had the U.S. Army School of the Americas train 250 Salvadoran officers and non-coms for El Salvador's brutal and violently repressive military that blew up every union meeting place and opposition newspaper as it killed opposition leaders.
Read here in PoliticalTheology.com how the "Godly" Carter was denounced for being on the wrong side of God with his support for the Salvadoran armed forces' brutal repression of the Salvadoran people:
Instead of favoring greater justice and peace in El Salvador, your government’s contribution will undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for respect for their most basic human rights.
Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote these words in a letter to President Jimmy Carter just over a month before the Salvadoran pastor was assassinated on the altar while celebrating mass in the early months of 1980. Over the next decade, the rightist Salvadoran government would receive $6 billion in military aid from their strongest anti-communist ally—the United States. President Carter, of course, did not heed the archbishop’s warning, and Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would increase military aid to its highest levels.
Wikipedia reports on Carter's despicable role in El Salvador as follows:
The Salvadoran Civil War (Spanish: guerra civil de El Salvador) was a twelve-year period of civil war in El Salvador that was fought between the government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or "umbrella organization" of left-wing groups backed by the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro as well as the Soviet Union. A coup on 15 October 1979 followed by government killings of anti-coup protesters is widely seen as the start of civil war. The war did not formally end until 16 January 1992 with the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords in Mexico City.
The United Nations (UN) reports that the war killed more than 75,000 people between 1979 and 1992, along with approximately 8,000 disappeared persons. Human rights violations, particularly the kidnapping, torture, and murder of suspected FMLN sympathizers by state security forces and paramilitary death squads – were pervasive.
The Salvadoran government was considered an ally of the U.S. in the context of the Cold War. During the Carter and Reagan administrations, the US provided 1 to 2 million dollars per day in economic aid to the Salvadoran government. The US also provided significant training and equipment to the military. By May 1983, it was reported that US military officers were working within the Salvadoran High Command and making important strategic and tactical decisions.
A New York Times article January 18, 1981 reports:
After months of controversy and hesitation within the Administration over supplying ''lethal'' military aid to El Salvador, President Carter has authorized the emergency delivery of $5 million in combat equipment to help the Salvadoran armed forces combat a major uprising by Marxist guerrillas.
The role of the U.S. government in El Salvador was described by Allan Nairn, a freelance journalist, to a Columbia University audience in 1989 [The report is in the Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume CXIII, Number 54, 1989 ]. His talk was reported in the school’s paper:
The story Americans are getting from the press is that the recent guerrilla offensive is a re-initiation of violence. The fact is, violence never left El Salvador. Killing in El Salvador and Nicaragua is the worst in the world on a per-capita basis….Four hundred thousand people have been killed in El Salvador, 90 percent by the Salvadoran army. There is no comparison in the modern world, with the possible exception of Pol Pot and Idi Amin. The difference is that the Salvadoran death squads are trained and run by American advisors and the CIA…I have talked to a colonel in the El Salvadoran Army who said he was willing to kill 200,000 to 300,000 people to maintain the Salvadoran oligarchy…What people need to realize is that it is our government that is supporting mass murder in El Salvador.
ABC News in 2013 posted an article titled, “Did Reagan Finance Genocide in Guatemala” and the answer it gives is, essentially, Yes. It reports:
“On Monday, a Guatemalan court ordered the country's government to apologize to the Ixil population for the crimes of José Efraín Ríos Montt, a dictator who was sentenced to 80 years in prison for his role in war crimes committed between 1982 and 1983.
“The verdict concluded that the army, under the command of Ríos Montt, had engaged in a campaign of genocide against the Ixiles, a small Mayan ethnic group. In that sense, it finally offered an answer to the thousands of victims' families who had pleaded for justice since the 1980s…
"U.S. military and intelligence units worked closely with the Guatemalan army over the decades of Guatemala's civil war," said Geoff Thale, Central America Program Director at the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA)…
“Despite mounting concerns about human rights abuses, between 1978 and 1980, the military received $7.9 million through the State Department's Military Assistance Program and Foreign Military Sales program….
“Reagan met with Ríos Montt, "a man of great personal integrity and commitment," according to the president. When Reagan was asked about human rights violations in Guatemala he said, ''I am inclined to believe they've been getting a bum rap…[but shortly afterwards] the U.S. embassy was investigating credible reports of numerous massacres involving the Guatemalan military…
“Reagan's administration ultimately decided to ignore the warnings, and indirect assistance was secretly resumed through the CIA. "Overall, U.S. intelligence, training, political support and assistance to the Guatemalan government and military in the early and mid-1980s uncritically supported counter-insurgency strategies that targeted civilians, in the cities and in rural areas like the Ixil Triangle," Geoff Thale said. "U.S. policy makers of that era bear some responsibility for the human rights abuses that took place."”
The ugly role of the very liberal Harvard University in honoring a mass murderer of Guatemalans is the subject of this article, copied in full here:
Master's in Public Administration (Mason Fellowship), Kennedy School of Government, 1991
Massacres, Torture, and Command Responsibility
Hector Gramajo Morales held a number of senior positions in the Guatemalan military and was Minister of Defense from 1987 to 1990. From 1982 to 1983 -- while Gramajo was Army Vice Chief of Staff and director of the Army General Staff -- the Guatemalan military killed 75,000 people and destroyed some 440 villages in a massive counterinsurgency campaign directed primarily against the country's Mayan inhabitants.
Gramajo studied at the infamous "School of the Americas" (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1967, where the US government trained generations of Latin American military officers later associated with human rights abuses and dictatorships.
Apologists for the U.S.-backed genocidal dictatorship in Guatemala considered Gramajo a "moderating force" who scaled back the level of atrocities and supported a transition to civilian rule. As Gramajo infamously remarked in an interview while at Harvard:
"We have created a more humanitarian, less costly strategy, to be more compatible with the democratic system ... which provides development for 70 percent of the population while we kill 30 percent. Before, the strategy was to kill 100 percent." 
Or, as one U.S. government official put it: "Gramajo understands how we function. He's testified in front of Congress. He speaks good English."  [emphasis added]
After stepping down as defense minister, Gramajo went to study at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government on a yearlong Mason fellowship while preparing to return home and launch a presidential campaign. He also gave a public address at the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics.
In June 1991, while heading to his commencement ceremony in academic robes, Gramajo was handed court papers informing him that he was being sued by eight Guatemalans for abuses perpetrated against them or their family members by forces under his command. Soon thereafter, the suit was combined with one brought by Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun who had been raped and tortured by Gramajo's forces filed a similar lawsuit. Both cases were filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows lawsuits in U.S. courts for some human rights violations committed abroad.
Gramajo did not contest the lawsuit and eventually left the United States. In April 1995, a federal judge in Boston ruled against him and awarded $47.5 million in damages to the plaintiffs. Gramajo's bid for the presidency later that year failed. Gramajo never paid the award, nor did he ever return to the US, which revoked his entry visa.
On 12 March, 2004, Hector Gramajo died after being attacked on his farm by a swarm of "Africanized" bees.
A personal note: This author organized a panel discussion at the Harvard School of Public Health when General Gramajo was to receive his masters of public administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government about this. I invited, in addition to opponents of Harvard giving Gramajo this degree, the dean of the Kennedy School of Government to be a panelist and to defend the decision of that school; he declined to show up. I am happy to learn that "Africanized" bees seem to have a better sense of justice than the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
The conditions in these Central American nations are simply unsafe for ordinary people. The oligarchs and drug gangs are in power and they rule by terror. The Guardian article about 57,000 young migrants crossing the border to the U.S. in nine months tells a typical story:
When the gang came for him, Ceferino decided he had three choices: join them, refuse to join and risk being killed, or flee the country.
The teenager left his family in Guatemala and headed for the US, becoming part of a wave of unaccompanied children from Central America that has overwhelmed authorities at the Texas border and sparked a humanitarian crisis and a political row.
Cole Kazdin's article in Vice is titled, "The Violence Central Americans are Fleeing Was Stoked by the U.S.: We're still dealing with the aftermath of atrocities committed by U.S. allies in Central America during the Cold War."
Watch this 12 minute video for more information about Central America and the role of the U.S. government creating unlivable conditions that force people to flee.
The Guardian has an informative article about Central America titled, "What Is Forcing Thousands of Migrants to Flee Their Home Countries?" by Michael Deibert. Among many other similar things in the other Central American nations it reports:
In Honduras, where the caravan originated, the past decade has seen the terrorizing effects of street violence by criminal gangs exacerbated by an increased presence of Mexican cartels, police abuses and the murder of human rights and environmental activists, most notoriously that of Berta Cáceres in 2016.
Much of this current instability can be traced back to the June 2009 ouster of its then president, the erratic leftist Manuel Zelaya. Though the then US president Barack Obama declared the ouster “not legal”, his administration subsequently worked with regional powers such as Mexico to assure Zelaya did not return to office.
After Zelaya’s overthrow, Honduras was run by a series of rightwing leaders. When the most recent of them, Juan Orlando Hernández, looked likely to lose his re-election last year to the former journalist Salvador Nasralla, his government responded with a repression that Amnesty International characterized as having “violated international norms and the right to personal integrity, liberty and fair trial guarantees”.
Another informative article about how the U.S. government is a major cause of people in Central America having to migrate north is "A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigration Crisis: Those seeking asylum today inherited a series of crises that drove them to the border." As this article points out, a major cause of unemployment, which in turn forces people to migrate north, is the fact that U.S. agricultural products are dumped into Central American nations duty-free, meaning the price is so low that local farmers cannot compete and are driven to migrate north. The reason these agricultural products are duty-free is the trade agreement the U.S. has with these nations, called the Central America Free Trade Agreement, which bans a tariff duty on U.S. agricultural exports to Central American nations. Note that, as discussed here, the Trump administration was making noise about getting a "better deal" for the U.S. than the current CAFTA terms, but by "better deal" Trump meant making it harder for Central American nations to export products to the U.S., not--by any means!--making it harder for U.S. Big Money agribusiness to sell its crops duty-free in Central America.
An article titled, "How Joe Biden’s privatization plans helped doom Latin America and fuel the migration crisis," focuses on Joe Biden's role in creating conditions that force people in Latin America to migrate north into the United States illegally just to survive.
Illegal immigration into the United States is a source of super-cheap labor because the immigrants' illegal status makes them easy to cow into submission, and it enables employers of American citizen workers to force such workers to accept lower pay and worse working conditions or be replaced with illegal immigrant workers.
Cheap labor anywhere, in Mexico or in the United States, lowers the wages and worsens the working conditions of ALL workers.
Here's how cheap labor in Mexico, produced by the NAFTA deal between the Mexican and United States governments, adversely affected U.S. workers.
A State of Iowa report on (PDF) the effects of NAFTA states:
[U]nemployed Mexican farmers went to work in substandard conditions in the maquiladora program. Maquiladora is where United States-owned companies employ Mexican workers near the border. They cheaply assemble products for export back into the United States. Employment in maquiladoras rose 120,000 in 1980 to 1.2 million in 2006.
The Economic Policy Institute reports in its "NAFTA’s Impact on U.S. Workers" :
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NATFA) was the door through which American workers were shoved into the neoliberal global labor market.
By establishing the principle that U.S. corporations could relocate production elsewhere and sell back into the United States, NAFTA undercut the bargaining power of American workers, which had driven the expansion of the middle class since the end of World War II. The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power.
NAFTA affected U.S. workers in four principal ways. First, it caused the loss of some 700,000 jobs as production moved to Mexico. Most of these losses came in California, Texas, Michigan, and other states where manufacturing is concentrated. To be sure, there were some job gains along the border in service and retail sectors resulting from increased trucking activity, but these gains are small in relation to the loses, and are in lower paying occupations. The vast majority of workers who lost jobs from NAFTA suffered a permanent loss of income.
Second, NAFTA strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits. As soon as NAFTA became law, corporate managers began telling their workers that their companies intended to move to Mexico unless the workers lowered the cost of their labor. In the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with unions, some companies would even start loading machinery into trucks that they said were bound for Mexico. The same threats were used to fight union organizing efforts. The message was: “If you vote in a union, we will move south of the border.” With NAFTA, corporations also could more easily blackmail local governments into giving them tax reductions and other subsidies.
The Myth That It is "Bigotry" When American Citizen Workers Express Anger at Being Forced to Compete Against Lower-Paid Illegal Immigrants
To those who refer to American citizen workers who oppose illegal immigration as "bigots," one might ask: Who are you referring to as "bigots"?
One might ask this question because the ruling class wrongly portrays working class opposition to illegal immigration as just bigotry. While there are no doubt some working class American citizens who are bigoted against illegal immigrants, this is not the realistic way to understand opposition to illegal immigration. Here's why.
To start with, Cesar Chavez--the famous organizer of a farm workers union whose members were mainly Hispanic--opposed illegal immigration. Read about this in an ABC NEWS article that reports:
For a significant period of his storied career as a labor organizer, Cesar Chavez opposed illegal immigration.
He encouraged union members to join "wet lines" along the Arizona-Mexico border to prevent undocumented immigrants from crossing into the U.S. He accused immigration agents at the border of letting in undocumented immigrants to undermine the labor efforts of Latino farmworkers.
If anybody was NOT bigoted against illegal immigrants from Mexico, it was Cesar Chavez! Chavez's opposition to this illegal immigration had absolutely nothing to do with bigotry; it was opposition to the employers bringing in strike-breakers.
The fact is that there are about 1.1 million illegal immigrants working in construction jobs in the U.S. Read this article about how the residential construction industry in Massachusetts, for example, is based on illegal immigrants--paying them much less than would be paid to American citizen construction workers and forcing the citizen workers to compete for jobs against the lower paid illegal immigrant workers. Citizen construction workers have every right to be angry at this attack on their livelihood.
The point is that the ruling class does in fact use illegal immigrant workers to lower the wages of citizen workers, and not just agricultural workers, and it is not bigotry for citizen workers to express anger at having their wages lowered this way.
The other point on this topic is that the sensible response of citizen workers to illegal immigration is to join with illegal workers in fighting against the ruling class's practice (both political parties, for many decades) of doing things in Latin and Central America to FORCE people there to have to illegally immigrate to the United States just to survive. Thus Cesar Chavez responded to the problem wrongly. He should have required the illegal immigrants to join the farmworkers union, and only opposed their entry into the United States if they refused to join it.
Myth: American Citizens Won't Do Farm Labor Work, Only Immigrants Will Do it
It is well known (as the Washington Post reports behind its paywall) that most farm labor in the United States is done by immigrants, often illegal ones. The work, as is also well known, is very hard work under harsh conditions with poor pay. Naturally, if an American citizen can find a better job than this he or she will avoid doing such farm labor. The question that the mass media doesn't, however, raise, is this: Why is farm labor so terrible?
There is nothing inherent about farm labor that prevents it from being paid better and performed under better conditions, just as there was nothing about factory work that prevents it from being paid better and done under better conditions today than was typically the case before unions fought for improvements. The difference between factory jobs (what's left of them in the United States today) that American citizen workers take, and farm labor jobs that they don't take, is that unions--worker solidarity in struggles--made the former better whereas illegal immigrant under fear of deportation have a much harder time similarly making farm work better. It has nothing to do with any inherent difference between farm and factory work; either can be horrible or decent.
Yes! Mass migration (legal or illegal) causes real problems, especially in a dictatorship of the rich like the United States.
Whenever huge numbers of people immigrate to some place, it causes problems, such as too many people suddenly needing too few resources: health, education, welfare, etc. There may be clashes of culture, and miscommunications. Some of the problems due to mass migration only exist, however, because we live in a dictatorship of the rich. The sudden arrival of people more than willing to work doesn't mean that our capitalist rulers will let them work; if a capitalist can't make a profit by hiring somebody, then they don't hire them. So immigrants can add to the unemployment and welfare rolls. And yes, our capitalist rulers DO use illegal immigrants for super-cheap labor and thereby lower wages for working class American “legals.”
The question is not whether mass migration does or does not cause any problems for American citizens. The questions are: 1. What is the CAUSE of this illegal mass migration; and 2. What should Americans do about it?
The cause is clear: it is Big Money acting through its control of the United States government. What regular Americans--the have-nots--should do about it is unite ALL the have-nots (be they citizens, legal or illegal immigrants, or foreigners) against the billionaire ruling classes (in the U.S. and abroad) that make regular people suffer for their own benefit.
For the have-nots to succeed in uniting they must refute the lies and myths that the rulers use to divide them against each other. Let's take a look at these lies and myths.
The Myth That Hispanic Immigrants Are Criminals
One way Big Money tries to direct people's anger at illegal immigrants instead of at itself is by promoting the myth that Hispanic immigrants and their children have particularly high crime rates. President Trump does this by creating a public list of crimes committed by illegal immigrants but not a list for crimes committed by “legals.” Countless right wing talk radio hosts similarly report crimes by illegal immigrants in a way designed to make it seem that hardly anybody else commits a crime. What’s the truth?
As one can read in great detail in a careful study by the Marshall Project, based on FBI crime data in population data for metropolitan areas, there is no connection between illegal (undocumented) immigration and crime; if anything, the trend is that illegal (undocumented) immigrants commit less crime than American citizens.
Statistics are available for incarceration rates for the following ten groups**:
All U.S. born: 3.51%
Non-Hispanic whites U.S. born: 1.71%
Non-Hispanic blacks U.S. born: 11.61%
Hispanics U.S. born: 2.3% to 5.9% based on country or ethnic origin
Asians U.S. born: 1% to 7.2%
All foreign born: 0.86%
Non-Hispanic whites foreign born: 0.57%
Non-Hispanic blacks foreign born: 2.47%
Hispanics foreign born: 0.2% to 2.2% based on country or ethnic origin
Asians foreign born: 0.1% to 0.9%
Unfortunately, these groups do not separate the foreign into legal and illegal immigrants. But most of the illegal immigrants are in the 9th group: Hispanics foreign born.
Note that the group with most of the illegal immigrants, group 9: Hispanics foreign born, has a substantially lower incarceration rate than group 1: All U.S. born. To the extent that these data provide any evidence about whether illegal immigrants are more or less criminal than American born people, they suggest that illegal immigrants are less criminal.
Some might argue that the comparison should be a different one. They would say we should compare group 4: Hispanics U.S. born, to group 2: Non-Hispanic whites U.S. born. The rationale for this would be a) it’s the second and third generations of the illegal immigrants who are the criminals and b) ignore group 3: Non-Hispanic blacks U.S. born because, well, it makes the anti-illegal immigrant argument too weak if we don’t.
OK. If we do as these folks suggest, we see that group 4 (the 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics born in the U.S.) have a higher incarceration rate than group 2 (Non-Hispanic whites born in the U.S.); it’s “2.3% to 5.9%” versus 1.71%. This comparison (of dubious merit in the first place) makes the illegal immigrants’ U.S. born children appear to be more criminal than whites born in the U.S.
But there is an important fact to take into consideration in interpreting this comparison, and it is demonstrated by, of all sources, The American Conservative magazine in an online article. This conservative article points out that the age distribution of Hispanics is much different from that of whites: the median age of Hispanics is around 27 “near the absolute peak of the prime-crime age range. But the median white age is over 40, putting nearly half the white population above the likely age range for committing crimes. While it is certainly true that Hispanic 23-year-olds have much greater criminal tendencies than white 45-year-olds, a more useful question is the relative criminality of Hispanics and whites of the same age.” This article then proceeds to do a long age-adjusted analysis and concludes with these words:
Conservatives have traditionally prided themselves on being realists, dealing with the world as it is rather than attempting to force it to conform to a pre-existing ideological framework. But just as many on the Right succumbed to a fantastical foreign policy that makes the world much more dangerous than it needs to be, some have also accepted the myth that Hispanic immigrants and their children have high crime rates. Such an argument may have considerable emotional appeal, but there is very little hard evidence behind it.
When it comes to anti-illegal immigrant propaganda, however, hard data is not what most Americans hear about. What most Americans hear is like what this author heard while listening to his local right-wing talk radio show. The show’s host reported that, while driving on a major artery, a car cut him off to get to an exit. Now it turns out that one can take this exit to get to many different towns. But the talk show host ignored that little detail and said that since that exit could be used to get to a town whose residents included some illegal immigrants, that therefore he was sure the driver of the car that cut him off was an illegal immigrant, and it just goes to show how awful those illegal immigrants are, “Doncha know?” This talk-show host is paid to implement divide-and-rule, and he clearly works very hard at it.
Anti-illegal-immigrant views based on the myth of their criminality are completely illogical. Here's another typical example.
Meredith Warren's opinion article July 31, 2015, "‘Sanctuary cities’ defy immigration law," uses specious logic. Warren cites the murder of Kate Steinle by, allegedly, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez in San Francisco to conclude that illegal immigrant Mexicans should be aggressively found and deported and local police should fully cooperate with federal authorities in this endeavor. Warren's "logic" goes like this: Lopez-Sanchez was an illegal Mexican immigrant. He allegedly murdered a woman. Therefore all illegal Mexican immigrants should be deported (as the federal law calls for) and the local police should help do that, or else more innocent people will be murdered by illegal Mexican immigrants.
By this same so-called "logic" one could reason as follows: Lopez-Sanchez had black hair. He allegedly murdered a woman. Therefore all people with black hair should be treated as dangerous likely murderers and in some fashion be preemptively prevented from murdering people, or else more innocent people will be murdered by black-haired people. The falseness of this is obvious because we know that black-haired people are no more likely to be murderers than non-black-haired people. The falseness of Warren's "logic," however, is only obvious if one similarly knows that, in fact, (as reported by the American Immigration Council here):
Crime Rates Have Declined as Immigration Has Increased
Even as the undocumented population has doubled to 12 million since 1994, the violent crime rate in the United States has declined 34.2 percent and the property crime rate has fallen 26.4 percent.
Cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami also have experienced declining crime rates during this period.
Immigrants Have Lower Incarceration Rates than Natives
Among men age 18-39 (who comprise the vast majority of the prison population), the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born.
The foreign-born incarceration rate in 2000 was nearly two-and-a-half times less than the 1.7 percent rate for native-born non-Hispanic white men and almost 17 times less than the 11.6 percent rate for native-born black men.
Native-born Hispanic men were nearly 7 times more likely to be in prison than foreign-born Hispanic men in 2000, while the incarceration rate of native-born non-Hispanic white men was almost 3 times higher than that of foreign-born white men.
Foreign-born Mexicans had an incarceration rate of only 0.7 percent in 2000—more than 8 times lower than the 5.9 percent rate of native-born males of Mexican descent. Foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men had an incarceration rate of 0.5 percent, compared to 3.0 percent of native-born males of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descent.
The logically relevant fact about Lopez-Sanchez is not that he was an illegal Mexican immigrant, but rather that he had seven prior felony convictions. If Warren had argued that local police should help federal authorities aggressively incarcerate seven-time felony convicts so that they don't murder people, that would have been logical. But instead Warren used specious "logic" to turn her readers against a category of people who suffer not only poverty due to unjust class inequality but also slander by billionaires such as Donald Trump. It's time to stop thinking of illegal immigrants as criminals.
As for the small number of real criminals among the illegal immigrants, they should be treated the same way we treat criminals who are citizens: arrest them and prosecute them for their crimes. If our rulers were truly concerned for public safety and if there were not enough police to keep us safe from illegal immigrant criminals (two big 'if's) then they (our rulers) could bring home all the U.S. military forces that are now in foreign countries killing innocent people or doing nothing useful (as in Germany and South Korea) and let them deal with the supposedly huge numbers of criminals caused by illegal immigration. But this is the LAST thing our rulers are interested in doing.
The Myth that Illegal Immigrants Are the Enemy of Citizen Workers. In Fact They Are On The Same Side as Citizen Workers In The Fight To Make A More Equal And Democratic World
Far from being criminals, some illegal immigrants are waging the fight that all working people support—for higher wages. WBUR has an online article titled, “In Fight for Better Wages, New Bedford Mayans Join Trade Union.” It reports:
Most of the workers here at Bob's Tire Company are from the same municipality in western Guatemala, San Andrés Sajcabajá. They are indigenous Mayans and native speakers of K'iche' — Spanish is a second language. At least some say they're undocumented.
At 18, Tomas Ventura came to New Bedford from Guatemala and landed a job at this tire recycling plant. He's 26 now, and says most of the workers get no paid sick leave or vacation time. Raises are scarce: After eight years of work, he earns $11 an hour.
“In January we got together and asked for a [$1] raise,” Ventura said. “Our boss said he’d give it to us in April, but time passed and ... we never got our raise.”
The owner of Bob's Tire declined to comment for this story, but Ventura says he and three others were fired over their demand for better wages. He says they returned to protest, threatened to file a complaint and successfully pressured the company to take them back.
“I think we were fired to teach a lesson to the other workers. ‘Nobody should speak out, nobody should ask for a raise.,' " he said. "That's why I gained courage. I told the other workers: 'Let's do something, this is the time, if we don't do it now it will never happen.' "
Last month, shortly after the four were rehired, the workers at Bob's Tire voted overwhelmingly — 65-5 — to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union, or UFCW. Advocates describe the vote as a first for New Bedford's Guatemalan community.
The world that the have-nots (all of them, “legals” and “illegals” both!) want is one in which nobody has the power to force large numbers of people outside the United States to have to leave their homes and families and enter the United States to find work, or to find safety from terrorist drug gangs and murderous oligarchs. This is why the only real solution to the problem of mass immigration into the United States is to develop the solidarity among all have-nots that is required to build a movement large enough and strong enough to stop the American ruling class from doing the disgusting things it is doing to have-nots south of the U.S.-Mexican border and have-nots north of the border. Can this solidarity develop if the “legal” have-nots take the side of Big Money and foolishly treat the “illegal” have-nots like dirt? Obviously not!
To create the solidarity needed to really solve the problem of mass illegal immigration people must welcome everybody into the movement who agrees with its goal, whether they are in the United States legally or illegally. The very last thing people should do is treat good and decent people—who agree with the movement—as the enemy on the absurd grounds that the ruling class says their presence on our side of the border is illegal.
As is the case with American citizens and legal residents, the vast majority of people in mass illegal migrations into the United States are working class people who very much want an egalitarian world. Regular Americans should treat them as friends, not criminals or foes. Regular Americans should treat them exactly the same way they treat American “legals.”
If an illegal immigrant does something that is considered morally wrong when done by an American citizen (like committing burglary or scabbing on a strike or freeloading), then and only then should that illegal immigrant be treated as a criminal or foe. But the police at U.S. borders who follow orders from America's Big Money rulers to bar illegal immigrants from crossing the border, and even to shoot them if they try to cross, and the police who capture illegal immigrants to deport them, are treating the friends of regular Americans as the enemy. This is wrong.
Big Money may declare some friends of legal American have-nots to be "illegal," but Big Money's law against coming to the United States looking for honest work without the permission of Big Money's fake democracy is a bad law that good people are not bound to respect. It's a bad law because our Big Money rulers who deliberately cause illegal mass migration in the first place only want it to be illegal so they can a) use the threat of deportation to cow the immigrants into tolerating low wages and unsafe working conditions and b) stigmatize the immigrants as criminals and thereby implement divide-and-conquer of workers in the United States by turning "legal" workers against "illegal" ones.
Americans have a proud history of refusing to obey unjust laws. Americans broke the law that said it was illegal to board a ship and dump all the tea in the ocean. Good Americans refused to obey the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that required people in non-slave states to capture runaway slaves and return them to their “master.” Good Americans broke the Jim Crow laws. It’s time to treat the laws that make “illegals” illegal the same way.
WHAT FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE SHOULD AMERICANS APPLY TO IMMIGRATION?
Speaking of open or closed borders and citizenship, here's the sensible policy:
The U.S. border (in fact, all borders) should be:
a) Open to all people who are not known to be opposed to the egalitarian values of no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid and fairness (this is the vast majority of people);
b) Closed to all people who are known to be opposed to egalitarian values.
Likewise, citizenship (and the full rights of citizenship) should be enjoyed by all people not known to be opposed to egalitarian values and only such people (as was essentially implemented in the 1865 Missouri State Constitution.)
Egalitarians, in other words, should enjoy FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION, the right to associate with whom they wish, and the right not to associate with those with whom they wish not to associate.
People known to have committed acts in conflict with egalitarian values should be viewed as criminals and treated accordingly.
Yes, Americans Have the Right to Limit Immigration to the USA, AND the Duty Not to Abet Oppression
Big Money is framing the debate in the United States about illegal immigration in a deliberately wrong and maximally divisive manner. As everybody knows, Big Money says the issue is whether to allow the illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America to break the law and stay in the U.S., or to deport them. Big Money thus says the issue is whether to enforce the law or let people break it.
This Big Money framework derives its apparent reasonableness from the widely-shared belief that people in a nation have the right to limit immigration into their nation as they see fit. Obviously if people have the right to limit immigration, then they have the right to deport those who do not enter the country legally. It all seems so perfectly simple.
Yes, people in a nation do indeed have the right to limit immigration into it. But this doesn't mean that the issue that Americans must decide today regarding illegal immigration is whether or not to let people break the immigration laws. Here's why.
Not Letting Somebody Enter One's Home is Not the Same as Forcing Them to Enter and Then Slamming the Door in Their Face
There's a huge difference between a) some individuals deciding they'd rather live in the United States than their native country, for reasons of personal preference or advancing their career or other such non-emergency concerns, versus b) millions of people fleeing across our southern border in order just to survive life-threatening conditions in their country that Big Money deliberately created in order to make big profits at the expense of these ordinary people and also to force them to illegally immigrate just to save their lives.
In the former case, yes, it is appropriate to limit immigration for various sensible reasons and deport illegal immigrants. But in the latter case, the question is not whether or not to limit immigration and deport illegal immigrants but rather whether or not to stop Big Money from forcing millions of people to illegally immigrate to save their lives.
The fact that Big Money has, for decades, been deliberately creating the life-threatening (but profitable for Big Money) conditions that are forcing millions of people from Mexico and Central America to illegally immigrate across our border (at huge risks to themselves, by the way) is kept out of the debate about illegal immigration that Big Money controls. But it is a fact. It is the KEY fact! It is the elephant in the living room!
Once one understands what is actually going on, then it is possible to gain some clarity about the relationship between the right to limit immigration and the duty not to abet oppression of innocent people. Here's how the two relate.
Yes, Americans have a right to limit immigration.
No, Americans do not have the right to use “limiting immigration” as an excuse for—as a means of—oppressing people, people from Mexico and Central America whom our billionaire rulers are FORCING to cross our border illegally to survive the life-threatening conditions our rulers have been imposing on them for decades.
When the American have-nots remove the rich from power—with the help of the illegal immigrants who are friends of American have-nots in this effort and whom American have-nots should therefore NOT treat like dirt by deporting them!—then something wonderful can happen. Then all the have-nots can together abolish the life-threatening conditions that presently force people to illegally cross the border, like slaves in the past who illegally ran away. Then the American have-nots can exercise the right to limit immigration without it being merely an excuse for aiding in the oppression of people.
The ruling class works hard to keep regular Americans confused about this. They must not succeed. Good Americans must be like the Abolitionists during the days of slavery. They knew that illegal runaway slaves were in the right, not wrong. The solution to the problem of runaway slaves was to solve it at the root, not to side with those who made a fetish of obeying the law and who thus treated the illegal runaway slaves like dirt by “deporting” them back to their master.
The people in the Mexican town Cherán with 20,000 residents got this right. They made an essentially egalitarian (in many ways at least) revolution that is shown in this video. These egalitarians (quite rightly!) exercised their right to freedom of association by denying to drug gang members and politicians and people with campaign literature for the major political parties the right to enter their town. This illustrates how sometimes denying people permission to immigrate is a very good thing. These Mexicans acted on the right principle: let pro-egalitarian people immigrate and prevent anti-egalitarian people from immigrating.
As evidence that allowing or disallowing some people to immigrate is not simply a liberal versus conservative question, note that an ultra-liberal columnist for the ultra-liberal Boston Globe wrote in this article in defense of people killing an intruder to their community because they wanted to be left alone.
Remember, the reason we don’t have a runaway slave problem today is not because we enforce the Fugitive Slave Act but because we abolished slavery.
Likewise, we’ll solve the problem of illegal immigration when we remove the rich from power. Then the people who presently are forced to illegally immigrate will want to either remain at home or go through legal channels to immigrate.
We CAN Remove the Rich from Power; Here's How.
Big Money doesn't want the have-nots even to think about removing the rich from power, obviously. But that's exactly what the have-nots need to think about if they are ever going to stop Big Money from treating all of them (legals and illegals alike) like dirt as is discussed here. Big Money uses its control of the media to censor any expression by people of wanting to remove the rich from power. It does this to make people believe that hardly anybody does want to remove the rich from power, and to make people believe that therefore it's impossible to do it. But the fact is that most people would LOVE to remove the rich from power, as is shown here. Read about how it is actually possible for the have-nots to remove the rich from power here.
* A note about the title of this article:
Some people say:
"Don't call it 'illegal'; call it 'undocumented' immigration instead. It's wrong to say a human being is an 'illegal immigrant' because no human being is illegal."
There are two reasons I use "illegal" instead of "undocumented." The first reason is simply to use the phrase that most people have heard so that there won't be any confusion about what I’m talking about. The second reason is to take the question of legal versus illegal head on and deal with it explicitly, rather than try to dodge the issue by using the word "undocumented." The people who lead the campaign to deport illegal immigrants base their argument precisely on the fact that these immigrants entered the country illegally. "Why should these people be allowed to break the law?" say those who advocate deporting them. I answer that question head-on without denying that, yes, the law says these immigrants are not allowed to be inside the United States. I answer by saying, “There are some laws—unjust laws—that people have a right to break”; this is the best answer, much better than weakly replying, "Well, they're not here illegally; they just don't have documents."
** Table 1 is summarized online here.