The Underlying Causes

Enhancing Awareness – Political Economy of Immigration and Our Social Responsibilities

Buen Vecino provides enhanced awareness about the underlying causes and effects of immigration and the inherent responsibilities we bear as members of our community.  Immigration is customarily addressed by focusing on the effects of immigration in our communities. In stark contrast, it is extremely rare to find analysis on the reasons why people leave their homelands and take the risk to migrate to other countries.  People migrate for many reasons, but some of the most prevalent are economic or a high incidence of violence. More than one in five members of our county communities are immigrants. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, in Ventura County there were 182,987 immigrants or 22% of the population. CAUSE estimates there are over 71,000 undocumented people in Ventura County. In our county the vast majority of immigrants come from Mexico and the main reason for decades has been economic, followed more recently by an increase in violence, as economic and social conditions have deteriorated in their hometowns. Consequently, the vast majority of immigrants in Ventura are economic refugees.

The economic factors that force many people to flee their homelands as economic refugees are rooted on the economic systemic conditions imposed on them that have destroyed any opportunity to enjoy a dignified life in their own communities. Many of these conditions are imposed by a global system in which the governments bear a fundamental responsibility.  Since NAFTA was implemented in 1994 more than two million jobs have been lost in rural communities alone in Mexico, whilst US farmers have flooded the Mexican markets with grains and other farm products that enjoy large farming subsidies from the US federal government. Moreover, many hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in urban areas. By the same token, real wages have consistently deteriorated and lost two-thirds of their value in the past three decades. As a consequence, the vast majority of workers in Mexico endure a system of Modern Slave Work deliberately imposed by both the Mexican and US governments that precludes them from having access to a dignified life.

On the other hand, US corporations have moved many jobs and created many other jobs in Mexico to enjoy dramatically lower labour costs. This is their main motivation in their decision-making rationale.  To be sure, this has also left several hundred thousand US workers unemployed or with jobs that pay much lower salaries. As a result, corporations have been able to increase their efficiency and competitiveness dramatically, increasing their return on investment and their shareholder value. Also, the much lower wages that they pay to their Mexican workers in Mexico serve to subsidise the much higher wages they pay to the workers they still have in the their US operations. Finally, we as consumers also benefit greatly from this economic structures as the much lower wages paid to Mexican workers by US companies allow them to offer us their products and services at far more competitive prices. Thus, hunger wages in Mexico also subsidise the consumer prices we enjoy for the goods and services we consume. The dire subsistence conditions imposed on Mexican workers by US corporations translate into benefits for their shareholders, their US workers’ wages and our consumer prices.

These structures are systemic and thus replicated globally. Many of the products we buy in our stores come from countries on the periphery of the system, such as China, Vietnam and many others that pay much lower wages to their workers that are far from being living wages. Yet again, the vast majority of our immigrants in Ventura come from Mexico. To make matters worse, the US driven global system that displaced them from their hometowns and brought them to our communities subsequently criminalises them by federal immigration authorities and forces them to live in our communities in permanent fear of incarceration and deportation. 

We as citizens share an important portion of responsibility for this situation. First, because we have allowed our governments to impose a system of exploitation in Mexico in collusion with Mexican governments. Both governments have customarily worked in collusion to impose the structures that provide US corporations and their partners in Mexico with the maximisation of their efficiencies, competitiveness and ultimately their shareholder value. Corporations and their institutional investors are the real constituents of both governments. In practice both governments work diligently in partnership to protect and maintain this status quo. Second, because we benefit as consumers for the much cheaper labour costs that allow for much lower prices for our consumer activity.

Ethically, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. If we do no want people to continue fleeing their countries for the aforementioned reason, we must eliminate the root causes of immigration. On the other hand, if we appreciate all the contributions that immigrants make to our communities, we cannot allow our governments to criminalise them as if they were breaking laws of their own accord and not because of the conditions that were forcefully imposed on them by our governments and global corporations. Succinctly, we must not allow the system to exploit them in their hometowns and then criminalise them for seeking a dignified life in our communities. Consequently, the very least that we can do is first get informed about the complexities of immigration and then work to change the structures that have displaced so many millions of Mexicans and people from many other countries for the benefit of global corporations and their institutional investors.

If we want to solve the issues of immigration there is no other way to do it but by addressing the root causes instead of the effects. If we force our governments to stop supporting a system of labour exploitation in Mexico and gradually workers begin to see their real wages increase to levels where they can enjoy a dignified quality of life for them and their families, they will stop fleeing as economic refugees and stay in their own communities. If they stay, it will be because they will have much greater disposable incomes. This will increase demand for goods and services in Mexico, which will also generate many new jobs both in Mexico and in the US as our economies continue to be inextricably linked. If we start today to gain awareness and organise to address the true reasons behind immigration, we would gradually be replacing a perverse predatory system with a virtuous circle that would solve many major social problems in our communities and benefit all in a sustainable manner. 

Buen Vecino is currently working to prepare presentations addressing the roots causes of immigration hoping that by increasing awareness in our communities we can exert pressure to end a system that greatly benefits corporations and produces extreme poverty and inequality that affects us all in a rather negative manner.

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We are prepared to deliver presentations about this extremely important issue, rarely addressed by the media and the government, at the request of organizations concerned with the immigrant conundrum and interested in learning about the root causes of immigration. If you would like to schedule a presentation, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange a mutually convenient date and time.