Immigration Problem Linked to NAFTA


While free trade has been largely ignored during presidential debates this election year, immigration has once again been a hot topic. Stop-gap measures, like amnesty and deportation, have been discussed, but there has been no mention of the root cause of our problem.  NAFTA and our current immigration problem go hand-in-hand. If the candidates really want to get serious about the immigration problem, they need to address the problems created by NAFTA. Building a bigger fence will never be the solution.

NAFTA has put small Mexican family farms in direct competition with subsidized American and Canadian agribusiness operations, making it impossible for them to compete. While it was once possible for a family to eke out a living on a small plot of land, that possibility has now been largely eliminated. Those who once farmed were forced to look for factory work, creating an oversupply of workers for factories. This oversupply drives wages down to below-subsistence levels, leading to the Mexican sweatshops that multinational corporations rely on to produce goods for export. With such dire prospects, it is no wonder many workers make their way to the U.S. in search of greener pastures.

NAFTA has wreaked havoc upon both the Mexican and the U.S. economy. Both countries were promised better jobs and stronger economies. Neither country has seen any improvement.  Americans lose their jobs when multinational corporations ship their jobs to Mexico, and Mexicans are forced to either work in these low-wage factories or cross the border into the United States. Only multinational corporations benefit from NAFTA, and they do it at the expense of average citizens.

Even if the presidential candidates recognized this link between NAFTA and our immigration problem, they might be hesitant to speak out. Our elections are increasingly dependent on corporate money, and those corporations are profiting from NAFTA. Unfortunately,  the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has only given them more influence over our elections. When one wealthy financier can change the course of an election, the hope of getting objectively good policies is slim.

Our system of government has favored multinationals for too long. The result has been the gutting of our domestic manufacturing sector and millions of lost jobs. By addressing our free trade problems we can create jobs and mitigate our illegal immigration problem. The solution seems simple, yet no one is taking the right steps.


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