NAFTA’s Impact on Immigration

The Arizona immigration bill that has been grabbing headlines for months due to its controversial provisions came to a temporary conclusion today. The bill was signed into law and parts of it will go into effect, but the more contentious aspects of the bill have been placed on hold after a federal judge ordered an injunction in order to review these specific statutes.

Regrettably, neither side is dealing with the main issue that should be at the forefront of the illegal immigration debate. In 1994, Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement that would later be approved by congress. This law would erase jobs from both Mexico and the United States, drastically reducing the standard of living in Mexico, all while keeping the multinational corporations standing.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put a hold on clauses of the bill that she feels preempts federal law. This decision is welcome news for the over 500,000 immigrants currently living in Arizona, many of whom were ready to flee the state if the bill passed. Judge Bolton indicated several problems with the bill’s provisions, including the part on “reasonable suspicion.” This aspect of the bill would have allowed officers to search those who were reasonably suspicious of being an illegal immigrant, and arrest them if proper documentation was unable to be provided.

“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new [law],” Bolton ruled. “By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”

Some aspects of the law will, of course, still go into effect. Under the new law, it will be illegal to transport or house an illegal immigrant, and anyone caught giving a ride to an illegal immigrant could see their vehicle impounded. Furthermore, state officials will be subject to criminal charges for interfering with or refraining from enforcing federal immigration laws.

The bill’s signing comes at a time when Arizona’s unemployment rate is 10 percent, causing concern on both sides of the debate. Many Arizona citizens feel that illegal immigrants are taking away jobs that should be going to them, but advocates of the bill say this is not the case. Salvador Reza, a day labor activist in Arizona, contends that the jobs illegal immigrants have are not even considered by Americans. “These guys get on a rooftop at 115-120 degrees; These guys do the jobs that nobody else wants to do,” said Rivas.

Unfortunately for Mr. Reza, both sides of the debate in America now recognize illegal immigration as a problem facing our country that needs to be solved on a federal level. However, politics (as usual) are halting any progress in Washington.

“I think you now have two presidents [George W. Bush and President Obama] who basically have the same position on comprehensive immigration reform, and that’s because you talk to the policy folks, and it’s nearly impossible to do this piecemeal,” said Nicole Wallace, former White House communications director for President Bush, on “Good Morning America.” “What’s changed is opposition. It is so hard.”

No one takes the time to simply ask “Why?” in the midst of their outrageous protests. “Why” are these Mexican citizens suddenly crossing our borders in enormous amounts? The simple truth is, through NAFTA, Mexicans had no alternative but to leave their own farms and factories and seek refuge in the U.S.

“Cheap corn from U.S. agribusiness drove domestic Mexican farmers out of a livelihood, and into cities where there were also no jobs. Foreign factories clustered at the U.S. border, but overall manufacturing in Mexico plummeted…contributing to declining standards of living and income inequality on both sides of the border,” writes Ellen Shaffer, co-director at the center of policy analysis.

The solution is clear: reverse NAFTA and witness the natural progression as Mexican citizens/illegal immigrants voluntarily return to their home country, The jobs that were taken from them with the signing of NAFTA will almost instantly be available to them again. Only by eliminating the cause for immigration can we ensure that a harmful number of immigrants do not pass our borders. Give them a reason to want to go home.

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