Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why Do We Have an Immigrant Problem?

Every day, hundreds of illegal immigrants pour across the Mexican border. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are approximately 500,000 illegal entries into the United States yearly. Even considering that, however, the total number of illegals in the U.S. has been decreasing slightly in recent years—due to the fact that some of them are going home for one reason or another.

The main reasons for illegal immigration into the U.S. are several. First, there is not enough arable land in Mexico to support their food supply needs.
Mexico has two agricultural systems, operating parallel to each other. Producing foods as cash crops for export is the primary goal of large-scale farmers. Although only about 15% of Mexico's land is arable, or suitable for cultivation, 88% of the arable land is used for cultivation of export crops and for grazing cattle. What large-scale farmers produce is determined by what brings the highest prices in international markets. Since the 1970s, most large-scale farmers have been producing the non-traditional crops such as fresh flowers; fresh and processed fruits such as tomatoes, melons, pineapples, strawberries, and mangos; also produced are fresh vegetables such as artichokes, cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, broccoli, snow peas, and asparagus. Additionally, there are the traditional exports that feed Mexico's northern neighbors, such as sugar, coffee, bananas and cattle. During winter and spring, more than half the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States come from Mexico. They sell to transnational corporations that process or directly transport the products to warehouses and eventually to grocers.

Among those who benefit from the large-scale agricultural system are local wealthy farming cartels and transnational corporations such as Del Monte, Green Giant, Heinz, United Brands, Castle and Cooke, PepsiCo, Ralston Purina, Campbell's, General Foods, Beatrice Foods, Gerber, Kellogg, Kraft and Nestle. Rarely do these corporations own land. Instead, they contract with large-scale farmers. The corporations have capital to invest in technology, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, transport systems, and marketing.

In recent decades, more and more of Mexico’s arable lands have been converted into the food export industry, so that Mexico is having a hard time producing the corn, beans, and cattle which are needed for the feeding of Mexico’s people, especially, the poor people. It is estimated by the World Bank that half of Mexico’s rural children are malnourished.

In other words, Mexico’s people are starving. Is it any wonder, then, that many young Mexican men are emigrating to the United States to find money to support their families back home? Of course, some of them end up in the larger Mexican cities working in the illegal drug and crime industries. Many Latinos, however, emigrate just because of the crime and violence they find at home. Recently, drug dealers have begun to demand half of the salaries of teachers in the public schools in some districts. They make these demands under threat of death.

Police and government corruption is rampant in Central America, even more than in Mexico, if that can be imagined. With all these incentives, we can understand why poor Mexican and Central Americans will do just about anything to escape such terrible circumstances.

My next blog post will specify what I envision as an answer to this problem.

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