From speaking to a colleague in Mexico City and to a diverse group of people in Arizona, interesting conclusions can be drawn. Generally, U.S. citizens are surprised that some 70% of people in Arizona appear to support the stringent measures that are supposed to be enacted into law on July 29th. Interviewing people in Arizona, one becomes aware that the population tends to be ill-informed about the background of the immigration crisis. When asked whether they are aware of how much legal immigration comes from Mexico, nobody seems to know. The figure is approximately 26,000 legal immigrants per year. This means that if Mexicans were to cue at U.S. consulates, the end of the line would be miles long. Suppose that a peasant had a small parcel of land to nourish his family and wished to improve his lot by immigrating to the world’s richest country. Suppose he went to a consulate; he would have to wait about 20 years to enter the U.S. legally. Hence it would seem that being properly documented for a resident visa turns out to be next to impossible.
Another element needs consideration. Since the NAFTA Treaty, U.S. agribusiness has been able to bring down the price of vegetables and fruit to the point that millions of Mexican farmers have abandoned their land. Mexico City with its 18 million inhabitants would hardly be a reasonable option. Upon contacting a journalist in Mexico City, she admitted that the plight of Mexican farmers was only partly due to NAFTA. The Mexican government for quite a while has worked hard on developing its oil industry while neglecting the agriculture sector.
The large number of immigrants from Central America and Mexico is not a unique phenomenon in the world. In 2007, about one million migrants per year crossed the Mediterranean from Africa and an additional 300,000 sought asylum in European nations going mostly to Spain, Italy and Malta.
The most contentious problem in the U.S. is the lack of a humane universal reform system to address immigration. One horror story speaks of a mother whose home was invaded by the police in Phoenix, Arizona, at 3 o’clock in the morning. She was handcuffed and when she asked that the handcuffs be removed so that she could hold her one-year-old baby, her request was refused. She was taken to a holding center, was not allowed to make a telephone call and unceremoniously shipped back to Mexico. Such procedures are unacceptable in a civilized country and violate human and civil rights as well as the laws of common decency.
The U.S. Department of Justice has proclaimed the Arizona law of July 29, 2010 unconstitutional. However, there are nine states which support the Arizona law with some usual suspects like Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Texas as well as Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Virginia.
On July 29th, there will be massive nonviolent demonstrations against the law in Arizona. Stay tuned…