Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why the US/ Mexico Border Should be Opened

The other day, I was sitting in my car waiting to cross the border into Canada, and staring at the huge electric sign they’ve placed over the Duty Free flashing the words “Report Suspicious Activity”. After I stopped thinking that it might be a good time to re-read Orwell, I started thinking about my life as a weekly immigrant. In many ways, I could be considered an “illegal”- actually, I’m even worse because, aside from labor and taxes, I don’t give much back to the USA. All of my money goes into a Canadian bank and is used on purchases here. I do buy gas in the states, but that’s only because it’s about half as expensive. Otherwise, I make my money in the states and spend it on my family in Canada. Someone should tell the Minutemen.

Every week, I cross a border that is 3,987 miles long and relatively unprotected. I’ve heard stories of people who were out hunting in the woods and crossed into Canada without realizing it. Actually, the US/Canada border is like most borders in the world this way. The vast majority of them have little real “protection”, and the examples of strong borders are historical examples like the Great Wall of China or the Berlin Wall, and more recent examples like the wall between Israel and Palestine. This should tell us something. Strong fences make good neighbors, but nations seem to use them only in times of war or empire. For example, Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep out the Scottish tribes as a defensive measure in a time of war.

The Minutemen forget that we aren’t at war with Mexico. In fact, the idea of NAFTA and CAFTA was to integrate the economies of Mexico, the United States and Canada. We wanted a North American free trade zone, and we should want a free zone for migration as well.

As far as I know, there are no Minutemen patrolling the US/ Canada border. The idea of Canadian border-jumpers seems ridiculous, even though it would be relatively easy to do. And it would be extremely easy to come visit the US and stay- illegal Canadian immigrants would be virtually indistinguishable from US residents, as long as they remembered how to pronounce "about". So, why don't we worry more about illegal Canucks?

Part of it, of course, is racial. Americans hate to hear about racism, but seem to talk about race more than anyone else. Somehow Spanish is so culturally dangerous that it could destroy Western culture in the AM talk radio imagination. Meanwhile, Canadians are non-threatening because they speak English, at least when they aren't speaking French. And most Americans don't know about Quebec anyway.

But, there are already plenty of hispanics in America anyway. And American culture doesn't exactly seem so fragile to the rest of the world. Canadians have a hard time accepting this idea that the American culture that dominates their lives could be snuffed out by Menudo. Actually, Americans really don't realize how dominant their culture is. Most of the world is still adjusting to Fox News and Wal-Mart- not plotting to overthrow them and replace them with telenovelas and markets that sell Inca Cola.

Which brings us to the reason that Canadians aren't willing to stuff themselves in car trunks and sneak over here- the Canadian dollar is nearly as strong as the American dollar. In fact, last year it was briefly stronger. So, there is no real incentive to work illegally in the states. There are still plenty of Canucks who come here to work legally, but illegal workers get paid less than minimum wage, or less than they could make at home.

Vincente Fox has said repeatedly that he wants Mexican wages to be equal to American wages. But, the problem is he needs development, and American companies don't want to build factories in places where they have to pay princely sums like $7/ hour. That's actually why they don't build them in places like the American rust belt city where I work. They would much rather set up shop on the Soutern side of the border and pay starvation wages for time and eternity. Well, and then bitch when people want to jump the border. It's the old plantation system. You can work on the plantation, but don't think the metropole is going to consider you a citizen.

So, we're sort of hypocrites when we bitch about the cheap labor that makes everything we own wanting a piece of the pie. "It's embarrassing to be protecting the U.S.-Mexico border and be wearing a uniform made in Mexico," says T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a 6,500-member union. And he's right. It should be. Of course, he wants to get rid of the uniforms and not the border, but it should be the other way around. The colony and the metropole are already economically integrated. We might as well make it official. What the US should do, if we care so much about Mexican immigration, is to require our companies that establish factories in Mexico to pay the equivalent of the US minimum wage. What's ugly about NAFTA is that we use it to pressure these companies to make products in Mexico that are up to the standards of those made in America, but we can't pressure them to pay a decent living wage. But, we need to work towards a NAFTA Minimum Wage, and then pressure Vincente Fox to meet that minimum wage in Mexico.

And then open the borders. Just as our economy thrives because of the open and free markets, our culture will trive because of free acculturation and migration. Not only is this the logical and decent thing to do, it's probably inevitable.

3 comments:

The Pagan Temple said...

If you would like, Rufus, I would be happy to recommend a new stretch of Interstate runing from Tucson to Ontario.

Rufus said...

As long as you're not selling it.

The Analyzer said...

The article listed below talks about the US-Canada border threat

US Canada border security threat

Pretty sneaky!