By Leoncio Vasquez Santos
We are out in the streets of Fresno again this May First to continue putting in the public agenda the issue of immigration. In the 21st century, technology has advanced at a gigantic pace and is allowing us to witness firsthand what is happening across the world. The extreme capitalist system is globalizing our world, displacing millions of people from their place of origin, finding themselves in another land, foreign to their own, as the only way to find means to support their families. We avoid talking about this issue. We are not aware of the reasons so many people, not familiar to U.S. society, are risking their lives to cross the border to the north.
The recent visit of two parents of the 43 students disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, six months ago and two students, one of them a survivor of the brutal attacks from the municipal and state police force during the Caravana 43, highlighted the oppressive environment of people in Mexico today. Because of this, many have fled to the United States to escape the oppressive Mexican government.
Another significant reason is globalization and how transnational corporations and government-subsidized farming practices serve, as the infamous Walmart, to destroy family businesses or midsized corporations to the poor Latin Americans countries. They squeeze the already-struggling farmers in poor Latin America and leave them no alternative but to abandon their land and their families to desperately seek the survival of their family members. The system is well established knowing the desperation and vulnerability of immigrants and using them as modern slaves.
Going back to the case of the 43 students disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, there is another elephant in the room that we don’t want to talk about in the United States. Critics blame the students for getting out of the streets and protesting, exaggerating that they steal and damage private property on their way. The reality is that the U.S. war on drugs has everything to do with it.
The United States, so close to Mexico and witnessing the irresponsibility, wide open corruption and impunity of the Mexican government, continues providing economic support expecting Mexico to continue fighting drug trafficking. What the corrupt government of Mexico is doing with all the resources from U.S. citizens’ tax revenue is oppressing and attacking, with full force, students, social movement leaders, teachers and news reporters when they challenge the barbaric reforms that the current government is doing like privatizing anything that they can think of.
In 1994, the United States, Canada and Mexico signed the infamous trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that, instead of improving the conditions of the poor Mexicans, has been the strategy to bring a cheap labor force to the United States. The indigenous communities from rural Oaxaca and Guerrero had never stepped onto the soil of the United States until the passage of NAFTA. The subsidized corn that the United States sent to Mexico flooded the market, taking the price of the corn so ridiculously low that farmers in rural indigenous communities who survived for thousands of years on corn could not compete anymore. They finally had to give up and forced themselves out of their communities to find survival means for their families.
We are appealing to the conscience of U.S. citizens to pressure the government to do something different if there is no desire to take more immigrants. The United States is known to provide humanitarian support to those less fortunate. Why not invest in rural and poor communities with projects that will provide dignity jobs for families instead of sending millions dollars to the corrupt Mexican government whose politicians live an exaggerated lifestyle with mansions worth millions of dollars—not coinciding with how the rest of the population lives.
Why not make the Mexican government subject to the Leahy amendment, the U.S. human rights law that prohibits the U.S. Departments of State and Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. This is exactly what is happening in Mexico. Every day in the news, we see the assassination and disappearance of students, social leaders, news reporters and massive mysterious graves that nobody wants to investigate deeper.
These are the real reasons why conscientious people get out in the streets to educate U.S. society, to have their ears and eyes opened wide so that they learn about these conditions and contribute to make historic changes in the lives of those vulnerable in our society. We all need to stand up for those suffering; these are the values of the people of the United States, not taking advantage of those less fortunate, not separating families, not claiming that people are illegal aliens when they are human beings forced to respond and search however they can for their survival because of the conditions we have caused. Or maybe, it might be the opposite, perhaps, the history of this nation has always been and will continue to depend on slavery so the condition and lifestyle of those well-positioned is not threatened no matter what happens to the rest; it has been the survival of the strongest.
Leoncio Vasquez Santos is the executive director of Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueño and a member of the May First Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Contact him at lvasquez@ centrobinacional.org.