Millions of middle class Americans, mostly in rural areas, are feeling cornered by the overwhelming forces of globalization. Their employment was displaced by automation, international competition and corporations’ transfer of jobs to other nations with lesser production costs and more flexible laws. Many of these Americans express a visceral anger towards anything international and desperately reach for national isolation and solutions that would save them from people who don’t look and speak like them.
Some leaders have convinced them that they are victims of sinister foreigners who ridicule American good will and naivete in international agreements, which are unfair to the U.S. Those leaders claim that criminals who have crossed the border illegally are responsible not only for loss of jobs but also for rape, murder and unprecedented addiction to drugs among Americans.
Fear over declining income, increase of joblessness and violence make people susceptible to lash out at anyone with whom they are unfamiliar. The federal program DACA founded in 2012 is perceived to benefit such “others.”
Consequently, many believe they should pressure President Trump to eliminate the program. DACA makes individuals, who were brought before age 16 by adult undocumented immigrants, eligible for a work permit and not be subject to deportation during 2-year renewable periods. DACA requires beneficiaries be in school or have a HS degree, a record free of serious misdemeanors and felonies or be honorably discharged from armed forces. Approximately 800,000 DACA applications have been approved; original estimate by Pew Research Center of eligible applicants was 1.7 million.
It seems wise to consider some of the origins of the surrounding circumstances and potential consequences of this decision.
Most of the persons who entered the U.S. without immigration documents since the surge that followed the 1994 launching of the North American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA) are from Mexico. Their acceptance of the risks involved was an act of desperation not unlike the desperation experienced by Americans today.
They were hit by the forces of globalization even before NAFTA was signed. The Mexican government rolled out the red carpet to foreign investors excited over NAFTA’s promise by pulling the rug from under millions of poor families surviving through small plots of land. A system called “ejido,” created to prevent concentration of land ownership after the Mexican 1910 revolution, had a similar intent as the U.S. Homestead Acts. In witty maneuver, President Salinas made it possible for foreigners to buy the land of survival farmers. Later, corn farmers were put out of business by American corn sold to Mexico at below-cost prices allowed by U.S. government subsidies. Both farming groups moved by the millions into Mexican cities already suffering from unemployment and, eventually, to the wealthiest country in the world, risking life, freedom and dignity.
Governments and corporations in the U.S. and other developed nations launched globalization. Above cited Americans and the Mexican poor were pawns in a vast international chess game. Such situations should not be surprising; readers only need recall who were responsible for 2008 global financial crisis and who paid the costs.
The relevant question now is: how can we address DACA constructively? Should children following trusted adults into a different nation whose language they don’t understand be penalized for violating a law they ignored?
In terms of economic self-interest, U.S. taxpayers have already invested in these young people. The latter are leading productive lives and represent a resource to address the country’s huge socioeconomic challenges.
Xenophobic and ethnocentric nations such as North Korea are subject to precarious economic uncertainty. Maintaining a nation “untainted” by people of other colors and cultures is a formula for economic atrophy not greatness. American exceptional achievements evolved from following nature’s lesson that diversity makes ecosystems flourish. Much as some try to homogenize all that is human, it is reality that determines the outcome.
Simple optics might convey the message if readers view pictures of Jong-Un’s troops. They do indeed “shock and awe” but is ostentatious and machine-like power what we want for our children and children of those with whom we share the suffering inflicted by uncaring elites?
Diversity is an unavoidable part of reality. Instead of removing immigrants on the basis of diversity, we should once and for all manage U.S. immigration efficiently.
Hector E. Garcia is published author of Clash or Complement of Cultures?: Peace and Productivity in the New Global Reality.