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The role of economic disparity as the cause in border crossings

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The roots of most political problems exist where there is an economic disparity between the two divided nations. The greater the disparity, the greater the political problem. Thus when the problems are not cultural or language, rather economic disparity, it makes little difference what the names or world locations of neighboring countries. So North Korea is to China what Mexico is to the US; Lesotho is to South Africa what Mexico is to the US; Guatemala is to Mexico what Mexico is to the US, and on it goes.

When there is no economic disparity, the political problems between countries are mostly based on historical issues, commercial rivalries and in modern times, environmental issues. The economic disparity between the peoples of Canada and the US is of little consequence thus the political problems based on the border as a dividing line were, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack, for the most part non existent, though there are Canadians living and working illegally in the US, as well as US citizen working illegally in Canada, and arguments regarding environmental protection or lack thereof.

Along the US-Mexico border the situations is dramatically different. . . Unskilled or semi-skilled factory workers in the US earn $16.30 an hour; in Mexico $1.13. A US skilled factory worker earns $21.90 an hour; in Mexico $2.79. An office building janitor in the US earns $9.37 an hour; in Mexico $0.87. A US store clerk earns $8.91 an hour; in Mexico $1.67. A US plumber earns $28.97 an hour; in Mexico $3.50.

How long do workers in the above job examples have to work for some basic staples like: half-gallon milk; 10-tortilla pack; 1-lb butter; 1-lb Cheddar cheese; 1.42-liter corn oil; 1-lb potatoes; 1-whole chicken; 1-dozen eggs? The US factory worker: 1-hour 45-minutes - Mexican worker: 9-hours 16-minutes . . .

For millions of Mexicans their earnings, if they have jobs, do not provide sufficient income to provide the basic necessities to support a family, so they cross the political line without official permission in search of economic opportunity, and most find it rather easily. Due to the historical massive numbers crossing, though the numbers eased in the last few years, a political problem has been created in the US exhibited by tense dislike of Mexican people in some regions of the US.

The economic disparity in wages coupled with job availability in the US are the root problems of the political problem between the US and Mexico. So what does America, the country made great by immigrants, propose doing to solve the root problems? Build fences and militarizes the border; declare those desperate souls felons, famously advocated by now President-elect Donald Trump describing them as criminals and rapists; criminalize aiding them in any way; deny their children education; prohibit renting them shelter and classify them as terrorists all to ease the American conscience while avoiding facing the reality of the nation's broken immigration system.

A significant segment of the US population, supported by a great number of Republican elected officials, clamor for complete border security before considering immigration reform.

This argument lends itself to accusations of racism due to the concentration of such efforts are to take place only along the 2000 mile US-Mexico border without consideration to the 4000 mile border between the US and Canada. Further there is no definition or benchmark as to what is border security. Does it mean total non-illegal crossings? Does it include the complete stopping drug smuggling, which has nothing to do crossers looking for work?

The further problem causing accusations of racism is the use of the number of illegal immigrants in the US tending to place the total as coming from Mexico and Central America. There are educated estimates indicating the presence of 11.5-million illegal immigrants used by politicians mostly always in conversations regarding the southern border. But the fact is that of the 11.5-million around 5-million are from countries other than those in our southern western hemisphere. They are from a multitude of other countries including from Europe, Asia and Africa, including the Middle East.

Additionally discussions on stopping illegal immigration does not include arrivals through airports and sea ports as well as those gaining access to and arriving through Canada.

In short, as long as political hypocrisy and racism are part of the debate the issue will continue to fester and drive more wedges between our people and those of other countries, who are not fooled by our holier than thou preaching while practicing anti-immigration rhetoric regarding people of color but allowing them to work for miserable wages and poor working conditions in jobs few Americans will accept.


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Former Editor of (2000 to 2010), a weekly online news magazine dealing with US-Mexico and Hispanic-American issues. Weekly columnist with HVC. Monthly columnist for the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine, The Connection, which (more...)

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