Are Deportations Really  A “GOOD” Thing?     by Ann López

I received a phone call this morning from a frantic farmworker. “ICE is conducting raids in the fields of Oxnard. They’re going out in the fields and rounding up farmworkers for deportation!  What will happen to my relatives who have lived in California with their families for years?”

Recently the Pew Research Center published data indicating that half of all people interviewed in this country view deportation as a “good thing.” Those who support deportations justify them as the appropriate consequence of unlawful immigration to the U.S.   However, I argue that the  U.S. set into motion the waves of illegal immigration, by promoting so-called “free” trade policies with Mexico and Central America.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is twenty years old. Up until 1994 subsistence and small producer Mexican farmers supported themselves and their families by growing corn, bean and squash polycultures; a sustainable 7000 year old form of farming that supported millions of rural families and provided humanity with thousands of diverse genetic strains of corn. Farmers became the curators of corn genetics for Mexico and the world.

NAFTA removed farmer-protecting tariffs at the border. With “free” trade, U.S. subsidized cheap corn poured into Mexico by the tons; undercutting the government return that Mexican farmers had come to expect. Small producer and subsistence Mexican farmers were no match for the cheap U.S. subsidized corn. Almost overnight the value of their corn yield was cut in half.   NAFTA precipitated a humanitarian and environmental crisis in Mexico. No longer able to support their families, many farmers elected to risk an undocumented border crossing to the U.S. in search of work as one of only a very few survival options. Millions fled the Mexican countryside. Then president Salinas de Gotari estimated that 15 million farmers would leave the countryside, and today the U.S., with 11 million undocumented immigrants, has the highest foreign born population in the world.

In 1948 after World War II, the U.S. became a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, by promoting NAFTA, it has blatantly ignored or violated multiple human rights that it promised to uphold, including Article 16: (3) “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and State,” and Article 23 (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment….”   Immigrants who were forced off their lands in Mexico by NAFTA are in this country under duress, and many are our nation’s farmworkers. Most do not want to be here. Families have been fractured as members are split between two countries with a border between and no way to physically connect. Abandoned women with children in Mexico have no means to support themselves. Poverty in the rural countryside is at an all-time high. Mexican corn genetics is lost as U.S. hybrid and genetically modified corn continue to flood the Mexican market.

Today, one half of the corn in Mexico is from the U.S.   Problems in Mexico are exacerbated when immigrants come to work in this country. As families struggle to re-establish themselves in the U.S., members must live in constant fear of deportation. This cruel, unjust state of affairs is particularly reprehensible given the U.S. role infomenting their immigration in the first place.

Given that most of the food we consume is harvested by a majority population of undocumented farmworkers, what would we do without them  Over two million immigrants have been deported during Obama’s presidency, resulting in fractured families and creating untold misery and suffering.  The only appropriate response to this human rights disaster is compassion and rapid movement in the direction of Comprehensive Immigration Reform; particularly by those Congressional representatives who espouse “family values”.