Hey, Ted Cruz and the rest of you anti-immigrant, far-right tinfoil hat guys: before you start fearmongering about all of the “illegals” who are so desperate for our cool American stuff like free education and awesome healthcare (!!) that they’re flooding across the border like rats, here’s a reality check: not everyone wants the American dream:
The indigenous Mexican migrant farmworkers I have come to know do not dream the American dream as such. They do not hope to become U.S. citizens, leaving behind their hometowns in Mexico. They do not dream of becoming American business owners or entrepreneurs. They do not imagine that, if they work hard enough picking berries in Washington state or pruning vineyards in rural California, they could become wealthy.
Rather, the indigenous Mexican migrant farmworkers I know want to be Mexican citizens, living primarily in their hometowns in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero. They want Mexico to be their home. They do not want to have to cross a mortally dangerous desert in order for them and their families to have a chance to survive. They want to live in their ancestral lands with their relatives.
Sadly, the Border Patrol policies (such as “prevention through deterrence”) that encourage migrants to cross in increasingly dangerous areas have increased risk and death on the border. And ironically, the increasing border enforcement is encouraging those who have crossed in the past to stay longer and longer in the United States, instead of doing what they would have chosen to do: return home after the harvest season each year.
I know, pretty hard to believe that someone would actually choose to live in a place Not Murrica, especially a place Down There. And yet … it’s true! What do they wants? Try this:
[…] I asked my migrant friends what they hoped for. First and foremost, the young man nicknamed “El Gordo” explained, they need legal permission to work in the United States. His friend, Samuel, whose leg was recently run over by a farm truck, added that they need basic legal protections as workers that have long been ignored or broken in the agriculture sector and they need health care while they are working in the United States. Finally, Samuel and “El Gordo” intimated a hope that at some point in the future they might be able to stay in their hometown in Mexico without having to migrate to the United States at all.
[…] We must work toward fair enforcement of worker protections for those already here, regardless of their immigration status. Finally, the most basic (and long-term) solution for many immigrants would be transnational development so that those who so desire are able to stay in their home countries. This should include renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, enacted a few years after my 16th birthday in southern Mexico) in ways that foster the ability of Mexican subsistence farmers to survive at home. In this way, more rural Mexicans would not have to say, like my indigenous Mexican friend Macario while crossing the desert border, “There is no other option left for us.”
That sounds like a great idea but be careful what you wish for: America doesn’t do nation-building any more, at least not the kind that involves countries we haven’t bombed into submission. And with America’s food and agriculture sector dependent on a steady flow of cheap brown labor from south of the border, I don’t think our corporate overlords are interested in seeing you guys stay in your home villages growing tomatoes for your own consumption. No, Burger King and Wendy’s need you picking those tomatoes on our side of the border. So don’t expect these problems to be fixed any time soon. Too many people profit from a broken system.