re-border controls

Michael Luftmensch MLuftmensch at
Sun Feb 11 23:54:50 MST 1996

re-border controls


Rakesh Bhandari's suggestions for the discussion of border controls (in a
post on Feb. 4) were most welcome! He wrote of the need to examine these
matters with the help of a theory of uneven development.  I'm not familiar
with many of the books he mentioned, but clearly, discussion of borders and
migration leads into this territory. 

To what extent, he asked, is the argument that the globalization of capital
will help to lessen illegal immigration by creating employment opportunities
abroad true? 

I would answer: Not at all. Unemployment is rising around the world.
According to the International Labour Organization, 30 per cent of the
world's labour force is unemployed or underemployed. For the peoples of
Africa, Latin America and much of Asia, the current crisis is by far worse
than anything experienced in Europe and North America during the thirties.
With every passing decade, more and more people are becoming superfluous to
the market system.

In an article in The Nation (Nov. 13, 1995) David Bacon quoted Juan Jose
Delagado of the Democratic Revolutionary Party to the effect that the Mexican
government is legalizing slavery with a wage equivalent of (US)$2.50 a day.
Bacon concludes that US economic and trade policies are pushing Mexicans to
immigrate, but US immigration policy punishes them when they do. 

In this regard, the US is hardly unique. The onslaught against migrants is
growing more intense with each passing year. England, France, Italy and
Germany have all recently introduced legislation that would further erode the
human rights of migrants and tighten immigration restrictions on would-be

In the case of Germany, this is particularly ironic. It wasn't that long ago
that the people of Eastern Europe rebelled - with the Federal Republic's
enthusiastic support - against the restrictions placed on their freedom of
movement by the Communist regimes. Today, a cordon sanitaire is being erected
to prevent them from exercising that same freedom. 

When EC ministers met in Spain to hammer out a joint immigration policy a few
months ago, thousands of people protested in Barcelona against the "Wall of
Shame" that is being erected around Fortress Europe.  Discrimination is being
written into the fabric of the EC. In each member country, there will now be
two kinds of foreigners with two very different sets of rights. 

Popular perceptions of otherness are being mediated by the state. This is
very much part of the new European racism. Similar movements are afoot in the
United States.

I agree wholeheartedly with Carlos in his response to Kevin Cobral's
distinction between "legal" and "illegal" immigrants. Jon Flanders wrote that
the only pro-working class position on immigration controls is to oppose them
and support full citizenship and labor rights for immigrants. "Illegal and
legal is one of the worst divisions within the working class... Who is here
legally (in the USA) anyway?"

Brian Carnell responded with the following statement: 
"Wow...will you even let them make a profit off their labor???"

Undocumented workers suffer horrendous exploitation precisely because of
their precarious legal status. Any resistance can be nipped in the bud by
calling in the immigration authorities.

Moreover, the existence of the controls in force on the US-Mexican border not
only criminalize migrants from the south, they are also instrumental in
exploiting Mexican workers, particularly those working in the maquiladora
industry - the assembly plants that employ aprox. one fifth of the Mexican
work force.


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