Reprinted from Infrastructure Expansion, Migration and Radical Border Solutions, from Root Force: Demolishing Colonialism at its Foundation.
Radical (adj): Of or pertaining to the root or root cause of the matter.
In the past few years, public attention in the US has increasingly focused on the issue of so-called “illegal immigration.” In April 2005, a vigilante group called the Minuteman Project undertook armed patrols of the Arizona-Mexico border, allegedly to help capture undocumented migrants. A year later, the mainstream was shaken when millions of immigrants and their supporters (one million in Los Angeles alone) took to the streets in protest of new bills that would further criminalize immigrants and militarize the US-Mexico border. Liberal pundits declared the birth of a new civil rights movement, while those on the right began to mutter about the possibility of a coming culture or race war.
Reformist solutions have predictably failed to address the root causes of migration or the sources of racist injustice. Amnesty and legalization will undeniably make life better for migrants currently living in the US, but they will do nothing to prevent yet more indigenas and latinos from being driven from their homes, and they will do nothing to change the US economy’s dependence on cheap migrant labor.
A truly radical analysis of migration must acknowledge that most migrants would prefer to stay home, but desperate circumstances force them to risk their lives in the hopes of finding work in the US. It must recognize the effect of treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which forces hundreds of thousands of campesinas and campesinos off their land every year by dumping cheap, subsidized, US corn on the Mexican market (according to some estimates, migration across the US’s southern border has tripled since NAFTA went into effect in 1994). It must take into account the way that the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) will exacerbate the problem, and it must acknowledge the role of infrastructure projects like the Plan Puebla Panamá (PPP) in facilitating these trade agreements.
Infrastructure projects, in and of themselves, also dislocate millions of people every year. The World Commission on Dams estimates that those directly displaced by dam construction in the last 60 years number 40-80 million worldwide. In Latin America, these dislocations inevitably feed northward migration.
A real solution to the plight of migrants in US society must address the underlying causes of this migration. It must not only defend the safety of those who choose to migrate, it also must defend the right of indigenous and campesino peoples to preserve their lands and cultures—to live at home, with dignity, if that is their wish. It must address the racist, colonialist economy that demands cheap labor and forces migrants and people of color into these roles. Attacking the infrastructure of this colonialism might be a good place to start.