Saturday, May 02, 2009

Our Neighbors Want Change As Well

It was an interesting visit to Watching America today. The adulation for our new president has been toned down a bit as the rest of the world begins to assess just what he has accomplished in his first few months in office. While his trips to Europe and Latin American were successful in convincing his hosts that he is not cut from the same cloth of our last president, there is still some nervous expectancy hovering as other nations expect the US to show some leadership, especially when it comes to the global economic crisis.

One article, from El Salvador's Diario Co Latino, was especially interesting because the author (José M. Tojeira) made the connection between the global economy, the imbalance in the distribution of wealth, and migration, especially to the United States. I am going to take the liberty of quoting extensively from the article, which is entitled "Fair Migration Policy is a Moral Obligation."

With serious problems concerning inequality, our Latin America is the least prepared for the crisis. As that inequality increases and the breach between the rich and the poor deepens, the poorest are going to carry the heaviest burden and are going to increase the negative tendencies of power. Judicial insecurity, civic insecurity, right and left populist leadership, authoritative tendencies and temptations, corruption, drugs, violence and a lack of social cohesion can create new issues and stronger plagues in our Latin territories.

In this context, a relationship with the United States is even more important. The former government of that country and many of its millionaires and executives, in particular those from big companies, are in a large part responsible for this current crisis. With ample resources to overcome their crisis, it would not be fair that our countries would not receive some sort of support from the United States.

And nowadays, what would be of most help to our Central American countries is a fair migration policy. A policy that would have an insignificant cost to the United States in comparison to the costs that were generated by corporate irresponsibility and the speculation in its own productive and economic heart. ...

Latin Americans should not cease to repeat the following: the United States has a debt to our poor countries, which have helped to build the North American well-being with their migrants working for feeble wages; as well as with their resources, many times cruelly exploited by North American companies (with the example of the United Fruit Company in Central America, not to mention miners that prosper while leaving poverty and problems behind them). ...

...If our government officials and leaders tell us, at least here in El Salvador, that it is important that we learn English, it is also important that they are coherent in telling the United States government that it treat our migrants with respect. The United States and Latin America certainly have a common future. And that common future cannot in any way build itself upon walls of shame, with cruel traps, deporting good people or treating working people as delinquents. Recognizing the right of people that are already in the United States to have papers and stay in that country, along with the right to work, is a moral obligation of international status. And our government officials, as well as those of the northern country, should assume it.
[Emphasis added]

The latest global crisis, the potentially devastating swine flu epidemic, has once again shown just how interconnected we are all, regardless of our nationality. The crisis has also given the less enlightened among an opportunity to espouse a racist philosophy that helps nothing. Blaming immigrants for the spread of the flu is not only mean spirited, it is also factually wrong: American health officials now indicate that one third of the US cases of the flu have come from Americans visiting Mexico.

Until this type of xenophobic racism is stamped out and a more moral and rational response to migration developed, not only will the economic injustice continue, but so will the multiple crises, all linked by the unfounded sense of US and Western superiority and the policies flowing from it. President Obama has indeed inherited an unappetizing full plate. He needs to show some real leadership if there is going to be any real change.

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