Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

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Striking out in Arizona

In Immigration,Latin America,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics on May 5, 2010 by nllsachair

Arizona’s new law is a highly politicized event, with rallies around the country protesting the legislation.  It looks like the law isn’t just having an effect on immigration, but also professional sports.

The 2011 MLB All Star game is scheduled to be played in Phoenix. But in the wake of Arizona’s passage of SB 1070, increasing there are calls to move the game out of the state.  And not just in the sporting community.  Officials in San Francisco have asked MLB to move the game, as well as U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), who’s asked Bud Selig to select another city.  Protesters have surrounded baseball fields — at home and on the road — during Diamondbacks games since Jan Brewer signed the bill… Read More »

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The Next Civil Rights Movement

In Mexico,NLLSA,Politics on April 20, 2010 by nllsachair

Arizona may become the Alabama of this century and Maricopa County the new Selma. Arizona could have just opened a can of worms that has the potential to divide the country in proportions not seen since the 1960’s at the height of the civil rights movement. Early last week, Arizona lawmakers passed anti-immigration legislation that is unique in its stringency and harshness. The bill would strongly encourage police officers to engage in racial profiling by ordering them to check the status of people they merely suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. It would allow police to verify a person’s immigration status if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is undocumented.

What do you picture when your think of an “illegal” or undocumented immigrant? Is it the blonde haired European student who has overstayed her visa? The reality is that “race” and socioeconomic status are the crux of this legislation. This form of policies endanger fundamental due process rights, which resonate those of the Jim Crow era and could set dangerous precedent for the future. This is a critical issue. If we want to move forward in this country and progress as a united nation, we must forgo the racist tactics of the past that legalize racial profiling.

Although Martin Luther King cannot serve as a central figure to combat racism and legal discrimination in 2010, his legacy and philosophies live on. Civil Rights organizations have stepped forward to continue the fight towards justice and equality. Calling it “alarming and unconstitutional,” NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, urged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto an anti-immigrant bill that would lead to racial profiling. “This bill is an affront to civil rights and it will make all Latinos suspect in their own communities, regardless of their immigration status,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “Proposals like this one open the door to racial profiling and discrimination against immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. They are subjective in nature and have no checks and balances,” said Daniel Ortega, Chair of the NCLR Board of Directors, who is based in Arizona. “Until Congress passes an immigration reform bill, states will continue to take matters into their own hands and communities and families will remain terrorized.”

There is no doubt that there are massive gaps in our immigration policies however, this by no means justifies the use of tactics common in the WWII era, where local authorities in California placed Japanese citizens and Japanese Americans alike who were “suspected enemy combatants” in internment camps. Such policies are reminiscent of the era where it was commonplace to find signs that read “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed”. The structure of immigration laws has institutionalized a set of values that dehumanize, demonize, and criminalize immigrants of color. Winslow Arizona City Councilman Tom Chacon, who was born and raised in Southside, would not argue with any of this. “It’s scaring the hell out of people,” he said. “It’s a step backward. I remember when Mexican and African American children were only allowed to swim in the municipal pool on Fridays. On Saturday, the city drained the pool of “dirty water” then refilled it for the white kids.”[1] Moreover, Winslow, Arizona Police Officer agreed, and expressed personal misgivings. “It will make us look like bad guys pursuing people because of the color of their skin.” [2]

Nevertheless, the bill’s author, State Sen. Russell Pearce, justifies the law by stating simply that it “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job.” Furthermore, he states that, “When you make life difficult…most will leave on their own” in reference to undocumented immigrants. However, this begs another important question, is this a new strategy of perpetuating segregation and further marginalizing the Latino community away from mainstream American society?

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF urged Governor Brewer to recognize that “SB 1070 goes well past the line where political symbolism becomes dangerous policy and irresponsible lawmaking. This law is an open invitation to racial discrimination, community discord, and naked clash between state and federal government. The law’s constitutional flaws will inevitably attract costly legal challenges, to the detriment of all Arizona. Responsible leadership demands a veto.” However, the dismay of such a policy does not stop with civil rights groups but rather extends throughout the societal spectrum: politics, media and church. A Los Angeles Times editorial recognized that, “even legal immigrants, in a move that harks back to fascist Europe, would be required to carry their papers at all times or risk arrest.” Furthermore, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles stated that, “American people are fair-minded and respectful. I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation”. A New York Times editorial stated that, “the Arizona Legislature has just stepped off the deep end of the immigration debate, passing a harsh and mean-spirited bill that would do little to stop illegal immigration. What it would do is lead to more racial profiling, hobble local law enforcement, and open government agencies to frivolous, politically driven lawsuits”.

All jokes aside, this is a racist law. It asks local law enforcement to apprehend anyone that looks “undocumented”. The United States has struggled with a long history of racism and discrimination: slavery, lynching, Jim Crow and segregation. There have been millions that have died for progress and equality. The fact that Obama and Sotomayor hold two of the most powerful posts in the land should not mean that we should let down our guard and assume that racism is over in this country. Rather it should embolden us to continue to the struggle for equality. It is our generation’s time to reach higher in pursuit of a more tolerant and welcoming society.

George Cisneros is a second year law student at Columbia University Law School where he currently serves as president of the Latino/a Law Student Association.


[1] Los Angeles Times, “In Arizona, drawing lines over border law” April 18th, 2010

[2] Id.

Articles

Sec’y Clinton’s Whirlwind Tour Through Latin America

In Elections,Foreign Policy,Latin America,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,U.S. Government on March 2, 2010 by nllsachair

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is at the end of her first major tour through Latin America.  Latin America watchers expected the region to be far more receptive to the Obama Administration than it was to the Bush Administration, but so far we’ve only seen mixed results.  Given the amount of disagreements, Clinton may have her work cut out for her.  Each country poses its own unique challenges to U.S.-Latin American relations.

The fence-mending mission hit a snag, barely six months into the Obama presidency, when in July 2009, Colombia agreed to expand America’s military presence in that country.  Latin American leaders assailed the agreement — which gave the United States access to seven bases in Colombia.  For its part, however, Colombia welcomed the agreement.  Fortunately, President Uribe has since accepted a court ruling barring him from seeking a third presidential term, avoiding an awkward situation where the United States would have had to choose between promoting democracy and supporting one of its few staunch allies in the region.

Surprisingly, Buenos Aires was initially left off Clinton’s itinerary, but was added at the last minute.  But even more surprising was Clinton’s unexpected push for negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands.  Although Secretary Clinton can’t force either party to negotiate, the statement definitely raised eyebrows, in both London and Buenos Aires.

While Clinton originally planned a full-day visit to Chile, where she would have spent the night in Santiago, her trip had to be scaled back due to the earthquake that devastated the country.  Clinton decided to press ahead with the visit as a show of solidarity, where she offered technical equipment and search & rescue teams to help the relief effort.

The trip isn’t exclusively goodwill.  In perhaps the most important leg of the trip, Clinton visited Brazil to hold talks with President Lula, who has become increasingly important on both the regional and global stage.  In particular, Clinton pressed Lula on Iranian nuclear proliferation.  President Lula hosted Iran’s president in November, where he publicly supported the regime’s right to nuclear power and expressed his disapproval of sanctions.  Lula will return the favor by visiting Tehran in May.  As a temporary member of the UN Security Council, Brazil’s cooperation on this issue is absolutely critical.  Despite Clinton’s efforts, though, it looks like Brazil rebuffed the Clinton’s overtures.

Maybe Latin America just doesn’t care what we think anymore?

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David Perez is a third-year student at Yale Law School.

Articles

NAFTA REVISTED: WHO WON? WHO LOST? WHO CARES?

In Foreign Policy,Jobs,Latin America,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,U.S. Government on January 5, 2010 by nllsachair

George Cisneros-

The 2008 presidential campaign sparked renewed interest and controversy over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was as if though the American public had forgotten about the “giant sucking sound,” a colorful phrase coined by Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential campaign to depict massive U.S. job loss to Mexico and other negative effects he believed would result from NAFTA. In 2008, candidates from both parties revisited the agreement and again used NAFTA as a political weapon to sway potential voters. With thousands of manufacturing jobs lost in Michigan’s automotive industry, there needed to be a scapegoat, and our neighbor to the south was a good defenseless target. Republicans pointed at NAFTA as the primary culprit for the situation in Detroit, ignoring failures from top executives and other failed policies. Democrats pressured by such attacks from the right and by powerful union leaders, vowed to renegotiate the agreement executed by the Clinton administration fourteen years prior. However, nobody actually addressed the core issues of NAFTA and its effects on the North American economies.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was executed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada on December 17, 1992, and became effective on January 1, 1994. The Agreement was seen as a comprehensive, multi-layered document that would institute numerous structures, guidelines, and rules relative to trade between all three countries. The objectives of NAFTA included the elimination of trade barriers, heightened investment opportunities, and the promotion of fair competition. A utopian image would be a European Union style block in North America. In 2010, it is important to ask, who were the real winners in NAFTA? Who were the losers? And who really cares after the election has been decided?

It is imperative to acknowledge that there have been many positive aspects to NAFTA for all three countries. Trade between the three countries increased significantly. Between 1993 and 2006, trade among NAFTA partners climbed 197%, from $297 billion to $883 billion. Today, Canada and Mexico are the first and third greatest trading partners with the U.S., respectively. According to one study, foreign direct investment induced by NAFTA increased 70% in Mexico in 1994 and was up by 435% a decade later. However, this did not translate into booming economy for Mexico. Rather, Mexico has remained stagnant and its economy has grown relatively slow, even under Mexican standards. It is true that some U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost to Mexico; however, it has been a miniscule number and although any job lost is a tragedy, the exaggeration does not merit the level of scrutiny it has received.

The truth of the matter is that Mexico has been the real loser in this agreement. Despite its comparative advantages, such as its proximity to the world’s largest economy, it has not faired as well as other countries such as, China, Brazil, and India who do not participate in NAFTA. Mexico, has been side swiped by China, who has replaced it as the second largest trading partner with the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in Mexico to China especially in Mexico’s maquiladora industry on its northern border. If there is anyone that must be blamed it must be the greedy corporate executives, who have chased cheap labor across the pacific. NAFTA may have worked for Mexico 25 years earlier; however, it came in the era of globalization, which meant greater competition, improved technology, communication, and travel. This has allowed corporate America to exploit cheap labor and increase profits. The dream of integrating the three economies has been forgotten.

Currently, a new debate has surged regarding Mexican trucks and allowing them access to U.S. roads, which was a program stipulated in NAFTA. At present, U.S. truckers have complete access to Mexican highways, but Mexican trucks are confined to a 20-mile zone north of the border. For deliveries beyond that zone, the goods they carry must be transferred to U.S. trucks. Not only is this a double standard, but it violates both the letter and the spirit of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which opened U.S. borders for motor carrier access. The xenophobic fear of more “illegal aliens” and drugs sneaking into the country has put a halt to following through with certain portions of the agreement. This is just another example of the constant set backs that Mexico has had to deal with because of dependency on the U.S. economy. Many economists believe that Mexico would have faired much better without NAFTA. Mexico could have followed countries such as Brazil, China and India, where the governments have a much greater say in economic policy.

In 2010, many people care and more people need to care about NAFTA. Those who are directly affected are the least vulnerable of society. Mexican farmers and U.S. factory workers care a lot. Mexican farmers have to compete with agricultural imports, while U.S. factory workers fear cheap foreign labor. It is time to revisit NAFTA and analyze it in the globalized context. How can NAFTA work for Mexican as well as for American workers? How can the xenophobic rhetoric be eliminated when dealing with the realities of a global economy? These are the questions that we must ponder in 2010 when thinking of “free trade” agreements.

George Cisneros, NLLSA’s Public Relations Director, is a second-year law student at Columbia Law School.

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