Manuel Pérez-Rocha on NAFTA, CAFTA and migrant rights

Published by Brent Patterson on

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, DC and an Associate of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.

The Washington Post has reported that US officials apprehended or deemed ‘inadmissible’ 36,679 migrants at the US-Mexico border in January 2020. The New York Times adds that nearly 400,000 were apprehended at the US border in the 2018 fiscal year. That article notes that figure was 1.6 million people in 2000.

Pérez-Rocha has commented:

“Most of these families trying to cross by land do so because they have no choice. They have been forced to migrate from Mexico or Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador or other countries. These families have not chosen to come here because they like the USA lifestyle better than their own.

These are families whose livelihoods have been destroyed by decades of failed economic policies led by the United States and the local elites of those countries making their home countries dangerous and unlivable.

Unfettered free trade agreements, along with privatization of public services, are at the centre of the issue. Today’s immigration crisis started 24 years ago with NAFTA and the flooding of cheap US corn and other basic food staples into the Mexican economy that forced millions of small Mexican farmers out of the market. Those farmers and their families had no choice but to migrate. This was the first big wave of migration from Mexico.

Then the same failed policies of destroying national small-scale production in favour of large, corporate-led agricultural exporting schemes were applied to Central American countries with the CAFTA free trade agreement in 2006.

Failed economic policies have also plunged Mexico and Central America into dependence on extractive industries, like mining projects that push people off their lands. Now those families fleeing deteriorating and major new threats to the environment are being maliciously detained instead of being taken as refugees.”

Further commentary from Pérez-Rocha on the Institute for Policy Studies website at NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate.

Javier Martinez Hernandez is the legal coordinator for the Saltillo Migrant Shelter in the city of Saltillo in the northeastern state of Coahuila, Mexico.

The Shelter works to defend the rights of migrants, including US-bound Central American migrants traveling through Mexico. The Shelter, situated about 170 miles from the US border, assists about 12,000 to 14,000 people per year.

Martinez will be visiting Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal this coming March 14-18 to discuss the challenges faced by the Shelter.

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