Alan Pogue EDITORIAL Workers and Other Aliens Tijuana “There is a process that in sociology we call the social construction of an enemy,” Jorge Bustamante said. “Certain elements of society, that have a certain degree of legitimacy, define certain people as the enemy. That’s what is going on here with Mexican workers in the United States. It is not a new process; Machiavelli recommended it to the Prince.” 0 n the final morning of the Republican convention, I had taken the commuter train from downtown San Diego to San Ysidro, where the tracks end, a few feet from the border that seemed to worry so many of the speakers in the convention hall 35 miles to the north. In August, 1985, on the eve of the passage of the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform act, I had a similar discussion with Dr. Bustamantea demographer and the president of El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. Some things do not changeas Bustamante had predicted ten years ago. Mexican workers still come to the United States, because as he said then and repeats today, “we are dealing with a de facto international labor market.” The only way it can be regulated, according to Bustamante, is through bilateral negotiations and agreements. Unilateral, punitive measures have little to do with economic reality: “It is not out of ignorance that Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, make absolutely no reference to the fact that Mexican undocumented immigrants comprise 66 percent of the agricultural labor force in California.” That information, Bustamante says, is readily available because it is derived from U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture statistics. In the same statistics, he says, the authors of the Republican Platform could have also found that 90 percent of California’s agricultural labor force is “Mexican in origin.” “The ideology of the party is that the Mexicans are coming here to produce some harm to the United Statesso let’s deal with them as criminals….Why does no one say that we have food on the table at the price we pay for it because undocumented immigrants are working in agriculture?… The argument is to shut the border, but no one mentions that that could bankrupt the main producers of the state of California, and what is produced in California is one-third of the total agricultural production in the U.S….It’ s much easier to make them the enemy.” To underscore his point, Bustamante refers to legislative initiatives aimed at two groups identified as enemies of the United States. “I went to the congressional records from the McCarthy era, in the year preceding the election of Dwight Eisenhower, and I found that the number of initiatives against communism was lower than the [recent] number of initiatives against the immigrantthe new enemy.” Forty-eight bills, he said, have recently targeted immigrants; the number of anti-communist bills filed the year before Eisenhower was elected was thirty-eight. “The immigrant is the new enemy.” Consider what has happened in El Paso, “where a Border Patrol director, for his own political agenda, persuaded the community that the enemy is in Mexico and we have to blockade the border. He goes to Washington, where they are distracted by the change of administrations, and his plan is approved. “Blockade! That is for Cuba. It is an act that precedes war. What is the congruency between a blockade and NAFTA? So they changed the name from Operation Blockade to Operation Hold the Line.” \(Its author, Sylvestre Reyes, has retired from the Border Patrol and is the Democratic U.S. immigration policy has increased what it costs Mexican workers to enter the United States. Mexican “outmigration,” Bustamante said, is down almost 18 percent since 1994, according to statistics provided by his institute’s seven border offices. He attributes the decrease to lower demand in the U.S. and increased hiring in Mexican factoriesbut not to the increased number of border patrol officers. Workers, Bustamante said, will continue to come as long as there is work. “This is not about politics. It’s about labor. Come back next year and I’ll tell you the same thing.” L.D. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 13, 1996
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