COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS
DECEMBER 7, 2008
OBAMA'S JOURNEY: BRING DOWN THE WALLS!
BY ROBERTO DR. CINTLI RODRIGUEZ
When president-elect Barack Obama is sworn in, one of his first orders
of business should be to order the cessation of the construction of
the walls along the 2,000-mile U.S./Mexico border.
One of the legacies that President George W. Bush will leave behind is
a bizarre patchwork of walls that will forever symbolize failure and
In time, people will recognize that the failure of Congress to pass a
comprehensive immigration reform bill during his reign rests squarely
on the president's shoulders – a failure that has resulted in the
deaths of thousands along the southern border since he took office in
2001. That they were/are preventable is nothing short of negligent
homicide, if not outright state terrorism. That more people probably
oppose the walls due to the destructive aspects of the wall to tourism
and the environment is not surprising.
The first thing president-elect Barack Obama should do regarding this
issue is ask, why peoples from Mexico and Central America continue to
risk their lives to come to a land that seemingly does not want them…
except perhaps as an exploitable labor force?
To educate himself on this issue, I suggest that he read The
Farmworker's Journey, by Dr. Ann Lopez.
If he read this book, by the end of the first chapter, he will be
angry over the historical mistreatment of workers in Mexico,
particularly Indigenous peoples and campesinos. By chapter two, he
will understand the historical collusion between both governments and
the multinational corporations that super-exploit Mexican workers. By
chapter three, he will learn that by now, Mexico's only function – as
a result of NAFTA – is to produce millions of babies – destined for
cheap labor in the United States, without rights and without dignity.
By chapter four, he will also learn of the hundreds of tons of
banned-in-the-U.S.A toxic chemicals that the Mexican population is
subjected to. By chapter five, he will understand that those banned
cancer-causing pesticides – are coming right back unto our kitchen
tables. Halfways through the book, he will understand the destructive
nature of NAFTA that has forced millions of people off the land –
primarily as a result of heavily subsidized U.S. corn. By chapter
seven, he will learn of the incredible damage that these forced
migrations and separations have caused Mexican families. By chapter
eight, he will understand of the fatal exposure to diseases – such as
HIV/AIDS – that these migrants are being subjected to in the United
States – and bringing them home to Mexico (the rate is ten times
higher than the rest of the Mexican population). By chapter nine, he
will understand the meaning of starvation and why people continue to
die in the deserts, mountains and rivers. By chapter ten, he will come
to know that these migrants are greatly enriching corporations and
filling U.S. tax coffers, even though most will never see a dime. By
chapter eleven, he will come to understand that contrary to public
pronouncements, the secretive NAFTA was never intended to take labor,
the environment or migrants into account. By the end of the book, he
will be weeping, while calling for a halt to the construction of the
walls. By then, he will apologize, on behalf of all Americans, for the
treatment these migrants have received, on both sides of the border.
Perhaps it is Congress that needs to read this book.
Neither Obama or Congress have to listen to human rights advocates. He
can simply listen to lawmakers along the border, who view the walls as
but a monument to Bush's fear-based society. Even Tex. Rep. Sylvestre
Reyes – former head of the Border Patrol in the El Paso sector – is
one of those who is calling upon Obama to halt their construction.
Neither are two of his cabinet choices – Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson – exactly champions of these
Once sworn in, Obama should negotiate labor and trade agreements with
Mexico and Central America. But in these agreements, human beings have
to come first – in both countries. No special rights need to be
negotiated; just the right to be treated as full human beings and the
corresponding full human rights that come with this status. This
should also mean the end of massive raids and immoral detentions and
deportations, plus the end of the categorization of hard-working
migrants as illegal human beings.
Once such agreements are in place, the only dilemma will be: what will
the U.S. do with all the excess metal?
Rodriguez, a research associate at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at: XColumn@gmail.com
Column of the Americas - PO BOX 85476 -Tucson, AZ 85754
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