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 mass-death.
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 ÔÇô 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 themÔÇª 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 ÔÇô as a result of NAFTA ÔÇô is to produce millions of babies ÔÇô 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 ÔÇô 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 ÔÇô 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 ÔÇô such as HIV/AIDS ÔÇô that these migrants are being subjected to in the United States ÔÇô 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 ÔÇô former head of the Border Patrol in the El Paso sector ÔÇô is
one of those who is calling upon Obama to halt their construction. Neither are two of his cabinet choices ÔÇô Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ÔÇô exactly champions of these walls.
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 ÔÇô 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?