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I remember listening to Talk Back on WBAI a while back, and a caller had an excellent point on immigration. On a cold winter's day, he joked that a Jamaican like him certainly didn't come to New York for the weather. He left his homeland because of a lack of economic opportunity.

So much of the rhetoric on illegal immigration focuses on what pulls immigrants to the United States (jobs, more freedom, etc.). Little attention is paid to the factors that pressure people to risk their lives to illegally immigrate to the US. Policies which reduce those pressures would do more to reduce the levels of illegal immigration in this country than expanding failed approaches that focus on punishing desperate immigrants. Those policies are liberal ones.

Globalist trade policies are devastating the poor majority in Haiti. Raj Patel on Democracy Now! 7/31/08

And Haiti actually stands for a number of other countries in the Western Hemisphere, in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Asia, that have been forced to liberalize their economies and are now hostage to the international price rises. And in Haiti, the consequences were that the government was not allowed to support its rice producers. It wasn’t allowed to invest in agriculture. So, in the 1980s, Haiti produced the majority of its own rice, and now in Haiti almost all the rice comes from the United States. And that’s the sort of singular consequence of the intersection between free trade and—or so-called free trade and development policy in developing countries.

Trade policies which have destroyed Haitian agriculture, caused malnutrition, and impoverished Haitians have forced many people to go to the US illegally. The only alternative for many immigrants from that nation is starvation for themselves and their families. Yet, corporate media ignore the role of corporate controlled trade policies.

There also is a structural problem resulting from earlier events in Haitian history which contributes tremendously to the constant state of economic crisis in Haiti. In 1825, Haiti was forced to pay 90 million Francs to France to compensate that country for the slaves that the French would no longer own. In order to get its independence, Haiti had to pay the equivalent of over $20 billion today. Today's government spending in Haiti is currently under $250 million per year.

Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now! pointed out in 2004 that "Haiti spent most of the 19th century paying off the reparations to France." That has kept the country from building wealth and created a cycle of debt that has kept Haiti economically hobbled.

If France would pay Haiti back for its reprehensible 19th century windfall, that would go a long way to giving Haiti a chance to repair the damage done to its economy.

Efforts by the elected government of Haiti to get justice from France and the general desire of the Bush regime to meddle in other countries' affairs led to a Franco American coup in 2004. Subsequent Haitians governments have kept quiet on the subject.

The coup illustrates an important point. People on the right often blame poverty in other nations on the policies of the governments there. This claim ignores how often rich countries intervene to prevent poor countries from acting in their national interests.

Haiti also has had food riots this year, which have led to political instability.
The problem of skyrocketing food costs is hardly Haiti's alone, and the causes are mainly found in the policies of the Bush regime and a Congress too willing to act as a rubberstamp.

One of the biggest sources of food inflation is the much higher cost of petroleum. The main factor in increasing oil prices is instability due to the Bush regime's Iraqtastrophe and its threats against two other major oil producers, Iran and Venezuela. Oil prices have fallen somewhat, but nowhere near as far as they were a year ago. This is primarily due to a toning down of rhetoric by the Bush people during the election year and the Iraqi government's very public lobbying for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops form their country. Much of the corporate media's coverage has focuses on nameless faceless speculators as the cause of high oil and gas prices, but such coverage has ignored the geopolitical factors that are causing such rampant speculation in the first place. The spotlight is on symptoms, not root causes.

Another source of food instability for Haiti is the US push for biofuels. Biofuels are being sold as a cure all for energy independence and global warming. Much of the critique of biofuels has focuses on clearing land to produce such fuels. Even when biofuels come US corn repurposed from food to ethanol, biofuels don't do much to help fight climate change. Our methods of agriculture use a lot of CO2 emitting energy in order to produce the required fertilizer and pesticides.

Regardless of the effects of biofuels on the atmosphere, the increased demand for corn certainly is squeezing out food supplies for people in poor countries. Haiti, like so much of the world, suffers terribly from irresponsible policy decisions in Washington.

If you haven't learned about the effects of US policies on Haiti and Haitian immigration from corporate media outlets, you should consider the benefits to corporate interests in keeping you ill informed on the subject. Desperately poor Haitians are willing to work at very low wages, both in Haiti and in America. That means higher profits for corporations that exploit them.

We are constantly brainwashed to hit down at people whose only offense is being placed in a position to where they are forced to move to the US. We should be hitting up at the wealthy and corporate interests that are making Haitians miserable while ripping Americans off.

Instead of ranting and raving about illegal aliens like Lou Dobbs does, it would make much more sense to call for the World Trade Organization to be abolished and for countries like Haiti to have the opportunity to set rational trade policies in their own national interests. France should be pressured to pay up for what it owes Haiti. We need to redouble our efforts to call for an end to the occupation of Iraq and for an end to Bush-regime bullying of oil producing nations. Federal subsidies for biofuels should be abolished, and the money should be used for additional support to genuinely renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, geothermal, wind power) and to expand public transportation.

People should be migrating to the United States only because they really want to. It is the job of liberals to imagine and support policies that can actually make that come true.

 

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