What Do Subsidized Corn, A Militarized Border, and Finance Reform Have To Do With It?
The following remarks were offered at a Democracy for America gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire on Saturday morning, June 9th, 2007:
It is normally expected that, when given an opportunity to speak, I will talk about campaign finance reform and, more specifically, about how the public financing of campaigns can cut the threads of the big- money puppet show.
But today I would like to talk about unauthorized immigration, which has nothing to do with the big money corruption of our political system, except for everything.
Unauthorized immigration seems to be a big issue right now with our Republican candidates, as they are well-known to be the "law and order party." That, after all, is why they are insisting that Scooter Libby pay the full price for his perjuries and obstructions of justice. They are for law and order, with the normal exceptions of the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights. But we know what they mean: When they say they are for law and order, they are talking mostly about keeping down the uppity poor folk. They are certainly not talking about the big corporations, hotel companies, agribusiness giants, retailers who employ millions of unauthorized immigrants but who make up for that sin many times over with their large campaign donations.
But I do not come here to talk about corrupting campaign donations and the need for public campaign financing. I come to talk of unauthorized immigration and a little about corn and something about tortillas. I call it unauthorized immigration, not illegal, because I don't want to use words that confuse my Republican friends.
By the way, in saying that Republicans are very interested in the immigration issue, I do not mean to imply that it is less important for any of us.
If you will look around the grocery store check-out lines and notice the widening measurements of our fellow citizens, we can certainly see for ourselves the problem of having too much cheap labor around to do all our yardwork and housework for us. By my calculations, the roughly 3 billion pounds of extra weight now being carried on the hips of working-age American citizens is roughly equivalent to the combined weight of the unauthorized immigrants now in our communities. The math is clear and persuasive. Cheap labor is bad for everybody.
But why are so many people risking their lives to come into our country now? When did this big rush begin?
It began when Mr. Clinton approved NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement, and when he militarized our southern border at the same time. Prior to these combined actions, families crossed the border very commonly and casually, especially during harvest seasons. After harvest, they would go home to Mexico or Central America because that's where they lived with their families in quite happy communities.
When the border was militarized, it became too risky to go back and forth. So they stayed.
Why did Mr. Clinton militarize the border? He did so because NAFTA was about to pull the rug out from under Mexico's small family farms. We flooded Mexico with cheap corn--exports that we now subsidize to the tune of some $25 billion dollars a year. Congress gives that money of ours to a handful of agribusiness giants. Of course, I am not here to tell you why Congress does that, and what might be done to stop it, such as with the public financing of campaigns. But they do it, and Mexican family farmers cannot compete. In the years since NAFTA was signed, half of Mexico's small farms have failed. The only kind of farming that can now compete in Mexico is big agribusiness, which does not employ as many people. Tortillas in Mexico now contain two-thirds imported corn, and they are three times as expensive at retail level than before NAFTA. The people have less money, and the cost of food is rising. We have done that. Our precious Senators and Congressmen and their corporate cronies have enforced that raw and cruel exploitation in our names.
The result of undermining Mexican farms, as Clinton expected, was a rising flood of poor people moving from rural areas into Mexico's big cities, which have become so poor and overcrowded that all one can do is dream of going north across the border.
Now, if any Democratic candidates for President would like to show a little courage and intelligence, let them address the real cause of our flood of unauthorized immigrants. Will Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama or Mr. Edwards or any of the other candidates face down the agri- gangsters that are behind this problem? Probably they will not, so long as Iowa has a major primary.
Let me say that I am not ranting and raving in the least about these new Americans. When Mexico owned Texas and everything west of Texas, and when Mexico cut off migration across their borders into Texas, our people kept coming anyway —crossing illegally in search of opportunities for their families. When Mexico got upset by this, we trumped-up false reasons for a war, and we illegally took those lands. If that wasn't enough law and order for you, we also conducted unfettered genocide against the region's native people. So let's not stand on any moral high ground regarding that southern border.
The people coming across the border today, with the usual exceptions, are family people with an incredible work ethic. Personally, I welcome them. I congratulate them for their courage and their dedication to their families. I want them to stay and become citizens, or, if some prefer, to return to their homeland at a time when there is international justice and a decent chance for their prosperity at home.
I regret what the political corruption of our system has done to their farms and their communities back home. It is not the peoples' fault —it is the fault of corrupt leaders of both parties and both nations. We must speak this truth to these powerful people, even to those presidential candidates whom we otherwise admire.
So, candidates Clinton, Edwards, Obama and the rest: Do you understand the reasons why immigration numbers are growing? Are you smart enough to understand the situation? Are you brave enough to do something--to even say something--about it? Or is the truth too big for you?
All of us in this room have a duty to be good citizens and good Democrats. And that means we must ask the toughest questions so that the interests of the people —the people of our nation and of the world —will be served. Isn't that what we're here for?
And do you see why I do not need to harp on campaign finance reform, to cut the puppet strings that allow these cruelties to continue? I didn't have to say a word about that, because you understand it. You understand what must be done in regard to the public financing of federal and state campaigns. And that only begins the reforms we require in this challenging new age.
Doris D. Haddock, known throughout the country as "Granny D," walked across America in support of campaign reform at the age 90. She turned 97 on January 24, 2007.