To The Daily Sun,
A little history is required in order to understand the relationship that now exists between Mexico and the U.S. As far as that goes, the same holds true for most of the countries we relate to as a nation. For the purpose of discussing Mexico relations, I'll begin in 1942. That was the year that the Bracero Program began. It was created by an executive order issued by President Roosevelt. It established a bi-lateral agreement creating short-term labor contracts involving Mexican workers. Its official title was the Mexican Farm Labor Program. It lasted until 1951. At that point Congress formalized it into Public Law 78 and continued to call it the Bracero Program. In the law, safeguards for the workers were provided. Unfortunately, because of lax enforcement, many growers ignored the provisions and mistreated the workers.
During the Eisenhower administration pressure was brought to bear by American worker unions in reference to the use of illegal Mexican labor. In response, a move to repatriate illegals brought in by growers was instituted. The administration began what they called Operation Wetback in 1954. In the first year over a million Mexican laborers were repatriated to Mexico. Over the next few years, an additional two million were sent back. Additionally, PL-78 was altered to provide more protection for American farm workers. The changes were signed by JFK in early 1961. That measure effectively killed the Bracero Program. It was officially ended in 1964. The Smithsonian Museum of American History documented this period with an exhibit entitled "Bitter Harvest, The Bracero Program, 1942-1964."
During the Johnson years a program was developed that focused on cross-border cooperation. It used Mexican workers on the Mexico side of the border to assemble material. It was titled "Maquiladora." It allowed for a duty-free zone. Once the factories were completed and machinery was on site the process began. Material produced in pieces in the US were shipped across the border for assembly and then returned to the US and its marketplaces. A future development in that vein was NAFTA.
In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed. Since then it has been the subject of heated discussion both pro and con. A lot of the con arguments are aimed at the perception that cheap Mexican labor was robbing us of our manufacturing jobs. For a while, Pat Buchanan, occasional candidate for president, was the leading critic of NAFTA. His main arguing point was that U.S. companies, given a choice between enhancing profits or preserving jobs in the U.S., would chose profits. The pro NAFTA argument was based on the memory of the great depression and its causes. Trade or the lack thereof, is global, not just between the NAFTA partners. Some recalled the reason for the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Its function was, and is currently, to make short-term loans to countries with big trade deficits. Obviously, not all nations have played by the rules set up by the IMF.
Because of the threat of insolvency, some developing countries started devaluing their currency in response to the implied threats to their economy. That sort of behavior came to a head in 2007 when the lack of regulation on investment banks lead to the crisis that was barely avoided shortly after President Obama took office in 2008. And so, here we are eight years later with a president who wants to dismantle the controls and roll-back what many perceive was progress toward sanity.
In closing, a warning should be given to the Trump Administration. To expand or restrict trade is mainly a political choice. The U.S. can prevent trade by shutting itself off from other countries, but the risks far out-weigh the rewards. Even China, the lurking giant, understands that. And, one last point, our country's ability to create economic growth rests, mainly, with its people, their values and their resourcefulness. In the next few months, the new administration must remember to conduct the nations business for the benefit of all its citizens. Be careful, we are in a global economy.
- Category: Letters
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