San Jose Campostela, Mindanao, Philippines - Benedicto Hijara ties a banana tree to an overhead cable to keep it from falling over on a plantationÃ
A political alliance is developing between countries with a labor export policy and the corporations who use that labor in the Global North. Many countries sending migrants to the developed world depend on remittances to finance social services and keep the lid on social discontent over poverty and joblessness while continuing to make huge debt payments. Corporations using that displaced labor share a growing interest with those countries' governments in regulating the system that supplies it.
Increasingly, the mechanisms for regulating that flow of people are contract labor programs - called "guest worker" or "temporary worker" programs in the US, or "managed migration" in the UK and much of the EU. With or without these programs, migration to the US and other industrial countries is a fact of life. But does that mean that US immigration policy should be used to increase corporate profits by supplying labor to industry at a price it wants to pay?
Despite often using rhetoric that demonizes immigrants, the US Congress is not debating the means for ending migration. Short of a radical reordering of the world's economy, there is nothing that can end it - nor are waves of immigration raids and deportations intended to halt it. In an economy in which immigrant labor plays a critical part, the price of stopping migration would be economic crisis. The intent of immigration policy is to manage the flow of people and to determine their status here in the US - in the interest of those who put their labor to work.
San Jose Campostela, Mindanao, Philippines - Alan Algoso is 9 years old, in the third grade. He works cutting the dead leaves from banana trees in the fields of the Soyapa Farms banana plantation, which sells bananas to Dole. (Photo: David Bacon)
Migrants are human beings first, however, and their desire for community is as strong as their need for work. Or, as the old shop floor saying goes, "We work to live; we don't live to work." The use of neoliberal reforms and economic treaties to displace communities and to produce a global army of available and vulnerable workers has a brutal impact on people. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the existing and proposed free trade agreements between the US and Central America, Peru, Colombia, Panama, South Korea and Jordan not only fail to stop the economic transformations which uproot families and throw them into the migrant stream - they push that whole process forward.
On a global scale, the migratory flow caused by displacement is still generally self-initiated. In other words, while people may be driven by forces beyond their control, they move at their own will and discretion, trying to find a means of survival and economic opportunity and, then, to reunite their families and create new communities in the countries they now call home.