By: Oriel María Siu, Professor of latin Studies at the University of Puget Sound
The recent visit of Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra to Washington State opened the limited debate on immigration reform in the U.S. While the U.S. Congress, the mainstream media, and pro-immigration reform organizations co-opted by the Democratic Party that promotes an excessively conditioned reform to policies of immigration, Father Solalinde reminds us of a stark and grim reality: migration from south to north in the Americas will continue. Thousands of people, as is the case of an Occupied America –as historian Rudy Acuña would call it–, continue waging daily route elevations despite more walls, more militarization of the Mexico-US border, and implementing more laws to punish the immigrant once in American soil. The reform will not solve the underlying problem, and as Father Solalinde metaphrases: this reform is like putting a band aid on the Titanic before it sank. Other than helping a few (after years of waiting, many expenses, more criminalization and deportations of undocumented people, and diverse conditions), the ship will eventually sink. This, if we do not fix the problem that created that hole, will happen. This problem is systemic.
The social conditions in Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico will continue to cause massive emigration. More than a century of economic plunder by the United States, war policies, and now the intrusion of neoliberal economic policies in these southern regions, have left these countries in deplorable conditions, forcing people to seek survival in the north. We are not coming to the US as tourists. People do not risk their lives in the Mexican death trains, risking kidnapping, rape and extortion because they want to. Nor do they cross the genocidal Mexico-US border, its deserts, and other death traps because it is amusing. The migrant exposes his/her life because everything has been denied in their home country, thus removing the possibility for a dignified life. This sentence is historic, although we have seen it flare up at alarming scale in the last two decades.
Poor migrants, as Father Solalinde reminds us, are evidence that the neoliberal economic system is in crisis. A US immigration reform will only help a few illegal immigrants (estimated to be between 3.5 and 6 million), while the flow expelled from the southern countries will continue to emigrate. We will still come to the United States and our rights will not be on the agenda. We need to raise our voices and work on proposals that go beyond the crumbs offered by the American political system.