"Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway have spent much of their careers making films about America’s criminal justice system. In their latest documentary, The Return(supported by JustFilms and Ford’s Youth Opportunity and Learning program), Duane de la Vega and Galloway follow Kevin Bilal Chatman and Kenneth Anderson as they adjust to life outside of prison. Both men got life sentences for non-violent drug offenses and later had their sentences commuted. Through their experiences, the film examines California’s "Three Strikes" law—one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country—and its unprecedented amendment in 2012, via the passage of Prop. 36." Continue to article and videos
From the Washington Post: "A generation ago, globalization shrank the world. Nations linked by trade and technology began to erase old boundaries. But now barriers are rising again, driven by waves of migration, spillover from wars and the growing threat of terrorism." This is a comprehensive presentation of three episodes with videos, graphs, and more. To view, please click here.
By David Bacon: "As the talks to renegotiate NAFTA unfold in Washington, most attention in the United States has understandably focused on its domestic impact. Yet the treaty also had an enormous effect on Mexico, spurring a wave of forced migration of millions of people. Today a growing number of union members in all three NAFTA countries believe the treaty should be renegotiated-first, just to heal the damage done to workers. But a new treaty, or a new relationship between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada, they say, should also ensure that a new NAFTA and other treaties like it never cause the same devastation." Read more
Associated Press from The Sacramento Bee
OCTOBER 10, 2017 11:57 AM
Nearly 50 years after the Kerner Commission studied the causes of deadly riots in America's cities, its last surviving member says he remains haunted that its recommendations on U.S. race relations and poverty were never adopted.
But former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris of Oklahoma also said he's hopeful those ideas will be embraced one day, and he's encouraged by Black Lives Matter and other social movements.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the 86-year-old Harris said he still feels strongly that poverty and structural racism enflame racial tensions, even as the United States becomes more diverse.
"Today, there are more people in America who are poor — both in numbers and greater percentage," Harris told the AP from his home in Corrales, New Mexico. "And poor people today are poorer than they were then. It's harder to get out of poverty." Read More
Blog by Kathy Staudt.
Fernando Avila, head of the FEChAC, Fundación del Empresariado Chihuahuense, Asociación Civil (A.C.), (Chihuahuan Business Foundation), spoke at the October 1st EP Social Justice Education Forum. Unique aspects of FEChAC include its reliance on a business tax, business councils around the State of Chihuahua, and its well-managed outcome-based organization.
FEChAC responds to proposals submitted by nonprofit organizations (asociaciones civiles, civil-society organizations) to fund projects in the areas of education, social skills, and health. This unique partnership, called the "shared social responsibility model," brings together private, nonprofit/NGO non-governmental organizations, government, and community residents.
Avila spoke about the history of the organization, which began as a 'fund' in 1990 to respond to flooding and then became a 'foundation' in 1996. The foundation supports thousands of projects, the results for which can be found on its website: http://www.fechac.org.mx. Many projects focus on children who attend primaria school (in morning, afternoon, and sometimes evening shifts) with safe programs to build skills and solidarity while parents work. Ampliando el Desarrollo de los Niños, (ADN), is one of them. See various videos on You Tube with testimonies and visuals about activities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODt9J-I8CP4 . Foundation staff members apply for grants and partnerships which extend the resources beyond business taxes. For example, NFL-Mexico contributions support sports programs for kids.
Questions might be raised about nonprofit projects that can address only a fraction of systemic need without public policy change AND public funds to implement those changes. FEChAC is quite aware of the need to and challenges of changing policies, according to Avila. For example, for its youth alcohol-prevention efforts, in a city like Ciudad Juárez where the average age of the first drink is 12, FEChAC was able to gain policy attention from the municipal government for rules that prohibit selling alcohol to children. While enforcement is not perfect, the number of stores selling to children and teens has gone down according to their research.
Questions also emerge about the many smaller NGOs not yet registered in government, a costly operation (15,000 pesos) plus certifications by accountants and notaries about financial management. FEChAC works with the NGO Fortaleza to provide technical assistance to fledgling nonprofits and to pay the initial fees for registration as an official civil association. The foundation itself is recognized widely for its standards-based management (ISO 9000) and low overhead (8%); "the United Nations calls it one of the 79 most reliable nonprofit organizations in the world," according to Avila.
Much work remains. While Food Banks exist elsewhere in Chihuahua, none operates in the state's largest city, Ciudad Juárez. Also, minimum wages and maquiladora assembly-line wages are extremely low, at US$4-5 per day though average about US$8 per day in the maquilas. A living wage, or what in Mexico is called a 'salario digno,' would allow working people to earn a salary that would afford their families greater dignity in everyday life. Thus far, corporations have not used their political clout and socially responsible practices of foundation support to move the state in that direction.
To answer the question posed in the title, YES, corporations play a role in Mexico's State of Chihuahua through a tax they periodically renew to the state Congress on a regular basis. However, they could play an even stronger role with efforts to change more policies and get those policies funded--especially policies to raise wages of the hundreds of thousands of factory workers.
Readers might raise the question of whether and how corporations on the U.S. side of the border might pursue more socially responsible practices. Businesses that make central the well-being of working people and their children (the future generation) on both sides of the border can play a role in elevating the prosperity of people in our integrated border region.
When Oscar Martínez wrote the book Border People in 1994, he distinguished between people who identify as 'national' or 'binational' in both the U.S. and Mexico. Is this distinction still relevant, and in which direction are we leaning and growing? We in the El Paso Social Justice Education Forum affirm the connectedness of the people in our larger metropolitan Paso del Norte region of two cities and three states divided by a borderline. We seek dialogue with our readers, attendees, and wider public on the extent to which border people are becoming more or less 'binational' and how that larger binational perspective might enhance the well-being of the more than two million of us who live, work, and interact in our borderlands.
Kathy Staudt is a retired professor and member of the El Paso Social Justice Education Forum planning committee.
From the Global Post. Timely and thoughtful article by Timothy A. Wise:
Mexico’s largest agribusiness association invited me to Aguascalientes to participate in its annual forum in October. The theme for this year’s gathering was “New Perspectives on the Challenge of Feeding the World.”
But it was unclear why Mexico, which now imports 42 percent of its food, would be worried about feeding the world. It wasn’t doing so well feeding its own people.
In part, you can thank the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for that. Twenty years ago, on January 1, 1994, NAFTA took effect, and Mexico was the poster child for the wonders of free trade. The promises seemed endless.
Mexico would enter the “First World” of developed countries on the crest of rising trade and foreign investment. Its dynamic manufacturing sector would create so many jobs it would not only end the US immigration problem but absorb millions of peasant farmers freed from their unproductive toil in the fields. Mexico could import cheap corn and export electronics.
So much for promises. Read more
“Build the Wall.” Three words energized a campaign.
But could it be done? What would it cost? What would it accomplish? Our search for answers became this, a landmark new report, “The Wall.”
The task was massive. We flew the entire border, drove it too. More than 30 reporters and photographers interviewed migrants, farmers, families, tribal members — even a human smuggler. We joined Border Patrol agents on the ground, in a tunnel, at sea. We patrolled with vigilantes, walked the line with ranchers. We scoured government maps, fought for property records.
In this report, you can watch aerial video of every foot of the border, explore every piece of fence, even stand at the border in virtual reality. Read/see more
Presented by Kathy Staudt at the August 17, 2017 Town Hall, “El Paso and Ciudad Juárez after 23 Years of NAFTA,” Café Mayapan, El Paso, TX.
Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, both Mexico and the U.S. expanded their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and experienced good, though uneven rates of economic growth. In our borderlands, the number of jobs grew enormously in Ciudad Juárez, now at over 250,000 maquiladora workers, however with most earning take-home pay of less than US$50 per week.
Trump ran an anti-Mexico, anti-Mexican, and anti-NAFTA campaign. He stressed the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, despite the Trump family’s use of low-cost labor outside the U.S. in the global economy. El Paso experienced the largest NAFTA-related job losses, as officially certified with names and total numbers compared to other parts of the United States.
Trump’s call to “repeal NAFTA” and establish a “border tax” threatened many constituencies that depend on heavy investment in what is called “integrated supply-chain production” in all three countries. After the inauguration in January, many national, state, and border businesses ran scared over the threats, but they mobilized quickly with allies in Trump’s cabinet, especially the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. Initially, Mexican leaders reacted defensively using rhetoric about diversifying their economy, trading elsewhere, and reducing their dependency on the United States.
U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Lighthizer’s political appointment was approved in May and the so-called “NAFTA Modernization” process began while the president expressed unstable opinions about this and other topics. The Citizens Trade Watch labor and environmental coalition re-emerged once again, just as it did to help defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The coalition is not against trade or trade rules, but rather in favor of FAIRER trade rules. “Replace NAFTA” is their key phrase (see sticker). Yet few in the coalition address the extremely low wages of Mexican workers, even though the 10:1 legal minimum wage differential will obviously incentivize more corporations to create jobs in Mexico’s low-wage economy. Even Mexico under PRI leadership does not prioritize higher wages for their workers.
One of the few voices heard last year on the wage issue was Pope Francis who visited the borderlands in February. He said (translated) “God will hold accountable the slave owners of our days.”
With an early June deadline, the USTR received 12,000 comments on NAFTA (mine was one of them!). In late June, the USTR held three days of hearings. I went through the list of testifiers and found that businesses represented more than 95% of the 141 names and affiliations. The first round of negotiations began yesterday (August 16), with more rounds to come in Mexico and Canada. If a proposed agreement is developed, it must make its way through the U.S. Congress (House and Senate) and White House, a daunting political process matched in the other two countries. Mexico will elect a new president in mid-2018, and if MORENA wins, Mexico could withdraw from NAFTA.
II.Two Relevant Points from my Research on Border Inequalities
My latest book, Border Politics in a Global Era: Comparative Perspectives*, contains far too much material to present here, but I will share two key points from the analysis. In October, I will make presentations about the book: one at the El Paso Museum of History, October 12 at 7 pm, and the other at the UTEP Library Blumberg Auditorium October 16 at 1:30 pm.
For the book, I developed a database of 300 land borders and created a metric called “Borderland Inequality Ratios” using 2016 GDP per capita, PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), constant US$ figures. To my surprise, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands was one of the bottom 40 most unequal borderlands in the entire world.
I also compared Borderland Inequality Ratios over time, from 1975-2014. The U.S.-Mexico ratio fluctuates slightly but mainly remains constant except that inequalities have increased somewhat since NAFTA. If NAFTA had created fairer trade rules, we should have seen greater shared prosperity and reduced inequalities. NAFTA did no such thing.
Even the El Paso retail trade is affected by extremely low wages. Approximately 15% of shoppers come from Ciudad Juárez and spend ~$980 million annually, according to economist Tom Fullerton. If Mexican workers’ wages increased, not only would we see better living conditions, but also greater spending on this side of the border, thus spreading and sharing prosperity.
III.A Grim Scenario? There IS hope amid uncertainty.
If NAFTA negotiations are stalled or countries withdraw, several questions should be posed for our borderlands region. What happens to those 250,000+ maquiladora workers and their daily food and shelter needs? Many have migrated to the northern border. Will they return home (but to what jobs?)? Will they migrate elsewhere? In Mexico’s upcoming presidential election, MORENA’s economic development strategy will offer an alternative to the PRI and PAN. Will they win? Mexico’s presidency is won with a plurality of popular votes, not a majority and certainly not with an Electoral College formula like the U.S. that can undermine the popular vote.
So things may appear grim for replacing NAFTA with a fairer trade deal. We know that business people have privileged voices in the USTR-managed NAFTA negotiations. However, environmental activists and working people can pursue other strategies in upcoming months, such as the following.
*Talk to friends here and especially elsewhere about the dangers of a NAFTA Modernization process that privileges business over workers, including workers in Mexico. Material is available from organizations like www.ReplaceNAFTA.org , www.GlobalTradeWatch.org, and www.Citizens.org . The materials provide detail on proposed threats to us all that others on this panel discuss, including a dispute-settlement process that only corporate lawyers resolve (which can undermine local and state democratic protections for food and against pollution) and changes in Rules of Origin requirements (which could have the effect of a border tax). As some of the trade-watch people say: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”
*Acknowledge and work with friends of labor and the environment in Mexico and Canada. Panelist Cemelli de Aztlan attended a Mexico City conference of transnational activists and read from their resolution. (See picture; see posters from May Day.)
*Work on the upcoming mid-term elections of 2018 to change the ‘cast of characters’ in the U.S. Congress. Go to candidate town-hall meetings. Meet with candidates to relay concerns firmly and with civility. As important, talk to friends elsewhere about participating in the upcoming elections to change the cast of characters in Congress, perhaps even shifting the party majority.
*Write OpEds and use social media to speak to the wider majority of voters and activists. Move beyond speaking only to those who agree with you. Remember that alternative economic development strategies exist.
The mid-term election is crucial for changing the cast of characters--representatives and lobbyists--who drive inequality in the U.S. and the North American region. Even the Republican majority in Congress is worried, some of them distancing themselves from the president. And business people have begun to be wary too, resigning from manufacturing and CEO councils (that Trump ultimately dismissed) and raising ethical concerns about leadership.
Much depends on people’s voices and actions, not merely registering to vote but organizing, conversing intensively and actually voting. Remember that there IS power in numbers. We need far more strong border voices: You have a voice - use it!
*Kathleen Staudt, Border Politics in a Global Era…(2017), available from https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442266186, online bookstores, and the UTEP bookstore at the October 16 event.
By Kathy Staudt
With a new place and time schedule, the El Paso Social Justice Education Forum’s first Sunday afternoon bimonthly forum on June 4th showed eleven short videos about the Border Wall. We share these videos on this reflection-blog, and the 500+ ‘likers’ on our Facebook page and recipients of our 700+ email list.
As readers know, the Mexico-U.S. border is almost 2,000 miles long with 14 twin cities and towns where people interact on everyday bases in interdependent economies. Almost 800 miles of what the government calls ‘fencing’ has been in place, especially after the U.S. Congress passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The Rio Grande/Río Bravo is the dividing line for most of the Texas-Mexico border. The question to ponder and discuss: Just how much more fence/wall could be constructed, at what cost to border communities and to taxpayers?
Watch some of the following videos. Some show the ease of scaling the wall; others show wall construction options, their costs (short- and long-term), and the years necessary to complete the building process (after which costs would kick in for maintenance). Still other videos offer comic relief: The two videos of Conan O’Brien in Mexico City are hilarious! In one, he asks people on the street what they think of Trump’s claims that Mexico will pay; the other shows an interview with Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox who has been outspoken in his tweets and continuous criticism, using salty language.
An amazing group of about fifty people dialogued after the videos, contributing insightful comments and expertise about multiple issues that affect our borderlands. One issue involves the continued stall on immigration reform, deportation, and beginning in 2017, “deportation on steroids” in popular parlance. Other comments related to how politicians use ‘border security’ during elections and budget hearings to push a fearful (even hateful) population to support the hardening of borders. For example, the Texas Legislature allocates nearly a billion taxpayer dollars to augment the state Department of Public Safety for border security. In this session, SB4 passed on so-called Sanctuary Cities, but local counties and cities have filed lawsuits against measures that would use local law enforcement to step up federal immigration enforcement to avoid fines and jail. Several people offered suggestions on ways people might support nonprofits and refugees stuck in jail-like ‘detention facilities.’
All in all, we had productive discussions with good border people about the possibility and consequences of even more walls in our binational community. This reflection-blog is offered in the hopes that more of you who “like” us on Facebook and receive our emails will participate in future sessions! Please join us.
Additional Coverage of Forum by El Diario de El Paso, Martes 21 Febrero 2017
Expertos en relaciones binacionales encabezaron un foro en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso, sobre el primer mes de la administración del presidente Trump.
La discusión, titulada ‘Relaciones Fronterizas en la Era de Trump’, contó con la participación de varios especialistas.
Entre los principales puntos de discusión en ‘Relaciones Fronterizas en la Era de Trump’, se debatió el posible futuro del Tratado de Libre Comercio (NAFTA), la necesidad de estrategias de cooperación en Ciudad Juárez y El Paso, y la creciente oleada de nacionalismo en ambos países.
By Kathy Staudt
On February 20, The Social Justice Education Forum sponsored a panel entitled "US-Mexico Border Relations in the Time of Trump" at the University of Texas at El Paso Rubin Center Auditorium. The distinguished panelists responded affirmatively, with extensive, up-to-date detail. Below I offer a summary and highlights of the presentations.
Dr. Tony Payan, Director of the Mexico Center at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, began by saying that our 'interdependent borderlands' appear to be devolving, not evolving. The anti-Mexico and anti-free trade rhetoric will only get worse when (not if) more border walls get built around a "Fortress America." Payan doubts that a border wall will solve problems; for example, ~80% of the drugs coming to the US come through ports of entry, he said. Nationalism is on the rise in both the U.S. and Mexico: a populist right in the U.S. and a populist left in Mexico.
Payan noted the many ways that Mexico has assisted U.S. policy goals, at considerable costs to its own budget and development priorities. One is that Mexico deported more Central Americans than did the U.S. Another is that Mexico spent far more fighting the 'war on drugs,' around $15-20 billion (and up to 250,000 lives lost) versus U.S. assistance to Mexico in the Mérida initiative, amounting to $1.4 billion. As Mexico considers its future policy options, including the 'cards' it brings to the negotiating table over NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the new US administration, it could very well spend its own resources on its own economic development goals.
Mexico, said Payan, is in a ninety-day consultation period in the renegotiation of NAFTA. "Mexico must be willing to walk away from the table." In the borderlands, "we've allowed the feds [in both countries] to capture our community."
Economist Lucinda Vargas began by saying that NAFTA could be repealed, rather than renegotiated. What's needed in its place is a North American FAIR Trade Agreement. The U.S. and Mexican industries "complement one another" in the annual binational one-trillion dollar trade. Vargas provided extensive data about the U.S. auto industry and its dependence on co-production in Mexico. Without the NORTH AMERICAN "production machine," she indicated, the "U.S. auto industry would be hard-pressed to remain competitive." If the Trump Tax (tariffs) would be implemented, Vargas anticipated that Mexican manufacturing would need to be retrofitted; until that happens, the economy would be weakened, hitting the poor the hardest. Surely migration would also surge.
Vargas went on to discuss the significance of Mexican purchases, that is imports from the US, focusing on the totals for the U.S. (16% of total exports), Texas (38% of total exports), and El Paso (80% of exports). She went on to discuss the amount of corn (maiz) that Mexico purchases from the U.S., but is now looking to Argentina and Brazil as sources if NAFTA is no longer relevant. Similarly, the U.S. cotton market sells mainly to Mexico. The potential future trade relationships could be devasting to U.S. farmers.
In her conclusion, Vargas said that NAFTA made Mexico "complacent." Trump's attacks have given Mexico an opportunity to diversify its economy. She said that Mexico has developed a list of ten objections to the tone and practices of U.S. policies, among them the insistence that Mexican migrants be treated with respect, that a free flow of remittances be allowed, and that no more border walls be built (walls which will certainly NOT be paid for by Mexico).
In the final presentation, Dr. Francisco Llera, professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, offered comments on both NAFTA and on alternatives for borderland localities in this and future eras. Llera said that while NAFTA created jobs and was good for maquiladora owners, the trade agreement overall was not good for Mexican “industrial competitiveness.” Llera noted that Mexico has over 40 trade agreements with different countries besides the U.S., and it is "time for diversification." Mexico could move forward with a version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (without the U.S.) and could consolidate trade with China as well. In a recent poll from El Universal, nearly half of respondents supported economic diversification. He sees Mexico developing new bilateral trade agreements with other countries.
With the erosion of NAFTA, Llera proposed multiple options for sustaining jobs and creating new diverse jobs in the borderlands, including in the service sector and with alternative companies that produce in the maquiladoras. Specifically, he proposed that borderlands people move forward with medical tourism and with real estate development for U.S. retirees whose dollars will go further in an ever-increasingly costly U.S. standard of living. He visited Corozal, Belize, which successfully developed this strategy. (Already, 1.2 million Americans are living in Mexico--"allies" said Payan in a response later, who understand Mexico and Mexican perspectives.) Llera seeks "a bottom-up binational plan for the borderlands."
Many in the near 150-person audience were inspired and buoyed with the content of presentations. Multiple questions emerged, including the short-term negative consequences of Mexican independence and diversification. One example would be the return and absorption of up to 2 million people (noting that only less than half of the ~10.5 million undocumented people in the U.S. come from Mexico). Payan predicted that many of the U.S. citizen children, who return to Mexico with their parents, will settle near the northern border with their bilingual and educational skills.
In sum, this new Trump era has become a "wake-up call," as Vargas commented. It is the catalyst Mexico needed to diversify its economy and establish greater independence from the United States.