Presidential Memo Encouraging the Recognition of Undocumented Workers in the United States and Adjustment of Free Trade Policies for National Subsidization and Elastic Markets

Paul Fischer
Anore Horton

Presidential Memo Encouraging the Recognition of Undocumented Workers in the United States and Adjustment of Free Trade Policies for National Subsidization and Elastic Markets

The United States is a nation of immigrants. These are people who provide labour, invention, and creativity in unique ways across all modes of production. As a democracy, the people of the United States enact laws with the intention of providing the best social and economic environment for American citizens. In the past conflicts between these goals has meant racism, corruptions, and at times distortions of American ideals; the democratic legislative process of America has been bastardized as “such xenophobic bigotry has resulted in calls for anti-immigrant legislation (including restrictions on immigration for whichever group was targeted at the time), attempts to deny public services (including elimination of bilingual education for school-aged immigrants and the American citizen children of undocumented immigrants), and, ultimately, deportation” (Carrasco, 77) which is only half the coin as in doing so Americans destroy the very liberty and freedom they hope to protect. By looking at contemporary efforts to curb, control, and prevent illegal immigration as well as historical examples, it becomes clear that this is a humanitarian as well as an economic issue, one that necessitates action by the Department of Foreign Relations as well as domestic Immigration Reform Laws.
Looking forward towards reforming immigration policy requires a whole-hearted belief in the genuine ability of America to extend the benefits of the free world to others without compromising the basic integrity of the American way of life. In the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, “many Latinos were able to regularize their status and some as a result, became eligible to bring in other family members” (Coerver, 198) which represented an important step forward towards taking responsibility for the second-class demographic of illegal immigrants by America. By 1994 a public opinion backlash coinciding with the passage of NAFTA, resulted in the passage of proposition 187 in California, the state most affected by the influx of illegal immigrants, which “severely limited the access of illegal immigrants to public services” (197) and represented a hardening of public opinion across the country.  The question of at what point do the aforementioned actions against immigrants begin to reflect negatively on Americans, and indeed represent the failure of American institutions must be asked. Historians can see that democracy has righted many inequalities and provided a synergistic relationship between the government and the people, so the question of what legislation is effective and just is of paramount importance.
Current legislation is ineffective, to say the least. Varying drastically from state to state, the acquiescence of many Americans to the mass of invisible second-class people that illegal immigrants have become stand in drastic opposition to progress made in Civil Rights movements and enshrined in the Constitution and national body through amendments only a few decades ago. Efforts to capture immigrants here are expensive and require a nearly military presence everywhere in the United States from small towns in New York to the border of Mexico in Arizona. While it is necessary for a sovereign government such as the United States to control the border with efficacy, the criteria for what constitutes an illegal crossing must be changed in order to sustain American ideals and national character and expand this way of life to all who seek it in good faith.
“Repeated characterization of illegal immigrants as criminals – easy to do since they broke immigration laws – makes it easy for people to ignore statistics” and in reality much of the backlash against illegal immigrants is based on false precepts harbored by Americans for generations about Mexicans and foreigners (Archibold, 16). Little has been done to ensure that the ones deported and captured by American law enforcement are truly criminals and drug peddlers and not refugees created by globalization and the lack of government interference in one of the least elastic cartel monopoly markets that exist: the production and distribution of illegal narcotics. Mafia or organized cartel business generally exist in societies as the fringe and operate nearly uniformly inelastic markets in their business. Unfortunately, the size of these operations in Latin America means that nationally, many governments are faced with inelastic markets without adequate resources to regulate or intervene.
With the passage of NAFTA in 1994, the small Mexican farmer became as quickly extinct as the American manufacturer. Primarily subsistence farmers, these indigenous peoples have since sought life in America as a way out of the crumbling social and economic structures around them, and “with the Mexican economy only providing about two-thirds of the job growth necessary to employ the 1 million Mexicans entering the job market each year, workers will continue to cross the border” (Coerver, 216) as the only pressure valve on an economic system falling apart in the wake of NAFTA. These trade agreements as well as Cold War interference in Latin America meant a dramatic change even in legal immigration since the 1950’s, when 68% of legal immigrants came from Europe or Canada, until the fall of the Soviet Union, when over 80% of immigrants came from Latin America, a statistic that has only increased since the passage of NAFTA ( 201). The irony that many Maya and other indigenous Americans are illegal immigrants, while those of European descent make the vast majority of United States’ voting populations aside, the existence of these workers is against the very model of American beliefs.
In the past, illegal immigration has not had the same attention as it has today. Most reactions were race-based and more heavily directed towards immigrants who put white men out of work. Now, however, illegal immigrants do jobs that average Americans would not consider, at least not with incredibly low untaxed wages. Conservatives worry about cultural degeneration, crime, and public funds being used without the payment of taxes. These are legitimate concerns and with any population migration some controls are necessary; actions taken such as increasing the Border Patrol, however, “where the numbers of armed personnel rose from about 4,000 in 1993 to over 6,000 in 1996” (Coerver, 215) have been relatively ineffective. No one believes a totally open border such as exists with Canada can happen in Mexico, that is not the argument as elements in Mexico that are powerful and dangerous cannot exist in America, but instead whether the current laws address this problem with the greatest efficiency.
Today, in contrast, US economic interests and national security determine the fortunes of other nations. The international drug cartels that are allowed to flourish because American consumption is drastically greater than Latin American authorities’ resources tasked with stopping production and mafia activities have created a deadly war zone in vast swathes of Latin America. This is not unique to the drug trade, but such situations are created by any market which is allowed to remain inflexible without government interference or regulation. In addition the agricultural industry, artificially inflexible because of government mandated price floors, provides the catalyst for Central American immigrants to begin their exodus north. The best course of action for the United States is to, initially at the least, allow governments to impose tariffs on subsidised imports through a revision of NAFTA and to, in the longer term, address and explore measures necessary to ensure lower levels of violence in the drug trade, perhaps by reducing its relative importance to Latin American economies.


Archibold, Randal C. “In Border Violence, Perception Is Greater Than Crime Statistics.”– The New York Times, 20 June 2010. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.
Coerver, Don M., and Linda B. Hall. “The Latino Diaspora in the United States.”Tangled Destinies: Latin America and the United States. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1999. N. pag. Print.
Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. “Latinos in the United States Invitation and Exile.”The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader. New York: New York UP, 1998. N. pag. Print.

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