Many illegal aliens from Latin America risk migrating to the United States because they are fleeing from desperate situations and see opportunities to help their families, even though they will be stuck low-paying, labor-intensive jobs.
But they know that in advance. An illegal job in America is still better than no job at home, we were told in efforts to deal with illegal immigration. Globalization, where jobs and therefore income and wealth are not just in the first world, was designed to reduce those disparities. Instead such globalization is the problem, according to a new paper in Ethnicities, though the reasons sound like they could have come from a postmodernist generator.
"This exploitive system is embedded in neo-liberal ideology and deeply rooted in historical colonial and racial relationships between the United States and Latin America," says Gerardo F. Sandoval.
a professor in Department of Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon.
Except Latin America was colonized by Spain and Portugal.
It doesn't matter, those nations are not a walk across the border and the new work reaffirms the peril of using case studies for anything meaningful in policy. Sandoval and colleague Edward M. Olivos, a professor in the Department of Education Studies, write of a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, which shut down after a 2008 raid by U.S. immigration officials. The plant was the nation's largest "kosher" (a special process for food, similar to organic food, but for people of the Jewish religion) facility and employed hundreds of undocumented workers. They may have thought they were doing a good thing by circumventing immigration law but the managers and workers were penalized just the same.
But they were not doing a good thing, says Sandoval, many of the workers were from the same region of Guatemala as he was from, and he believes they had created a "shadow network" designed to exploit workers, many of whom had already been exploited on large coffee and flower plantations. Instead of being a helping hand, the scholars believe the recruitment and settlement of the Guatemalans to create a source of low-wage labor for the company. The state even collected payroll taxes and Social Security benefits even though the workers were here legally, so the system for avoiding Federal immigration was well-planned.
Still, they came to support their families and that worked. They educated their kids and sent money back to Guatemala to help other family members and friends and to repay bank loans that covered their trips to the U.S. The repaid loans fueled economic growth in El Rosario.
So why do the humanities scholars think such neo-liberal colonialism is terrible, when it did exactly what the workers wanted?
"Latinos in U.S. labor markets are used to perpetuate power dynamics, disrupt worker consciousness, and racialize Latinos around jobs," they wrote, but would it be colonialism if an American who spoke no Spanish expected to be a vice-president at a company in Guatemala?
While the nation grapples with huge numbers of illegal aliens for the second time in the last 30 years, some will argue that globalization is the problem. But moving jobs to other countries can't happen so easily in food, where the margins are too thin to justify such a large expense.