top of page

Our So-Called Immigrant Problem is Homegrown

Immigrant worker allies protest a massive raid of Mississippi poultry workers in this 2019 photo.

This story has been updated with additional input from Aviva Chomsky, professor of history and the Coordinator of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts.


Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, after announcing a handful of business developments (all outside the majority-Black Delta) ran off to the Texas border with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stoke the fires of “lowercase GOP Civil War” against the Biden administration.


“Today I joined @GregAbbott_TX and 12 Republican governors in Eagle Pass, TX to receive an update on the border crisis,” Reeves said on X. “In short, the situation is dire. It’s clear our nation cannot survive another 4 years of Biden. He’s weakening America’s national security and putting your personal safety at risk — all because of politics. It’s long past time to put a stop to this insanity. Together, we can do it — it starts by voting for Donald Trump in November.”

“We have a habit of interfering with a multitude of countries around the world, and now we’re having to deal with that."

This, after House Republicans appear to have deep-sixed a border deal they initially supported until Trump told them to kill it to help his re-election campaign. The bill was already considerably conservative to get congressional Republicans to sign on to it, however. Rather than being an “amnesty bill” that “erases” the U.S. southern border, the bill enacts a policy of immediately detaining migrants who cross the border, and it deports them within 15 days, if they don’t make an asylum claim. Migrants who come to the U.S. border at official ports of entry get funneled into a new "removal authority program" that gives them 90 days to make their asylum case, and even then, they’re not released into the country without strings. The deal does absolutely nothing to encourage migrants to enter the country illegally.


Up until last year, a COVID -19 policy in Title 42 allowed the Trump administration and the federal government to quickly expel migrants back into Mexico. President Biden has also made rule changes that encourage migrants to make illegal crossings at major ports of entry instead of over dangerous deserts, rivers, and rural areas. By going through designated ports of entry, migrants stand a chance of getting considered for proper entry, as opposed to being immediately kicked back over the border with a five-year ban and the threat of criminal prosecution plastered to their neck. This also gives hyperventilating hyper-conservatives like Govs. Abbott and Reeves huge immigrant crowds at ports of entry to hoot and point at.


Meanwhile, few people on either side of the government are looking at the real cause for the migrant “crisis”: more than 50 years of rotten Latin American policy, anti-worker machinations and malevolent meddling. For more than a century, U.S. business interests have been happy to reduce immigrant workers to legally vulnerable, easily exploited labor. Sweet potatoes and chicken meat is affordable at U.S. grocery stores primarily because of pennies-on-the-dollar, non-unionized immigrant jobs that no U.S. worker wants to do. Whenever immigrant workers attempt unionization for better treatment and pay, U.S. authorities hammer them with raids and deportations.

Workers at Howard Industries, in Laurel, Miss., were on the cusp of unionizing under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers when the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) marched in and removed 500 immigrant workers in 2008. In 2019, authorities again targeted workers with Mississippi’s most devastating raid, just as union talk began to take root.


Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Executive Director Bill Chandler says our own nation has used its sizable military and resources to destabilize Latin American governments, particularly ones created at the grassroots level by their own people.


“We have a habit of interfering with a multitude of countries around the world, and now we’re having to deal with that,” Chandler says.


The U.S. likes to label legitimate governments communist, topple them, and then install vicious puppets like Augusto Pinochet to run these nations into the ground while raiding them of resources. But you don’t have to go all the way back to Pinochet’s 1980s-era slaughter and oppression to catch us destabilizing foreign nations and making their biggest export more immigrants. Chandler points out that Venezuelan immigrants currently helping to choke U.S. access points at the southern border are fleeing a government made more unstable by two decades of U.S. sanctions begun in the Bush era.


“A lot of the people coming here from Venezuela are not communist or socialist or follow any kind of government agenda,” says Chandler. “Because of the U.S. attack on the economy of Venezuela, they really have no other option but to flee. Things would be better there if we’d just left all that alone and let Venezuelans work it out for themselves.”

"We are here because you were there."

Aviva Chomsky, professor of history and the Coordinator of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts, said US trade agreements with these same nations are just another form of colonization. Despite the positive ring of "trade agreement," they serve to benefit the target nation's wealthy upper-class over its citizens, and they frequently run independent farmers out of business in places like Mexico, Guatemala and other spots.


"Free trade agreements are carefully crafted things that limit the sovereignty of governments, and they certainly limit the possibility of any kind of civil society to have a voice affecting policy of their governments. The polices are beneficial to corporations and local elites, their priority is protecting profits and protecting property rights. There is only a tiny minority of people in all of these ... countries who mostly benefit from these policies."

Hugely profitable mines in Columbia, for example, are owned by international interests, not Colombians--even if they are staffed by Colombians. And the president of that nation and his staff work in the interest of international investors, not voters. The result: hungry Colombians piling against the southern border, pleading for amnesty.

Fixing the mess, says Chomsky, will require nothing less than outright reparations. And without overwhelming political will in the US to press our leaders to financially repair the damage of more than a century of rapacious exploitation we can expect starving immigrants for many decades to come, no matter how high the walls.

"It's not just about electing leaders but pressuring the people we elect," Chomsky says. "Even electing somebody like Bernie Sanders would not be enough because we'd need a huge popular vote of people behind him to be able to implement the kind of policies we'd need."

The Biden administration has only just now begun to ease some portions of its poverty-inducing economic Venezuelan sanctions.


bottom of page