Saturday, October 22, 2011


Trading Places

by Henry Curtis

A series of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conferences will meet  in Honolulu in November. A new Asia Free Trade Agreement called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) will be signed by President Obama and some other world leaders.

The late-2000s Global Financial Crisis led the U.S. taxpayer bailout of financial institutions. These institutions used the bailout money to take over other companies, to give large bonuses to their executives and to lobby for changes in tax laws whereby they could reduce their taxes and use the “saved money” to repay the loans.

The Global Financial Crisis caused a world-wide recession and the resultant rise of unemployment and homelessness.

Often those living in the margins were scapegoated for the problem they did not cause. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle on the homeless: "You don't want to make analogies that sound inhumane, but would have been better off to have a rat infestation"

Free Trade Agreements are the darlings of transnational and multinational corporations. APEC and the Free Trade Agreements are often portrayed by Big Business and the Government as win-win for Hawai`i residents.  

Most Americans, especially Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, oppose Free Trade Agreements since they result in the exportation of American jobs, the importation of cheap foreign goods, and increased profit and decreased regulation of multinational corporations at the expense of lowering of environmental and labor laws.

The ramifications of Free Trade Agreements impact many other issues including the botched federal prosecution of the Aloun brothers after they pled guilty in a federal human trafficking case, the decade-long harassment of Latinos by the Maui police department, and whether Ho`opili should remain prime farm land or be converted to urban sprawl.

Reaction to the unfettered free trade has led to the enactment of tough immigration laws in places like Arizona, Georgia and Alabama.

Washington Post (October 12, 2011): "For all the talk of populist foment – the Tea Party on the right and the new Occupy Wall Street movement on the left – business interests remain firmly in control. Forced to choose between their voters and their donors, lawmakers don’t hesitate before choosing the latter.
There is little doubt about where the Tea Party faithful stands on free trade. A year ago, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 61 percent of Tea Party supporters thought free-trade agreements had hurt the country, compared to 53 percent of Americans overall who held that view. Shortly after that, a Pew Research Center poll found that only 24 percent of Tea Party supporters thought free-trade agreements were good for America."

Americans do not want to work for low pay and long hours toiling in agricultural fields.


Huffington Post (Oct 21, 2011): "Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his immigrant workers leave after Alabama's tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn't worked out: Most show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day.
In Alabama and other parts of the country, farmers must look beyond the nation's borders for labor because many Americans simply don't want the backbreaking, low-paying jobs immigrants are willing to take. ...The agriculture industry suffered the most immediate impact. Farmers said they will have to downsize or let crops die on the vine. As the season's harvest winds down, many are worried about next year."

CNN (October 14, 2011): "Alabama's new immigration law, which proponents boast is the strictest in the land, could destroy Latino families throughout the Heart of Dixie. Since October 3, when a federal judge upheld several key provisions of the law ...Latino businesses founder and families hunker down, afraid to send their kids to school or go to the grocery store in a state where the law now targets them."

Christian Science Monitor (October 6, 2011):  "Is Alabama immigration law creating a 'humanitarian crisis'? With the Alabama immigration law taking effect, some 2,000 Hispanic students didn't attend school Monday. Teachers unions and Hispanic activists are voicing their concerns. ...last week, federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn surprised many Americans when she upheld key parts of the law – including a portion that says schools must check the immigration status of children when they enroll, as well as the status of their parents. ...The US Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that states cannot deny a free public education to undocumented immigrants. Hispanic advocates said they've been counseling parents to send their children to school."

Los Angeles Times (September 30, 2011): "immigrants caught without proper identification can be charged with a crime."

New York Times (October14, 2011):  "Among the sections of the law one requiring the police to determine the immigration status of someone who has been arrested or pulled over in a traffic stop if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally."

The Economist (September 30, 2011):  "Three months ago Alabama, 3% of whose population is foreign-born (compared with 12.5% nationwide), passed the nation's harshest anti-illegal-immigrant law. ...It not only forbids illegal immigrants from working; it forbids them from even asking to work."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin (September 25, 1999): "Some leaders in the Hispanic community say Maui police officers have been making patrol stops to interrogate Latinos about their immigration status without cause"

Maui News (March 28, 2009): "Maui's Hispanic community and local churches are organizing a "know your rights" campaign in the face of a crackdown by federal immigration officials on undocumented immigrants. ...Church organizers with Faith Action for Community Equity, an interfaith alliance formed to address social issues, said they were concerned about how the surge in deportations was splitting up families, and how the aggressive, in-your-face approach of federal officers was terrorizing young children who might be in a home during a raid. ...Fear of deportation is making some undocumented immigrants reluctant to report crimes, ask for help, or even seek medical care, where they weren't afraid to do so before, said Gilberto Sanchez, a leader in Maui's Hispanic community."

 Monisha Das Gupta, Director of the University of Hawai`i Center for South Asian Studies, Ethnic Studies Department: "Our research revealed that immigration related enforcement has escalated in the  last four years, and has taken the form of  highly publicized workplace raids, and  less publicized knock-and-talk tactics,  and DUI and traffic stops.  The situation  on Maui, where Mexicans work in  significant numbers in the hotels and  restaurants, construction, and agriculture,  is very grave.  The Maui police has had a  history, starting in the mid-1990s, of  acting (without authorization) as an arm  of immigration enforcement.  This,  despite community-based efforts to train  the Maui police not to profile Latinos on the basis of their appearance and  language.  With the county and federal  level authorities agreeing to biometrically  check not only the criminal record of  someone in the custody of the local  police but also his/her immigration status,  Mexican communities are wracked by a  deportation crisis."

This piece appeared in American Sociological Association (ASA) Sex and Gender Sections (June 2011) and was based on a 2010 pilot qualitative study, ―Mexicans in Hawai`i: Recent Flows and the Community’s Problems and  Prospects conducted by the author and Sue Patricia Haglund, and a 2011 report that combines the qualitative findings with a quantitative  analysis of census data co-written with Jeanne Batalova of Migration Policy Institute. 

Hector E. Sanchez, Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American  Advancement (Huffington Post, October 21, 2011):

"There is a strong relationship between free trade policies between the United States and Mexico, the grave reliance on cheap labor of various economic sectors in our economy, and the drastic increase of undocumented migration to the U.S. over the last two decades.
The U. S.'s addiction to cheap labor and powerful business interests have established a deregulated system that is voracious in its demand for cheap and exploitable labor, impacting immigration flows into the U.S. At the same time, the anti-immigrant movement and the immigration enforcement policies that have emerged out of several state legislatures have made undocumented workers more vulnerable and exploitable, living the new American nightmare.
This is why we need a serious discussion that focuses on overhauling our labor, trade, and immigration policies so we can address the root causes of economic insecurity and increased migration and improve the economic opportunities and conditions of all workers in the process.
When NAFTA was being negotiated it was presented on both sides of the border as the magic solution to solve the region's economic problems. However, NAFTA proved to be a big failure for working people on both sides of the border. Overall it drove wages down in Mexico and the United States, exacerbated the wealth gap and displaced Mexican farmers off of their land and into the already overcrowded cities in Mexico, or on a path to migration to the United States. In NAFTA's first decade, the annual number of immigrants arriving to the United States from Mexico more than doubled and more than 80 percent of post-NAFTA Mexican immigrants were undocumented.
To quantify, in the years preceding NAFTA (1985 to 1989), approximately 80,000 undocumented immigrants entered the United States from Mexico annually. From 1990 to 1994 immigration increased to 260,000 annually. From 1995 to 1999, the number jumped to 400,000 annually. Between 2000 and 2004, immigrants were crossing the border at a rate of 485,000 a year. According to the World Bank, this makes Mexico the nation that exports the largest immigrant-sending nation in the world -- more than China and India, countries whose population is ten times greater than Mexico. When it comes to immigration, free trade agreements have been a clear failure.
Once in the U.S., immigrants find themselves as the perfect scapegoats for a range of problems. Immigrants have been dehumanized and the issue has been analyzed in a reactionary way. The scapegoating of undocumented workers has caused many hardships for this community. Racial attacks against immigrants and Latinos have reached historical highs. Families are being separated by the immigration detention and deportation system. And Latinos in the labor force are enduring unsafe or abusive working conditions that place their health and lives at risk, facing high incidences of wage theft and high rates of injuries and fatalities in the workplace."
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the US does not have free trade with the world regardless of the various agreements in place or to be signed. it is highly one sided (meaning all other economies lower their trade barriers) and US businesses continue to get government subsidies, price supports, and trade restrictions on foreign imports -- half the time pushed by organized labor using xenophobic and highly inflammatory rhetoric that serves no common good. in each of those instances, it has a negative effect on third world workers. perhaps you need to do a little more research on what you are talking about as opposed to stringing a bunch of newspaper quotes together.

and let's look at where the trade barriers got the u.s. garment industry. nowhere. the factory bosses made money and then when the market with the distorting trade barriers couldn't support it anymore, the workers were out of jobs and didn't have any training for other work and have found it difficult to find new work.

legal and illegal immigration to the us is not because of free trade agreements, its because the US continues to promote free trade elsewhere while firmly maintaining subsidies, price supports, and trade barriers to support US businesses. these practices distort the labor markets and artificially keep wages high in the short term ('til the next election) and interfere with worker competitiveness. and then when the game is up, workers elsewhere are more competitive, US business moves onto something else and the workers who have been used by business (with the support of the government) get nothing.

immigrants along with sexual minorities have historically been the scape goats in down economic times and have little or nothing to do with free trade agreements. it might be noted that the trade unions on Maui work with the police department and ICE to find illegal immigrants. the same trade unions that oppose free trade agreements.

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