Destroy Their Economic Livelihoods, and They Will Come

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  June 17, 2014

Destroy Their Economic Livelihoods, and They Will Come

Jeff Faux: 95% of immigrant children who cross the US-Mexico border are from countries that the US has dominated or controlled during the past century
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Jeff Faux is the Founder and now Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. He is an activist, economist,  and writer, and has written extensively on issues from globalization to neighborhood development. His latest book is The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite is Sending the Middle Class.


ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And here to give us a report on immigration policy at the U.S.-Mexico border is Jeff Faux.

Jeff faux is the founder and now distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He's an activist, economist, and writer, and has written extensively on issues from globalization to neighborhood development. His latest book is The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite Is Sending the Middle Class.

Thanks for joining us, Jeff.


WORONCZUK: So it's good to have you back on as a regular contributor. What do you have for us this week?

FAUX: Well, you know, this week the media is absorbed with a foreign policy crisis in the Middle East. But there's a crisis occurring on our own border, in our own neighborhood, so to speak, that's probably more important to the average American than the question of whether militant Sunnis or corrupt Shiites run Iraq.

For the last few months, the last six, eight months, thousands, tens of thousands of children have been pushing across the U.S. border between Mexico and Texas in a desperate effort to flee poverty and violence and hopelessness in their countries. They're overwhelming facilities down there. The detention centers are overcrowded. The immigration service doesn't know what to do with these kids. Some of them get put on buses to be sent to families someplace. It's a mess.

And it's quickly deteriorated into politics, of course. The Democrats and Republicans blame the president. The president says it's a humanitarian crisis, so we have to act, and so we do. But lost in this debate is the question of U.S. responsibility for the basic causes of this tragic immigration to the United States. Immigration politics in the U.S. focuses on the U.S. But, you know, the question of what to do with people who are arriving here misses the point of how they arrived and why they arrived.

People come from somewhere, and in this case 95 percent of these children are coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Now, this just happens to be three countries, along with much of the rest of Central America, that the U.S. has dominated and controlled for the last hundred years.

WORONCZUK: Well, exactly what role has U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and Central America played in driving this immigration?

FAUX: Yeah, well, to answer that question, start with another question. If the United States is skilled in nation building, which it says it is, why are these economies such social and economic disasters? The answer is we have not run these economies for the people there. We have run them for U.S. investors who want cheap labor and their oligarch cronies who provide the cheap labor.

The enforcer of this system--and this is a system that goes back decades--the enforcer of this system is the U.S. military. Whenever people there have challenged the rule of these oligarchs and these repressive governments, the United States has run to the rescue of the oligarchs.

In 1954, famously, Guatemala elected, finally, a left-leaning reformer. The first thing that happened was that the United States organized the Guatemalan military for a coup and an attack, and they drove the president out. It was followed by 40 years of savage repression, 150,000 people murdered in that little country over that period of time. Today, the same rich families and the same military control Guatemala.

I was in Guatemala recently, and people told me they were afraid to take a bus, because what happened is that every once in a while, thugs, armed thugs, would come aboard the bus, shoot the driver, and rob the passengers. A few days later, I was talking to a young man who said no one can get a real job in this country unless they're connected to one of the five or six ruling families, so everyone wants to immigrate to the United States. But it costs $10,000 to hire a coyote take him here. Where are you going to get the $10,000? They borrow it from the criminal gangs. Most of the time, people never make it and they find themselves back in Guatemala owing $10,000 to some pretty bad people. And those criminals, gangs, say, give us the money (this is in his words) or we'll kill your mother, or come work for us. And your first job is to put a mask on, take a gun, go board a bus, shoot the driver, and rob the passengers.

Guatemala is a basket case under the regimes that we have supported.

Same thing in Honduras. Nineteen sixty-three, a reformer got elected. We supported a coup to get rid of him. Two thousand nine, another reformer gets elected. We support another coup. Now, 2009, the Obama administration publicly said, oh, that's terrible and, you know, they denounced it, but privately, they paved the way for the military-run government to stay, and the oligarchs once again triumphed.

In 2011--this is only the latest budget numbers that we've been able to uncover--we exported $1.3 billion in military electronic equipment to Honduras. Now ask yourself: what is Honduras--who is Honduras defending itself against? Who is invading Honduras? The answer, of course, is nobody. Now, their rationale is this great war on drugs. In the last 30, 40 years, billions of U.S. dollars have gone to the military in Central America, ostensibly because of the war on drugs. Now, after 30 or 40 years, it's quite clear that the war on drugs is a failure. And the reason it's a failure is because the military that gets all this aid is knee-deep in narcotrafficking. And what's happened now is the combination of drugs, weapons, and poverty is destroying this country to the point where the children are fleeing. The war on drugs in Central America is a failure, but the war of the elite oligarchs on their own people has been a success. And the result are these poor children being driven across the border.

Now, whatever comes of the immigration battle between the Democrats and Republicans, whatever happens to the president's bill, the waves of desperate immigrants from Central America, from other parts of the Caribbean that we have essentially dominated over the last hundred years will not diminish and is never going to diminish unless the United States government and the United States people face the reality that the basic cause of this immigration is rooted in the corrupt regimes that we have supported all these years.

WORONCZUK: Okay, Jeff. Thank you very much for that report.

FAUX: Well, thank you for having me here.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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