FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Joe Wilson’s Immigration Hypocrisy

If Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina is so concerned about illegal immigration and the possibility that migrants might buy government sponsored health insurance then he should stop pushing for free trade agreements in Latin America. It’s an important point which has been lost on Wilson’s narrow-minded GOP followers who admire the legislator for confronting President Obama during the latter’s recent address to a joint session of Congress. For the xenophobic Republican fringe, Wilson is a hero for calling out “you lie!” when Obama denied that his insurance plan would provide free coverage to illegal immigrants.

Those same fanatical right wingers however never pause to consider why so many migrants are coming to the U.S. in the first place. Many come from troubled nations in Central America, a region plagued by ever worsening poverty. If the U.S. is truly serious about stanching the flow of migrants from such countries as El Salvador and Nicaragua then it must provide serious financial aid and poverty relief. Instead however Washington has pushed for relentless corporately-friendly free trade, a policy which has exacerbated poverty and led to more migration to the United States.

A political hypocrite, Joe Wilson supports U.S. free trade while opportunistically exploiting racist fears. In 2005, he voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement or CAFTA which eliminated all tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. manufactured goods. The agreement was not limited to manufactured goods but covered virtually every type of trade and commercial exchange between Central American countries and the United States.

CAFTA formed part of the failed “neo-liberal” corporate agenda in Latin America which resulted in a race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards. As a result, the agreement faced intense opposition from many labor and civil society organizations in the U.S. Disregarding such critics, the Bush administration lobbied extensively for CAFTA passage. In the House of Representatives the vote was held open longer than permitted until it finally passed in July, 2005. If Wilson had opposed CAFTA the initiative would have stalled —- the free trade agreement passed by only a single vote.

A pernicious agreement, CAFTA has displaced the rural poor in Central America and led to migration to the United States. A recent report by the Stop CAFTA coalition comprised of progressive U.S. organizations in solidarity with Central America points out that inequality and poverty have worsened under CAFTA and thousands upon thousands of workers are forced to migrate to Mexico and the United States because farming is no longer profitable. In Central America, farmers are frequently unable to access the international market in large part owing to weak infrastructure and their inability to compete with large corporate farms which have access to the capital necessary to succeed in the new CAFTA economy.

Take for example the case of El Salvador where rural unemployment increased after CAFTA came into effect and emigration increased to the United States. In the long term, CAFTA stands to undermine poor rice, corn, and dairy producers. That’s because under the new regime, the U.S. may sell these staples to El Salvador in large quantities. In Nicaragua meanwhile things are not much better: small farmers who have been unable to compete with agribusiness have been forced out of the market and people are obliged to migrate out of economic necessity.

All of this is of apparently little consequence to Joe Wilson — even as he supports free trade he takes strong anti-immigrant positions on Capitol Hill. Wilson for example supported the Secure Fence Act, a bill which authorized the construction of an additional 700 miles of double-layered fencing between the U.S and Mexico while granting the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to take necessary steps to stop unlawful entry of immigrants into the U.S.

Wilson also voted for one particularly mean-spirited bill, the Undocumented Immigrant Emergency Medical Assistance Act, which would have prohibited federal reimbursement of funds to hospitals providing emergency services to undocumented immigrants unless the hospital provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with citizenship and employment records. The measure, which was co-sponsored by far right Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, fortunately went down to defeat in the House.

To pseudo-populists such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs, Joe Wilson is a hero for adopting anti-immigrant positions. Yet Dobbs and his audience haven’t asked themselves the crucial question of why Latinos immigrate to the U.S. in the first place, nor have they examined the role of corporate free trade in Central America. No, that would require some more subtle thinking and analysis — a quality sorely lacking within today’s right wing fringe.

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave, 2008). Visit his blog at http://senorchichero.blogspot.com/

 

More articles by:

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF is the author of the upcoming No Rain In the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects The Entire Planet (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2010). Visit his website, senorchichero.

January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
Nick Pemberton
There Are More Important Things Than The Truth
Brian Cloughley
How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America
David Rosen
Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump
Tamara Pearson
Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries
Richard E. Rubenstein
Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel
Christopher Ketcham
A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens
Basav Sen
Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate
Lauren Smith
Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump
Joseph Natoli
Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?
Olivia Alperstein
The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise
Ramzy Baroud
When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model
Mitchell Zimmerman
Government by Extortion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail