Letter on Immigration to A College Reporter

Dear Stephanie

I'm sorry I can't give you a couple sentences. It's a complex issue.

I recently returned from 3 weeks living in Chenalho, a small Tsotsil Mayan town about an hour away from San Cristobal in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. This is about as far from the USA as you can get and still be in Mexico. One of the things I was doing there was interviewing people in the community about immigration. There is not enough land to be split up so that everyone can earn a living by raising coffee. About the only other employments are driving one of the taxis that goes to San Cristobal and earning about $35 a week or joining a weaving or other handcraft cooperative and earning similar amounts.

I didn't speak to a person under 30 that was not at least considering going north to the United States.

What should be our attitude towards this? First we should bear in mind that the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, which put Mexico's cheap labor at the disposal of our corporations, had a devastating effect on the small farmers in Chiapas (and other states), especially those who grew corn. Our cheap subsidized corn has flooded the market and changes we required in the Mexican Constitution prior to NAFTA have made it possible to divide up and sell the communal lands. These farmers no longer able to live on the land either become part of the shanty towns making Mexico City the new Calcutta or they go north to the factories of the corporations along the border or they cross and harvest our food, for which we are now being asked to consider them felons.

The other thing to bear in mind is that what they cross into was part of Mexico until we took half of Mexico's land mass about 150 years ago in a war that young Abe Lincoln called immoral.

What is the solution? For me the solution is not to put up walls and induct still more inmates into the prison system. Nor is it to simply open the door to all who want to enter. The solution is to adopt economic and trade policies towards Latin American countries that, instead of being predicated on what the corporations can suck out of them to increase their profitability, are based on mutually raising up the standard of living and building strong economies in these countries. This is what the Common Market attempts with Spain and with other countries within their trade community that are less developed. Anything else is based on the quick buck and disregards the social and political consequences. For this we will pay a heavy price down the line in an unstable and unjust world.

In the short run, let's not criminalize undocumented workers and put up more walls. During the last decade over 3,000 people have died trying to cross illegally into the USA. They won't stop coming, but even more will die. Let's not deny them hospital treatment or education. Let's not bring them in in programs that deny them any ability to change employment and thus put them entirely at the mercy of their employers. We should design a program that offers amnesty and a path to naturalization to those who have been here for some time and a flexible work program for those who wish to enter to do jobs that we have come to depend on them to do.

Stephanie, I know that you can't use all of this or possibly even any of it. What i would ask is that you quote me fairly and that the whole text be available in some form. Maybe it could be a letter to the editor? Or alternatively, include a reference to the web page where I am posting the complete text, including your inquiry at http://www.billjungelsworks.net/immig.html

Thanks, Stephanie, and good luck.

Bill Jungels

My name is Stephanie Sadler. I'm an assistant news editor
for the Leader and I'm writing an article about the
immigration debate for next week's issue.

I came across your profile on the communication department's
website and it struck me that you would be a good source of
information. Your profile states, "His latest work, Crossing
the Line" follows the struggle of workers in Mexico, the
United States and Canada against the negative results of
free trade."

I apologize for the short notice as my deadline is Thursday
afternoon and I know time is precious, but I only recently
found your profile in a roundabout way.

I was wondering if you would be willing to take a minute and
jot down a few sentences about your stance on the
immigration debate, any aspect that interests you, maybe
about the struggle of Mexican immigrants or some aspect of
your documentary? Anything that I can incorporate as a

I really appreciate your time.

Thank you.

Stephanie Sadler
Assistant News Editor
The Leader


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