|Photo from The Undocumented Migration Project website|
I finished The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. It was a gift from my friend Carolina, creator of My (un)Documented Life blog. It was written by Jason De Leόn, an anthropologist of Mexican descent, who spent 5 years in the field, in his journey to complete this project. At its heart, his work depicts the violence faced by border crossers “as they attempt to enter the US without authorization by walking across the vast Sonoran desert of Arizona”. Its focus is on the Prevention through Deterrence (PTD) policy enacted in 1993.
The author explained that when the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1994, the U.S. promised economic prosperity for Mexico if it would open up its ports of entry for inexpensive goods. Shortly thereafter, Mexico was abundant with U.S. subsidized corn that put millions of Mexican farmers out of work
Google gave me some background on NAFTA. Its purpose was to expand the flow of goods between Canada, US and Mexico. It eliminated import tariffs and eliminated or reduced non-tariff trade barriers like import quotas, licensing schemes and technical barriers to change. Lastly, it created protections for intellectual property.
I harken back to my reading of In our Image by Stanley Karnow. In the late 1800s, William Taft advocated for lower tariffs for Philippine sugar, hemp, tobacco and coconut oil. In exchange, duties were imposed on non US products going into the Philippines, so they were more expensive than US products. These decisions during the long term relationship between the US and the Philippines, created the economic landscape. I understood my family’s migration. I appreciated how Mr. De Leόn created the backdrop between US and Mexico. I am reminded that people wouldn’t risk such a journey if there were other economic options.