This morning's paper had an article about the end of a 15 year buffer period of import protections for NAFTA. The basic affect of the end of this ban is a compounding of what has already been happening under NAFTA--a further debilitation of the local farms in Mexico where they are less and less able to compete and more and more impoverished.
Up until a couple years ago, I really had no idea what NAFTA really meant for trade between Mexico, the US, and Canada, only that the agreement existed. But in 2006 I had the privilege of participating in a Borderlinks seminar, which changed my perspective considerably. Borderlinks works to educate Americans about the affects of NAFTA and general US trade with Mexico on Mexico. How it affects urbanization (with lots of folks fleeing to the city with hopes of work in the maquiladoras and most cities being ill-equipped to absorb the influx of folks including difficulties with housing, sewage, and roads), how it affects immigration (with diminishing options available in Mexico, more and more people try to cross to find work in the US), how it affects commerce (ironically, in the border cities, merchandise in stores like Wal-Mart or stores similar in nature is the same or more expensive in Mexico even though "minimum wage" is considerably less), and how it affects local farmers (with the freedoms of Multinational Corporations, MNCs, to go where they want, when they want, with little to no promise to the community in which they establish themselves it is more and more common for an MNC to simply uproot when there is a cheaper area in which to produce leaving area X with few options in the MNCs absence; additionally local farmers are pushed out of the competitive market and have little hope of sustaining their own families).
I'm sure NAFTA has some redeeming factors, I just don't really know what they are, not from a larger, global, "little man" perspective anyway. (Also, I know nothing of what NAFTA has done with or for Canada). For what I've seen and learned NAFTA is great for the US, but not so great for Mexico, and I think that's a problem. And in many ways I see it as a major contributing factor for illegal immigration. In other words, I think we've contributed to our own *problem*. If folks want to "send 'em home", then I think those folks need to make a serious investment and change in the benefits they reap from NAFTA (as Americans buying cheaper products) and look at the bigger picture and not just see the effect, but also take a minute to examine the cause.
None of this is simple, to be sure. NAFTA isn't the only contributor to the problem (as is evidenced by the millions of undocumented folks that were here before NAFTA was signed in '93, and by the millions of those undocumented immigrants that are NOT from Mexico). And the resulting problems from NAFTA are also anything but simply, both in their formation and in their resolution. But there are things you can do to address this issue.
Ways you can make a difference:
1) Stay informed.
2) Write your congressperson (for Senate click here, for House click here) and make your voice heard (maybe ask for a longer buffer period, or American help in helping local farmers stay competitive).
3) Support programs like Borderlinks that make a difference both through education and through action.
4) Buy Fair Trade.