04/09/2006 03:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Immigration's Supply-and-Demand Solutions

There's a lot of superheated rhetoric being thrown around these days about illegal immigration -- and much of it is designed to divert our attention from the real issue at hand: the awful state of the Mexican economy. In a new op-ed running in today's Sunday San Francisco Chronicle, I discuss how America's corporate written "free" trade policy -- once billed as a way to lift up both American and Mexican workers -- has actually deliberately undermined the economic interests of these very workers.

Mexican workers have reacted by seeking better jobs north of the border, often so economically desperate that they are willing to break our immigration laws. We can talk all we want about amnesty, guest worker programs and border security, but until political leaders get up the guts to reform the destructive trade policies like NAFTA so that they actually improve workers' lives, we will never directly address the original pressure felt by Mexicans to try to illegally enter our country.

What does this mean in practice? For starters, it means making our trade pacts include basic labor, wage, human rights and environmental provisions for workers that are as strong as the copyright, patent and profit protection provisions that are already in these deals for corporations. This seems like commonsense -- except to both Republicans and most Democrats in Washington who are so comfortable swimming in corporate-funded pools of campaign cash, that they have deliberately kept such provisions out of our trade pacts -- and then had the nerve to attack anyone who wants our trade policies reformed as "protectionists" or worse.

The Big Money interests that have performed a hostile takeover of our government are unified against any provisions that might protect workers' rights as much as the corporate rights that are already protected under these clearly misnamed "free" trade policies. And we can see just how far these interests have gone in distorting the political debate by looking at the Establishment's dishonest framing of the immigration debate. Most media outlets and politicians are going out of their way to omit any discussion of reforming the trade policies -- even though, as I note in the San Francisco Chronicle, those trade policies are at the very heart of the issue.