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Ethical Borders

NAFTA, Globalization, and Mexican Migration

Authored by Bill Ong Hing

Publication Year: 2010

In his topical new book, Ethical Borders, Bill Ong Hing asks, why do undocumented immigrants from Mexico continue to enter the United States and, what would discourage this surreptitious traffic?  An expert on immigration law and policy, Hing examines the relationship between NAFTA, globalization, and undocumented migration, and he considers the policy options for controlling immigration. He develops an ethical rationale for opening up the U.S./Mexican border, as well as improving conditions in Mexico so that its citizens would have little incentive to migrate.


In Ethical Borders Hing insists that reforming NAFTA is vital to ameliorating much of the poverty that drives undocumented immigration and he points to the European Union's immigration and economic development policies as a model for North America. Hing considers the world-wide economic crisis and the social problems that attend labor migration into homogenous countries, arguing for a spectrum of changes, including stricter border enforcement and more effective barriers; a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants; or a guest worker program.


Hing also situates NAFTA and its effects in the larger, and rapidly shifting, context of globalization—particularly the recent rise of China as the world's economic giant. Showing how NAFTA’s unforeseen consequences have been detrimental to Mexico, Hing passionately argues that the United States is ethically bound to address the problems in a way that puts prosperity within the grasp of all North Americans.

Published by: Temple University Press

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pp. ix-x

For some time now, I have been troubled by the venom directed at undocumented workers who have crossed borders in search of a better life. Since the 1970s, I have had the privilege and opportunity to meet and represent countless individuals whom the anti-immigrant lobby and the mass media have dubbed “illegal” immigrants. These are decent folks ...

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Introduction: A Time to Think Broadly

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pp. 1-8

The vitriol and hate rhetoric directed at undocumented immigrants in the United States is as palpable as ever: “They are lawbreakers!” “They take our jobs!” “They don’t learn English!” “They commit crimes!” “They run up costs of schools, medical care, and public services!”...

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1. The NAFTA Effect

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pp. 9-28

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994, vigorously endorsed by the political leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada, was supposed to fix the problem of undocumented Mexican migration into the United States.1 NAFTA would be the permanent solution....

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2. Revolutionary Mexico: A Brief Economic and Political History

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pp. 29-62

To understand the U.S.–Mexico immigration dynamic, policymakers must examine Mexico through a complex series of lenses. Obviously, Mexico’s economic and political history directly affects its residents and thus the flow of immigrants into the United States. Certainly, the reasons that many Mexicans come to the United States to work are varied ...

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3. Canadian Stability and Responsibility

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pp. 63-78

In contrast with Mexico, Canada, the other NAFTA partner of the United States, has done well, benefiting from the agreement. Even in the face of the recent global economic crisis that has presented severe challenges to the United States and the rest of the world, Canada’s economy has stood out as remarkably strong. Given its strategic alliance with North ...

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4. The European Union Strategy

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pp. 79-95

In contrast to the failure of NAFTA to incorporate labor migration and development assistance to poor members in its vision, the European Union (EU) evolved with rigorous commitment to the economic stability of all members and freedom of travel. The EU approach permits open labor, engages...

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5. Celtic Tiger: The Irish Example

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pp. 96-115

Taking a closer look at Ireland gives us a good sense of the benefits of the European Union’s investment approach to a formerly poor, emigrant-exporting country. Ireland developed into an economically successful country that attracted immigrants. While the analogy between Mexico ...

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6. The Failed Enforcement Approach: “There Ain’t No Reason to Treat Them Like Animals”

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pp. 116-132

Instead of addressing the contemporary causes of undocumented Mexican migration that are linked to NAFTA and globalization, the United States has addressed the symptoms of the challenge by adopting an enforcementonly approach. That approach has failed miserably, because the social and economic forces ...

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7. Contemplating North American Integration and Other Alternatives

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pp. 133-159

The failure of the current immigration enforcement strategy and the role that NAFTA has played in putting more pressure on Mexican migration demands that we look for alternative approaches to the challenge of undocumented Mexican migration. The enforcementonly approach to immigration that fails to address visa demands and a trade policy that...

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Epilogue: The Ethical Border: Thinking Outside the (Big) Box

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pp. 161-185

The U.S. immigration system is broken, and enforcing that dysfunctional system has led to troubling results. Hundreds of border crossers have died each year for many years now as a result of Operation Gatekeeper, which pushes migrants to attempt to enter at the most treacherous parts of the deserts and mountains. Anti-immigrant ordinances and ...


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pp. 187-218


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pp. 219-229


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pp. 231-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781592139262
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592139255

Publication Year: 2010