Tag Archives: migration

Demanding some basic respect

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Donald Trump cancelled a meeting with the Mexican President last Thursday, because Enrique Peña Nieto had said the night before that his country would not be paying for the “wall”. The President of the United States went on declaring that: “Unless Mexico will treat the US fairly, with respect, such a meeting is fruitless.”

Excuse me, Mr. President? Your administration and particularly you personally are not treating Mexico fairly. And I am not seeing a lot of respect in your actions and rhetoric regarding Mexico over the last ten days.

You ordered to build a wall to keep Mexican and other, mainly Central American immigrants out of your country. The US was founded by immigrants. For nearly 250 years, the US has been an immigrant country. It is totally legitimate for a country to want to regulate immigration, and to control its borders. But there are also market rules at work: A lot of hispanic immigrants not only run away from little opportunities in their home country, but also follow a high demand for cheap labor in the US. (Similarly, the strong demand for illegal drugs such as cocaine is one reason why it is so hard to fight drug trafficking into the US; the gains are so lucrative that people look for ever more inventive entries into the US.) How would the “American way of life” look like if there were no hispanic fruit pickers, housekeepers, gardeners and restaurant workers any more? Are you really thinking about those jobs when you claim to get certain employment back to the US, making America great again?

You talk about imposing a 20 percent tariff on imports from Mexico – despite the fact that Mexico and the US have been operating within the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for more than 20 years now. Most of the economists will tell you that the US and Mexican economies are intertwined to a high degree, and that both, Mexico and the US have been profiting from NAFTA. In both countries, certain industries have also suffered; from globalization, but much more from substituting human labour with technology. Do you have an idea how many US products are sold in Mexican supermarkets, department stores, and Nike boutiques? Oh sorry, right, Nike does not produce in the US, but mainly in South East Asia.

You want to charge a hefty fee for remittances that Mexican workers in the US send home to their families. Has not your country been one of the strongest proponents of free trade and free flow of capital? Democrats and Republicans alike? Are not your banks making part of their huge profits with trading foreign currencies – selling and buying Mexican pesos, Chinese renminbi, or South African rand in a matter of seconds? And now you propose that a Mexican factory worker cannot send home, let’s say 500 US dollars per month, without paying part of it to your government as a special fee, as some form of fine?

Mexico is a sovereign nation. Mexicans are people, more than 120 million. Both countries are neighbors, and as such, have to deal with each other. Would it not be more constructive and effective, if that was done with fairness and with some basic respect? That is what I am demanding of you, Mr. President.

Flag by Nicolas Raymond; Creative Commons

In search for a better future and lasting peace

What I am slowly realizing, a bit more than two years after having moved to Mexico, is that the place I come from is much more abnormal, globally speaking, than the place I am currently living in.

I am German, I have been born and raised in Germany, and until I was 24, I have nearly exclusively lived in Germany, besides a year as an AFS exchange student in Japan. Then I went to the US and the UK to study and work. It was not until 2002, that I started living, for the first time, in a developing country – in Mexico.

Europe – or should I better say Western Europe – has always been my point of reference. I see the negative aspects of daily life in Mexico – impunity, corruption, underperforming government, traffic, contamination, the non-existent service mentality when it comes to monopolies or oligopolies such as Telmex, Telcel, banks, the state electricity company, internet service providers, you name it – and I compare them to how life in Western Europe is. And I see two very different realities.

But, globally speaking, actually billions more people live in conditions similar to the ones in Mexico, or far worse, than to the super high standards of Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, or the likes – legal certainty and transparency, in general good governance, excellent public services such as education, health, transportation, etc. Western Europe is actually a tiny island in the huge sea of countries struggling for a better life. With hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants coming into Western Europe, people there get a glimpse of life beyond their borders – a world, a lot of Germans, Dutch and Austrians have been busy for years, if not decades, to forget and not be bothered with too much.

The current crisis should remind Europe why it is so important to take on global responsibility. Every human being has the right to try to achieve a better future for themselves and for their children – if this right is denied for too long in their country of origin, some will take the chance and search for it somewhere else. Migration might not be a human right, but it for sure is a reality. Mexicans search for better lives mainly in the US – about 12 million of them live there, that is more than 10 percent of their total population. They risk their lives trying to make their way across the desert. Africans, Central Asians and people from the Middle East might opt for Europe, basically because it is closer. They risk their lives, and lots of them loose it, trying to make their way across the Mediterranean.

After having lived for some time outside my Western European comfort zone, I can understand why some Mexicans, Nigerians, Pakistani or Afghans get on the migration trail.

The case of Syrians is even much more dire. They flee from war in their country – something most of us, fortunately, have never faced and never wish to face. I cannot imagine how frightened and vulnerable you must feel in a place like Syria right now. And I can empathize with any Syrian, particularly fathers and mothers, leaving their home, starting a journey to someplace safe.

I do not have a plan for peace in Syria, unfortunately. But it is imperative that the international community takes responsibility to protect the people of Syria. How come that humans can fly to the moon, split atoms, and cure cancer, but have come across so many situations of  war that we have not satisfyingly ended. We should put our smartest minds to trying to address these conflicts and bring more and lasting peace to the people. 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, we have to invest in finding solutions to the new threats we face.