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What is Illegal?: A Discussion

Updated on July 12, 2016
wingedcentaur profile image

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


Hi Pollyannalana! How's it going?

Thank you for the question: "Does it seem odd that we are fined going 5 miles over speed but illegals get rewarded for breaking the law?"

You go on to say: "Look at the little things our law will nab us for going 5 miles over speed limit, fishing without a license, just any little thing to make a buck so they can turn around and give it to illegals coming into our country, keep them up and feed them and make their babies citizens (after we pay for their delivery!) and if they are criminals we pay for their trials, let them loose and pay for safe havens for them and keep them up! Who is crazy in this country to let all this take place? What do you think about it, do you think this is just great? Do you think it needs to change?"

NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement.

I won't go into details except to say that there is something inherently unfair about a trade treaty that allows for the unrestricted, free-flow of capital and does not allow the same for labor, that is human beings who have only their labor to offer.

As you may know, Pollyannalana, the U.S. heavily subsidizes the agricultural exports of its farmers. You know what that means! The richest country in the world---perhaps richest of all time---heavily subsidizes the agricultural exports of its farmers, delivered into the market of a low-to-median wealth country, at best, in Mexico.

With a handicap like that, Mexican producers have little choice but to go out of business. At the same time, the United States and other Western countries of the "Global North," maintains tariff barriers against the goods of Third World producers of the "Global South."

In other words its like this: Heavy agricultural subsidies provided by the United States and other countries of the advanced, "Global North," for goods being sold to the Third World or "Global South" --- allow those goods to be sold for far cheaper prices than, say, Mexican producers can afford to sell their good for, at home.

Tariff barriers erected by the United States and other countries of the First World or advanced "Global North" make it next to impossible for Mexican products, and others of the "Global South," to achieve anything remotely like comparable market penetration of our countries. Again, this leaves many Mexican producers little alternative to go out of business and try to sell their individual labor power to whoever is willing to buy it.

But that is not all!

Let's say Mexicans "stay home" and take on a "9-to-5," as it were. Let's also say that because of the subsidy-tariff situation, many Mexicans find themselves working for Mexican branches of U.S. firms, again, whose presence on Mexican soil is facilitated by trade agreements like NAFTA.

Did you know that on September 4, 2008---(Yes, the twenty-first century!)---that the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice ruled that Wal-Mart de Mexico had to stop paying its employees, in part, in company scrip? (1).

What is company scrip you ask?

Well, first of all, "company scrip" is out of the nineteenth century. Back in the day, there were some business concerns (mining, railroads, maybe farming, and the like) used to be allowed with "paying" their workers (who were often compelled to live on the premises in squalid on-site dwellings) in vouchers that were only redeemable at the company store!

That means these companies did not pay their workers! The vouchers could not be used anywhere else, under any other circumstances.

Its like this: You might make $8/hr. working for Wal-Mart, here in the United States of America.

But were not talking about the United States, are we? We're talking about Mexico, where honesty compels us to estimate the salary for comparable work of $6/hr., at best! Of course, in your mind, just translate everything into the proper Mexican currency equivalent.

So, Mexican employees of Mexico de Wal-Mart are starting out only making "$6/hr." But part of that salary was paid in company scrip.

Imagine a scenario something like this: A "$6 dollars an hour" salary is paid out in "$4 dollars an hour" in, you know, actual money; but "$2 dollars an hour" is paid out in nineteenth century company scrip.

Conclusion: Massive wage theft! One-third of the salaries of Mexican employees of Wal-Mart de Mexico are earmarked to return right back to the company. Remember, the vouchers are not money that can be used anywhere! This means that Wal-Mart de Mexico employees would only be making "$4 dollars an hour."

There is probably an as yet unwritten, scandalous story about Mexican workers going broke, working for Mexican subsidiaries of American firms, in Mexico!

Consider this. Its a Forbes magazine article with the headline: "Report: Wal-Mart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance" (2). The article appears under the byline of a Clare O'Connor.

I quote:

"Walmart's low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, according to a report published to coincide with Tax Day, April 15.

"Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups, made this estimate using data from a 2013 study by Democratic Staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce" (3).

Taking the example of Wisconsin, the report, 'estimated the cost to... taxpayers of Walmart's low-wages and benefits, which often forces workers to rely on various public assistance programs,' found, for example, that 'a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,105 and $5,185 on average for each of 300 workers' (4).

If you consider that sad state of affairs, in the richest country in the world, with unparalleled advantages, and then flashback to the situation faced by Wal-Mart employees in Mexico---one can start to appreciate the desperation Mexican labor faces.

And there is something else to consider, a fascinating convergence.

  • NAFTA, according to Wikipedia, "came into force" on January 1, 1994 (5).
  • Something called "Operation Gatekeeper" was announced in Los Angeles on September 17, 1994 (6)---the same year!
  • I wouldn't want to be accused of pushing a "conspiracy theory," or anything like that, but it is almost as if the U.S. government were bracing itself against an anticipated onslaught, which they thought might result from the implementation of NAFTA.
  • The fact that "illegal immigration" is such a large issue for us, in the United States, during this election season, does speak to a level of desperation---from a Mexican point of view, for example---that can be engendered by "asymmetrical" trade agreements.

In addition to all of that, Pollyannalana, it is worth mentioning, if only in passing, that the map you are showing in your question---happens to show territory (including Texas and California), most of which had been originally part of Mexico. The U.S. wrested that territory away from Mexico with the Mexican-American War of 1846 (7).

Addendum added 07/06/2016

There is something else I should have added; and that is the most obvious thing that is right under our noses: The War on Drugs in the United States of America.

First of all, there is a War on Drugs, that has been going on, in the United States of America, for several decades; and this effort has been and is, structurally and institutionally targeted at poor people of color, who are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated on a hugely disproportionate basis---which makes the American criminal justice system the most punitive in the entire world (8).

What does any of that---even if it is true---have to do with the immigration situation?

Well, the American government puts pressure on Mexican authorities to curb narcotics trafficking into the United States.

Look, let's be very direct and honest with ourselves about this. We know the some of the effects on Mexican law enforcement, with respect to the drug cartels.

From the little news footage we can on matters concerning Mexico, we know that the Mexican federal police (especially, perhaps, those involved in narcotics investigations) dress up like ninjas, all in black, from head to toe. With all of the guns, bulletproof vests, and other apparatus on the person of each officer, we know that the most important piece of protection they have are the black masks that almost completely cover their faces.


So that the drug people cannot see their faces.


Because if any of the drug people saw the face of one of the officers, said officers could be identified.

Why is that a problem?

Because, upon identification, the drug cartels simply would not hesitate to retaliate against the officers personally, as well as their families (8).

The War on Drugs has made the Latin American drug cartels, overall, fantastically wealthy (since prohibition has only increased the demand for their product), fantastically powerful (they can and do buy a lot of fancy guns with some of their fantastic wealth), and inhumanly ruthless (they will target anyone for reprisals: journalists, judges, legislators, politicians, anybody).

The Mexican police officer, then, faces a level of jeopardy that is unheard of in the rest of the civilized world, and in many other places except, perhaps, in wartime. Even the police are not safe in Mexico.

Lastly, we have to ask ourselves: What is a small Mexican farmer to do, when NAFTA has driven him off his land, left him no other choice but to close his tiny shop of one kind or another; and he is screwed even when he works for a Mexican division of an American firm---like Wal-Mart? And let's say, for the near-term, hasty emigration is not an option.

Mightn't said small Mexican farmer turn to cocoa production in desperation---thus exacerbating the whole drug trafficking situation?


1. (2016, May 5). Company Scrip. Retrieved July 5, 2016. (Wikipedia).

2. (2014, April 15). O'Connor, C. Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance. Retrieved July, 5, 2016. (Forbes).

3. ibid

4. ibid

5. (2016, June 29). North American Free Trade Agreement. Retrieved July 5, 2016. (Wikipedia).

6. (2015, November 18). Operation Gatekeeper. Retrieved July 5, 2016. (Wikipedia).

The program is described as a: "Clinton-era measure implemented by the U.S. Border Patrol, then a part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, aimed at halting illegal immigration at the United States-Mexico border near San Diego, California. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the goal of Gatekeeper was 'to restore the integrity and safety of the nation's busiest border.'"

7. (2016, June 20). Mexican-American War. Retrieved July 5, 2016. (Wikipedia).

8. (2016, February 22). Policia Federal Ministerial. Retrieved July 12, 2016. (Wikipedia).


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    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 21 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      You've hit the nail on the head, Frank. To question legality-illegality is the core point of this discussion. There is often a disconnect between intended legislative intent and deeply ingrained structural features that unavoidably contradict legislative intent.

      Take it easy.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton

      These political thoughts and research you've presented here is always up for debate.. at least in my book... what is illegal.. the title alone suggests that if it's not legal it is illegal.. we make things legal and illegal to suit our needs .. several years ago.. some for safety, morals.. and et al.. but I always wondered how many illegal things are really illegal.. state gambling is legal.. other gambling is illegal .. stuff like that.. but nonetheless winged you give me food for thoughts with your last few hubs ..:)