Stop CANAMEX, Stop the Intermountain West Corridor and I-11! Stop the Sun Corridor! Stop the 202!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Arizona-Mexico Trade: Inroads to private gain, Part 3: Shifting Border Enforcement

This is part three of a series. View Part 1, primarily on trade infrastructure here and Part 2 primarily on trade-related public relations and the drug war here.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has been portraying the state's five-year-old Senate Bill 1070 like it's an unfortunate relic of the past that Arizona needs to get beyond in order to have a cozy trade relationship with Mexico. This trade relationship is seen as the more sensible of only two options within a perspective that never acknowledges migration as a symptom of so-called free trade. SB 1070 can be sacrificed—though seemingly only in the realm of the media—for the sake of trade with Mexico, partly because the US is now essentially paying the Mexican government to assist in curbing migration. This may mean less reliance on Arizona resources, but at what cost?

The US-funded collaboration with the governments of Mexico and some of Central America to manage migration and the drug trade, with mass-scale violence as a consequence, is for the purpose of a business climate friendlier to trade and investment in the border states, and those countries south of the border. The military and paramilitary violence and the displacement of people outside of Arizona borders is invisible to us, as it relieves law enforcement resources in each state (though tax payers still pay for it). What would be more visible is the transportation infrastructure to facilitate Arizona-Mexico trade—the Interstate 11 and the South Mountain Freeway—multi-billion dollar projects that provide major opportunities for private profit subsidized by taxes. The impacts of Ducey's new Arizona Border Strike Force Bureau remain to be seen but will undoubtedly further militarize Arizona and especially the border region.

SB 1070 has become politically inconvenient for much of the Arizona business community. With the participation of the press (a sampling: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), Ducey has been making a point since June to re-brand Arizona to the Mexican business class by distancing himself from the controversial law and contrasting himself with former Governor Jan Brewer (who passed SB 1070 into law) in conjunction with making a trip to Mexico to meet with Mexican officials and business people.

The denunciation of SB 1070 is simply part of a public relations campaign. While there is no doubt that 1070 is a terrible discriminatory law, the casting of the bill as the villain serves a purpose to shift attention away from the impacts of free trade. Many of the same methods by which the US has been working with Mexico and Central America to create a more friendly business climate has much to do with why many people have to migrate in the first place.

Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are the countries that most non-Mexican migrants in Arizona (and other states) come from. Many are refugees from violence, as all three countries are among the top ten with the highest homicide rates. It isn't a stretch to say that the trade relationship relies on and causes violence and other harm for the purposes of maintaining a cheap labor force and gaining access to land and resources, whether we're talking about Central America or Mexico. The chaos and fear, and the security response which involves militarization and paramilitarization, brings more of an advantage than not in promoting free trade.

Ducey's interest is in helping portray Mexico as stable and ripe for investment. Arizona's proximity to Mexico and the alleged promise of Mexico's economic growth means Arizona has a specific interest in promoting itself and Mexico, so they can take part in the competitiveness that Arizona/Mexico trade supposedly brings, which includes cheap labor and federal funding for trade infrastructure. 

Although immigration enforcement in Arizona is not incompatible with trade, and in fact is often a response to the consequences of the impacts of free trade, SB 1070-type laws are far less preferable than border controls and enforcement at or south of the border, which are increasing. One reason SB1070 is unpalatable is because it represents the myths perpetuated of the spillover violence from the border. Despite the exaggerated criminality meant to instill fear of migrants from south of the border and pass legislation like SB 1070, there is still clearly a problem of organized crime and violence. As described in Part 2, the violence has gotten worse, not because Mexicans are criminals, but in part due to the effects of US policy and cooperative efforts between the US and Mexico to manage the economic environment through militarization. The US has to pretend things in Mexico have improved because they cannot otherwise justify spending billions of dollars on the Mérida Initiative with its lack of success against the international drug trade.

Now that a federal judge upheld the so-called “papers, please” provision—one of the most controversial of SB 1070—Ducey has only vaguely responded through his spokesperson, stressing the importance of public safety and border security in addition to "a respectful and productive relationship with our neighbor to the south." Even now that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is experiencing the most embarrassing point of his career, Ducey, who was endorsed by Arpaio, has never criticized the controversial sheriff for the harm he's caused migrants (or others who have been racially profiled).

The importance will become clear of the shared ideology between that of Ducey, his associate Jim Kolbe, who is CANAMEX expert of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, and Kolbe's close colleagues who have been pointedly influential regarding NAFTA, Plan Colombia, and/or the Mérida Initiative. The history of and relationship between trade, military intervention, and the drug war south of the border reveals the true intentions of US dominance and private gain.

Lastly, the contrast between Ducey and Brewer that Ducey is playing on is a bit off the mark. Brewer was readily involved in maintaining and expanding the cross-border trade relationship, but the role of the private sphere is likely more important than either governor.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Interstate 11 update

If you're unclear about the relationship between the Interstate 11/Intermountain West Corridor and CANAMEX, read Filling in the I-11/CANAMEX Gaps, which was written about a year and a half ago, but is still pretty accurate, other than the status of I-11.

Here's the latest from McCain's website:

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate delivered final passage of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), a five-year, bipartisan, bicameral bill that provides authorization and funding to enhance roads, bridges, and transit programs in Arizona and across the country. This bill is vital to providing state and local officials in Arizona certainty to set transportation priorities, invest in critical infrastructure and plan wisely. It also includes measures supported by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that would pave the way for establishing the Sonoran Corridor and the future Interstate 11 (I-11). These roads will ensure that Arizona has the infrastructure it needs to develop significant international trade routes for the Western United States. The FAST Act will now be sent to President Obama’s desk for signature.
Senator McCain originally introduced these measures in the Senate with the Sonoran Corridor Interstate Development Act of 2015 and the Intermountain West Corridor Development Act of 2015, which were ultimately included as part of the FAST Act. These provisions will designate the Sonoran Corridor as a future interstate to connect I-19 to I-10 south of the Tucson International Airport, and the future I-11 from Phoenix north to Las Vegas and I-80, and south to Arizona’s southern border. Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ) also sponsored these measures in the House of Representatives.
“This long-term authorization bill provides the funding certainty that state and local officials in Arizona need to repair our aging roads and improve critical infrastructure, while improving safety for all Americans in transit,” said Senator McCain. “I’m particularly proud that this bill includes measures that I cosponsored that will enable Arizona to become a key part of an international trade route that reaches all the way to the southern border, driving economic growth statewide. While this legislation is not perfect, it advances important provisions to help improve our nation’s infrastructure and connect Arizona’s businesses and communities to major domestic and international trade partners.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and leaders from across Arizona also praised the legislation:
“I commend Congress for passing a long-term transportation bill to support critical transportation projects serving our state,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. “This action today will further our mission of creating a transportation system that drives Arizona’s economic development, and attracts business and commerce throughout the state. Transportation is a key element in growing our economy and providing opportunity for all.”
“I am so thankful for Senator McCain and Representative McSally’s leadership in getting this designation added to the transportation bill and through the Congress,” said Sharon Bronson, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. “Their leadership, combined with the strong bipartisan support this project received from the entire Arizona Congressional delegation, resulted in a major victory for the people of southern Arizona and the entire state. The Sonoran Corridor has the potential to be the most significant economic development effort in the county’s history. The very foundation, the very backbone of the entire effort is the auxiliary highway connecting the two interstates. This designation is the first, vital step on the long road we still have to travel for funding and construction. The future prosperity of our region just got a little brighter today.”
“I'm very pleased this project has made it past this hurdle,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “The Sonoran Corridor is important to our airport, our major employers, and our regional economy.”
“The Tucson Hispanic Chamber and our affiliated chambers in Nogales, Douglas and Sierra Vista applaud Senator McCain and Congresswoman McSally for their leadership in advancing these major trade route designations for the state of Arizona,” said Lea Márquez Peterson, president of Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “The passage of these measures will enhance the importance of a key trading route from Mexico to the United States.”
The Sonoran Corridor will create an alternative route that will enable the hundreds of thousands of freight vehicles traveling through the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales each year to avoid having to pass through the congested city of Tucson to reach major trade routes using I-10. This development is estimated to reduce total travel by 12 miles and 20 minutes per truck, connecting southern Arizona to agricultural regions, infrastructure and manufacturing centers, and existing high priority corridors of the National Highway System. The Sonoran Corridor will also be home to the new Aerospace Parkway next to Tucson International Airport, which has the potential to become one of the largest manufacturing and logistics hubs in the Southwest.
The future I-11 will extend from Arizona’s southern border through Phoenix to Las Vegas and north through the State of Nevada, ensuring the future interstate is connected to the Northwestern United States and plays a key role as an international trade route. Specifically, its designation would provide both states’ Departments of Transportation the flexibility to develop a Northern Nevada and Southern Arizona connectivity corridors as part of the I-11 effort. This full north-to-south, Canada-to-Mexico interstate system is critical for our nation’s mobility, economy, and national defense.