OPINION

Opinion: Immigration Reform By Treaty

MEXICALI, BAJA CALIFORNIA - MARCH 25:  A boy walks along the US/Mexico border fence on March 25, 2005 in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Since the launch of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1995, two-way trade has boomed between the US and Mexico, and Mexican dollars are fueling development in economically-depressed Calexico, California. Border communities are now growing increasingly worried that the recent economic gains may be lost as the Bush administration's efforts to tighten security in order to prevent terrorists or their weapons from crossing the border could slow the wheels of commerce. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

MEXICALI, BAJA CALIFORNIA - MARCH 25: A boy walks along the US/Mexico border fence on March 25, 2005 in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Since the launch of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1995, two-way trade has boomed between the US and Mexico, and Mexican dollars are fueling development in economically-depressed Calexico, California. Border communities are now growing increasingly worried that the recent economic gains may be lost as the Bush administration's efforts to tighten security in order to prevent terrorists or their weapons from crossing the border could slow the wheels of commerce. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2004 Getty Images)

One million dollars a minute, sixty million dollars an hour, 1.44 billion dollars a day, 43.200 billion dollars a month, 518.440 billion dollars a year – that is what trade between the United States and Mexico has grown to in the 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect on January 1, 1994.

That is the legal trade. Then there is the illicit trade of drugs, cigarettes, people being secreted across, over and under the border, Americans crossing the border by the thousands every day for medical/dental work and their renting or buying real estate along the thousands of miles of Mexican oceanfront.

In [the] cross-border trade lies solving the immigration conundrum that faces the Republican-controlled House of Representatives; it does so by simply cutting them out.

- Raoul Lowery Contreras

Conversely, thousands of Mexicans cross the border legally each day for medical/dental work, shopping and other economic activity that amounts to billions not formally recorded as part of the million-dollars-a-minute mentioned by the Mexican Foreign Secretary, Jose Antonio Meade Kuribrena, the other day in a speech in California.

San Diego County on the California/Mexico border estimates that Mexicans spend $2 billion a year in San Diego that is not counted in the trade statistics.

That economic activity binds the United States and Mexico like no other trade relationship in the world.

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In that cross-border trade lies solving the immigration conundrum that faces the Republican-controlled House of Representatives; it does so by simply cutting them out.

Though President Obama has proven to truly be disinterested in immigration reform other than as a club against Republicans, he can be useful finally. Only he can negotiate treaties with countries. He only needs concurrence of two-thirds of “present” United States Senators. The House has nothing to do with a treaty. A treaty has the force of the Constitution.

Side Note – The million-dollar-a-minute trade with Mexico today is a far cry from 1846 when United States troops invaded Mexico and claimed land between the Nueces River in Texas which was the border between the Republic of Texas and Mexico for 11 years and the Rio Grande River. That incursion started the Mexican American War which was planned in Washington with only one purpose — seizure of California (plus, of course, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and parts of Kansas and Oklahoma). 

Defenders of the American-plotted war to acquire those millions of acres of land declare that Mexico sold all that land freely for the tidy sum of $15 million. We bought it “fair and square” they say. That is only minutely true. American troops occupied Mexico City and announced they would never leave unless Mexico accepted the money and granted all that land to the U.S. “Under duress” comes to mind.

Back to today. President Obama can produce immigration reform by using his exclusive treaty negotiating ability spelled out in the Constitution.

“Article II, Section 2: He (the President) shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of Senators present concur…”

Stacks of economic studies by think tanks and universities conclude beyond doubt that the vast number of Mexicans who come to the United States without legal permission come to work, to work at jobs in which collectively there are not enough Americans to do or even want to do even in periods of high unemployment. Thus a treaty between Mexico and the United States that covers employment of their respective citizens in the other country will solve the problem.

•       A binational labor treaty shall be negotiated between the United States and Mexico that allows employers in both countries to hire workers from the other country for temporary or even permanent work.  

•       The treaty would require the host country to issue work permits to those employees with full right of border ingress, egress and legal residence.

•       The treaty would require that the employment minimally meet all national labor laws of the host country.

•       The treaty would have a provision for a binational commission made up of the U.S. Secretary of State and his/her Mexican counterpart, the Speaker of the U.S. House and his/her Mexican counterpart and the Leader of the U.S. Senate and his/her Mexican counterpart to meet annually to set labor permit numbers for the following year.

•       The Treaty would have a provision that Congress make all laws required to implement the treaty.

Only the President can negotiate a treaty. The House cannot vote on it, or amend it, or interfere with it in any way. The Senate must advise and consent only on what the President submits for ratification with “two thirds of the Senators present.”

If we had a President who cared about immigration reform he would commence negotiations with Mexico today.  

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant. He was formerly with the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate. Contreras's books are available at Amazon.com

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