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(DV) Petras: International Immigration and Imperial-Centered Accumulation







Following the Profits and Escaping the Debts
International Immigration and Imperial-Centered Accumulation
by James Petras
August 8, 2006

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Among most writers who discuss international migration (IM), their focus is largely on the individual micro-decision making process, the family networks in the ‘receiving country’ (RC) and the so-called ‘push-pull factors’ which motivate IM. While these approaches provide some data at the level of individual behavior, they fail to explain several fundamental questions regarding IM. 

For example, the focus on individual micro decision-making (IMD) provides data on the social background of the individual (relatively more ambitious, better educated and more risk-taking than those within their class who do not immigrate). IMD tells us that most migrate for economic reasons, and secondarily to flee political conditions (refugee status).

Family network analysis tells us that IM are likely to locate in countries where they have family or relatives. It also describes the support-networks, which operate in the RC in providing housing and job contracts.

Push-pull theory examines some of the general ‘macro structural factors’ such as over-population, underdevelopment and underemployment in the sender country (SC) as well as the employment needs of the RC to explain IM. Whatever useful data these approaches provide is overshadowed by serious methodological, theoretical, conceptual and empirical flaws.

A Marxist Critique and Alternative Approach      

Our macro-analysis is historical and structural (HS) in the sense that we begin by examining the dynamic inequalities and exploitative relations between ‘sender countries’ and ‘receiver countries’ in order to determine the socio-economic conditions which lead to individual decisions to migrate and to explain why masses of immigrants depart and when they do and not before. Historical and structural analyses provide a global map of the flows of profits, interest payments, rents and royalties and superimposes that map on the immigration flow to argue the hypothesis that global flows of capital determine the direction and flows of immigration.

In other words, rather than merely describing ‘family networks,’ our HS approach addresses the deeper question of where and why ‘family networks’ emerge in one country or region, rather than another.

‘Push-pull’ explanations cannot explain why jobs are scarce in the ‘sender’ countries and available in the ‘receiver’ countries. In other works, it fails to address the question of how the ‘receiver countries’ structurally eliminates peasant farming in the ‘sender country’ through exports of subsidized agricultural products and creates low paying agricultural jobs in the receiving ‘country’. Moreover the ‘push-pull’ explanation fails to examine the central role of the imperialist state (the ‘receiver nation’) in determining the regulations, rules and policies for immigration. In other words, the ‘push’ factors -- low pay, high unemployment are dependent on the imperialist policies regarding how many and which immigrants enter at what time period and under what conditions.

All the orthodox explanations of international migration fail to examine the social structure of the political economy of the ‘people-exporting’ countries and ‘people-importing’ countries. To that end it is obligatory to put forth an economic model which encompasses the historical relations between the imperialist nations and semi-colonies of the Third World.

Imperialist Centered Model of Capitalist Accumulation (ICMCA)

To understand the dynamics of IM we have to examine how ICMCA functions. Through multinational corporations (MNCs) and banks (MNBs) it exports capital in the form of investments in stocks and bonds and lends money to public and private enterprises.  Through these loans and investments it captures control over productive and financial sectors of the economies, via buyouts of privatized and de-nationalized enterprises.  Through the IMF and World Bank and private financial institutions, they condition loans to the borrower country. These ‘conditions’ result in the lowering of protective barriers and the subsequent penetration and domination of local markets by subsidized agriculture exporters and large-scale manufacturers.

As a result of their strategic control over lucrative sectors of the economy, perpetual interest payments and monopoly trade positions, there is a large-scale transfer of profits and interest payments from the dominated nations to the capital export or imperial countries. The ICMCA results in the destruction of millions of small peasant plots and medium size farms, which cannot compete with subsidized agricultural imports. Large numbers of agricultural workers are replaced by machinery and specialized production.  In the cities, foreign-owned large-scale enterprises in retail trade (shopping centers and supermarkets), manufacturing and high tech services displace hundreds of thousands of small but labor-intensive businesses, increasing unemployment and underemployment.  In order to meet the debt demands of the banks and the conditions of the IMF, major cuts in public spending result in tens of thousands of skilled public sector professional and skilled workers losing their jobs. The inflows of capital and loans undermine job opportunities in the agricultural sector and public services while the capital-intensive ‘new industries’ provide few opportunities for livable employment for the millions of dispossessed.  This dire employment and income situation is exacerbated by the repatriation of the bulk of profits and interest back to the home office in the imperial countries, leading to little or no ‘multiplier effect’ of the initial investment, especially where most of inputs to businesses are imported from other countries.

The de-structuring of labor and the re-location of profits to the receiving country creates a mass permanent surplus labor population in the dominated country. The ICMCA further weakens the employment generating potentialities of the dominated ‘people-exporting’ countries by capturing local savings -- they do not ‘risk’ their own capital.  Local banks prefer to lend to large foreign MNCs because they believe there is less risk than lending to local manufacturers, farmers or service enterprises.  By ‘crowding out’ local borrowers from the credit market and forcing them to borrow at higher rates in the informal credit market, the MNCs increase the local bankruptcy rates among the locally owned, labor-intensive enterprises.

The ICMCA is not simply an ‘imposition’ from the outside by the IMF and MNCs, it is in large part a model imposed from the inside by imperial hegemonized economists whose higher education has been financed by imperial foundations and institutions. Through the ‘people-exporting countries, the local policy elites linked by business interests, bribes and ideology to the imperial countries, impose and implement the ICMCA. Financial and economic ministers, central bankers, trade and agricultural officials trained by and identified with the ICMCA execute the ‘neo-liberal’ policies, which are an integral part of the empire-centered model.     

In order to sustain the employment and income destroying policies of the ICMCA, the imperialist state and its local collaborators engage in destabilizing activities against governments, which promote national and social development-oriented domestic policies toward domestic workers, peasants and employees.

It is interesting to note that when a leftist government implements ‘inward’ egalitarian policies, there is a different class of international ‘immigrants’ namely big business people, wealthy private professionals and affluent politicians and generals.

The key purpose of counterinsurgency is to destroy alternatives to the ICMCA, to defend its political clients and to retain market dominance and total control over resource exploitation and cheap labor. In other words, adverse economic and social conditions in the ‘labor exporting’ nations are not a ‘natural’ or ‘given condition’ as some of the micro-theorists argue but a consequence of the imperial centered model of capital accumulation, just as the ‘job opportunities’ in the imperial centers are a product of the re-investment of the profits and interest payments in the home country.

Imperialism and the Regulation of Immigration

Contrary to orthodox neo-classical economic theory or what is now called neo-liberalism, immigration is not simply a function of market ‘push-pull’ factors. Rather political institutions play a major role in establishing the ‘boundaries’ or parameters of immigration. The imperial state regulates the inflow and restrictions on labor immigration; it determines the scope (how many immigrants), the timing (when more or less immigrants can enter and when they well be expelled), the ‘quality’ of the immigrants (skill level and specific categories of professionals) and laws governing the longevity of the immigrants ‘work permits.’ Moreover the imperial state decides on the penalties for illegal entry and repatriation and whether to bring criminal charges.  Immigration policies of the imperial state (IS) are directly linked to the business cycle, to the tightness of labor market and to the social strategies of the capitalist class. Historically the IS pursued relatively open immigration policies, during expansive phases of capitalist development and closed/expulsion policies in times of recession -- seeking to avoid paying welfare benefits.  Between 1950-1970 Europe and the US pursued ‘open’ policies coinciding with high growth, and repressive policies, especially with the crisis shortly after 1973.

Immigration policies have served the capitalist class by creating a reserve army of cheap labor to lower wages, to undermine unionization and to fill ‘niches’ in the domestic labor market in low paid, unhealthy work. Equally significant, capitalists hire low wage immigrant workers to replace skilled and semi-skilled workers in higher paying jobs such as nurses, doctors, carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, painters, machinists, cooks, meat cutters and so on.  Contrary to the argument of many ‘progressives’, immigrant labor is used to downgrade existing high-paying jobs with expensive health and safety protections into low-paying degraded, unsafe and unhealthy work. For example, 20 years ago, the unionized US meatpacking and slaughterhouse workers received $20 an hour under relatively good working conditions. Today the bulk of the workers are non-unionized Mexican workers receiving from $6 to $10 an hour with the highest accident rate among factory workers.

Secondly the progressive argument that immigrants are mostly ‘unskilled’ cheap labor engaged in work that the local workers reject is partially false.  While the ‘first and second waves’ of immigrants might have fit that profile during the 1950’s and 1980’s, it is not the story today. Capital imports skilled labor in information technology, home and office specialty repairs, and medicine -- in order to lower the costs to the state, employers and affluent homeowners. Specific capitalist sectors benefit from importing skilled workers: information technocrats work longer hours, have fewer vacations, for less pay with less interest in trade unions and less resistant to employers’ demands. The importation of trained nurses to be employed as low-paid domestic care workers (for the elderly or infants) saves the state hundreds of millions in expenditures for public facilities (day care centers, public health centers and nursing homes). Real estate speculators and financiers benefit from the importation of low-paid electricians, plumbers and carpenters in the construction and repair of apartments and office towers. Hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and other tourist businesses benefit from the exploitation of non-unionized chefs, cooks, receptionists and not infrequently sex (slave) ‘entertainers’ imported by Eastern and Central European gangsters.

The capitalist class imports immigrant labor to pay into the pension system for local retirees, thus keeping state expenditures and thus taxes on the rich very low -- counting on the immigrant worker never being able to benefit from his pension contributions. In brief, an open immigration policy lowers state expenditures, such as pension and health costs, allowing the Imperial state to channel resources to subsidize agricultural interests and MNCs. Moreover the high rates of profits, derived directly from employing immigrant labor and indirectly from the depressed wages and salaries of local workers, facilitate overseas expansion. High sectoral concentrations of immigrant labor coincide with low levels of labor militancy, unionization and political organization, not only among immigrants but also local workers. The major opponents of ‘open’ immigration among the capitalist class are small locally owned businesses, which depend on family labor and compete with new immigrant businesses and large-scale firms, which employ cheap immigrant labor. A second group opposed to open immigration is workers who compete in the labor market with low-paid immigrant workers. This is especially the case in a stagnant economy and where employers replace higher paid unionized workers with immigrants. The failure of the trade union bureaucracy to organize immigrant workers is a result of the labor contract system, the ‘illegal’ status of immigrants and their dependency on employers ‘tolerance’ and the dependence of trade union officials on ‘social contracts’ with employers and state subsidies to protect unionized enclaves. 

The inability and unwillingness of the trade union to challenge capitalist hiring policies, to engage in major work stoppage to secure union contracts and their unwillingness to challenge immigration laws over deportation of militant immigrant workers, results in local workers being defenseless and subject to anti-immigrant movements.

US Imperial Practice and Mexican and Central American Immigration

Annually almost 500,000 Mexicans migrate to the United States, in addition to the estimated 11 million undocumented Mexican residing in the US ‘illegally’. While migration to the United States has existed for many decades, the large-scale, long-term migration exploded from the end of the 1980’s and particularly after 1994 with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The massive expansion of Mexican migration in the 1980’s was a result of the ‘debt crisis’ or more accurately the ‘debt-payment crisis’. The high interest rates in the US forced Mexico’s debt to grow geometrically at a time when the prices of its principal exports (gas and oil) were falling.  As a result the IMF imposed harsh debt payment conditions and forced Mexico to liberalize its economy, discarding trade and investment barriers, which had protected peasant farmers and national manufacturers. The result was a sharp rise of bankruptcies and millions of workers and peasants without a future. At the same time the liberal state under President de la Madrid sharply reduced transfers and loans to small businesses and agriculture. Many farmers rebelled and blocked bankruptcy auctions, later forming a militant debtors movement (Barzon), while others swelled the ranks of undocumented immigrants. The most devastating blow to Mexican agriculture, industry and finance however took place between 1988-94 following the grotesque, fraudulent electoral theft that imposed ‘President’ Salinas in power. He proceeded to convert the ‘ejido’, a form of village common property, into private plots, setting the basis for massive land sales.  Salinas signed NAFTA leading to the vast importation of US subsidized agricultural products, especially corn, chickens, pork, rice and other basic crops previously produced by Mexican small farmers. Salinas promoted Mexico as a capital intensive agro-mineral export economy with foreign ownership of Mexican banks, retail, sales and other strategic sectors which undermined working class and small business income, jobs and opportunities.

The big winners were US and European capital. The big losers were the peasants, farmers, retailers and workers. The economic consequences of neo-liberalism, the social dislocation and disruption of the stable family and community created the preconditions for massive immigration. In other words, as imperialism grows, the massive movement of dislocated workers toward the empire multiplies.

Imperial Militarism and International Immigration

Imperialist expansion does not always take place through political-economic mechanisms of the empire, not does the empire always defend its privileged place against popular rebellions through corrupt client politicians.

Immigration from Central America to the US, Europe, Mexico and Canada was steady, but relatively small-scale, until the early 1970’s when millions of refugees fled the region. The reasons are not complicated. Immigration was not the first choice for the poor. Large-scale agro-export plantations forcible evicted hundreds of thousands of peasants with the aid of gangsters and the military dictators.  The peasant and urban workers organized and resisted, after suffering many killings, thousands joined or supported the guerrilla movements. A popular revolution took place in Nicaragua; a unified guerrilla and mass social movement of Indians, teachers, health workers and especially peasants gained hegemony over the popular classes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The US poured $1 million dollars a day in military aid and hundreds of military advisers into El Salvador; Washington gave total support to the genocidal regime of Rios Mont in Guatemala; the CIA organized and directed the Nicaraguan Contra and the ‘civilian’ bourgeois counter-revolution. The result was the murder of 300,000 people, the maiming and injury of twice that figure and the forced exodus of over 2 million international migrants to North America and Europe. Equally important, the US consolidated corrupt client regimes, which reversed the agrarian reforms in Nicaragua, exterminated 420 Indian villages in Guatemala and totally dislocated Salvadoran society. Under US dominated regimes the Central American puppet rulers imposed free trade policies, which further destroyed local small-scale producers. Poverty levels rose from under 40% under the Sandinistas to over 80% under pro-US rulers, second only to Haiti also under US-EU control.

Imperial wars in Central America devastated the economies, terrorized the population and eliminated social reforms, which could have served as an alternative source of employment to international immigration. The poor, the ambitious worker or teacher no longer had a choice between domestic reform/revolution or immigration. The US forced those who sought improvement to move from collective action to massive flight.  Immigration decision making is first and foremost based on a rational diagnosis: since the US pillages the local economy and transfers wealth to the home of the empire…then the logical course is to follow the profits -- move to the US or Europe or Canada.

There are several additional reasons for choosing imperial countries linked to national exploitation: (1) the proximity of the border: US to Mexico/Central America/South America; Africa/Eastern Europe to Western Europe. The exception are the Asian countries which are prevented by strict regulations in Japan, so they migrate to Australia, North America, the Middle East and to a lesser degree the European Union.  Localization of migrants is largely determined by the locus of capital demanding cheap labor. These sectors of capital become the sites for the location of migrant families who subsequently establish family networks to attract a ‘second’ and ‘third’ wave of migrants. In other words when social scientists place importance on ‘family ties’ in ‘explaining’ the localization of migrants the ‘forget’ to explain the original cause of family settlements -- their proximity to sectors of capital which demand cheap, immigrant labor, namely agriculture and later low-paid service sectors: gardeners, sweat shops, hotel cleaners and kitchen staff in restaurants. With the subsequent second waves new sectors of capital, like hospitals, elderly care and nursing homes, non-union manufacturers and toxic clean-up industries attract immigrant workers. In other words, as the reduction of labor costs becomes an essential element in the stock quotation of enterprises bought and sold, capitalists are encouraged to employ cheaper immigrant labor over existing unionized labor.

Who Supports and Who Opposes International Immigration

The principle opposition to international immigration is found in the following sectors:

1.  Workers who compete with immigrants for jobs or who feel or are actually threatened by the downward pressure on their salaries by immigrants.

2.  Small business people who feel threatened by increased local taxes to finance health and educational facilities for large-scale influx of immigrants.

3.  The middle class with school age children who fear that large-scale entry of immigrant children would lower educational standards.

4.  Lower middle class and working class neighborhoods in proximity to new immigrant neighborhoods that fear an increase in crime from the immigrant gangs dealing in drugs, prostitution and robberies.

5.  Homogeneous ethnic communities whose identity is based on ethnic cultural homogeneity.

6.  Bourgeois pseudo-populist politicians who exploit working class and middle class employment fears and cultural insecurities to deflect attention from the neo-liberal economic policies and capitalist cut-backs in social benefits toward the immigrants; the Zionist lobbies that fear an immigrant electoral base not tied to Israel’s dictates: in other words, opportunists and politicians who seek to convert vertical conflicts (top against bottom) into horizontal conflicts (local workers against immigrants).

The supporters of international immigration are largely the capitalists in the highly exploitative competitive sectors (agriculture, restaurants, hotels and construction). The opponents are the local small business and property owners concerned with ‘unfair competition,’ crime and local taxes which they attribute to low wage industries, immigrant gangs and high-welfare/social service demands. 

In the United States the local government is responsible for education, welfare and health care for the very poor. Since the federal government has reduced transfer payments of federal revenues to local municipalities (as a consequence of the big tax-cuts for the top 5% of the wealth), it is the local petit bourgeois and working class, which are burdened with higher local taxes. In addition because big corporations receive local tax exonerations in order to locate in cities and states, and the same corporations hire local and immigrant workers without providing for health benefits, the local governments are forced to increase taxes for the social services that corporations fail to provide. 

The local petit bourgeois and many workers do not attack the federal government for shifting the tax burden to local government, the organized trade unions do not challenge the non-unionized enterprises that do not pay health benefits, forcing local governments to provide emergency services. Instead they blame the immigrants who are the victims of the discriminatory practices of the federal government and the miserable corporate labor contracts, which do not pay health insurance. Moreover, most immigrant workers pay taxes, including social security taxes  -- so it is false that they receive ‘free benefits.’ 

The reasons many petit bourgeois and workers blame the victims is that the leaders of both political parties (Republican and Democrat) are tied to big business and support tax cuts for the rich, and thus encourage the criminalization of the immigrant. Even as there is a conflict of economic interests between immigrant-exploiting industries and local businesses, for political reasons both sectors oppose giving immigrants citizenship and the right to vote because they fear the potential political power of immigrant working class.  In fact many immigrant-exploiting capitalists prefer employing undocumented workers because they can pay them lower wages and threaten to report them to federal immigration officials if they complain, protest or organize. 

Nevertheless in 2006, a massive immigrant workers movement involving several million demonstrators organized massive marches and in some cases unprecedented ‘general strikes’, independently of the official trade unions, two major political parties and the petit bourgeois electoralist Latino organizations. The immigrant movement grew out of the social, regional, cultural and sports clubs organized in each Latin, Asian and other immigrant communities. These activists communicated via local community-based radios and word or mouth and other informal channels, including churches. The ‘surprising militancy’ was a product of previous experiences of class struggle in Central American and Mexican peasant and urban movements. The catalyst for the social explosion was Congressional legislation proposing to criminalize, imprison, uproot and deport 11 million immigrants, causing many to lose hundreds of millions in personal property. The ‘compromise’ proposed by the Bush Administration is to provide temporary work permits for immigrants living in the US for over three years -- satisfying the immigrant-exploiting capitalist class and criminal penalties and increased border police to repress new immigrants to satisfy the anti-immigrant petit bourgeois and working class.

Competing and conflicting segments of the capitalist class negotiate over the super-profits, which accrue to big capital via cheap labor and low-paid skilled workers and the economic and political fears of declining property valuations and salaries of local workers.

Costs and Benefits of International Immigration (II)

Most orthodox neo-classical and neo-liberal economists (and not a few ‘progressives’) count the ‘benefits’ of II for both ‘sender’ countries and ‘receiving’ countries, forgetting the great disparities in power, especially the ‘boundary setting’ and regulatory power of the imperial ‘receiving’ country. The historical and contemporary data on immigration provides ample evidence that out-migration is a tremendous loss for the labor-exporting countries economic capability, despite the rising inflows of immigrant remittances to the home country.

In the first place, almost all the costs of raising workers from childhood, educational, training and health costs are borne by the ‘sender’ country. This means on the average at least 25 years investment amounting to billions of dollars in expenditures without receiving the benefits of the productive years -- which take place in the receiver country.  In other words, hundreds of billions of dollars in value added product accrues to the overseas capitalist class and the state receives the tax revenues. What is remitted by the immigrants to their families is a small percentage of the value produced.

Secondly the overseas migration deprives the nation of its most innovative, skillful and ambitious workers who provide the basis for creating a diversified economy based on industry and services, instead of a dependency on agro-mineral exports, tourism and of course immigrant remittance. 

Thirdly, the flight overseas of skilled, young workers and professionals deprives the urban and rural poor of potential social and political leaders capable of challenging the US client oligarchies.  It is no surprise that the local ruling classes organize, encourage and promote out-migration not only for the remittances but as a political safety valve. 

Fourthly, the immigrant remittances help sustain a parasitical oligarchic ruling class which uses the hard currency remitted to pay illegal foreign debts, luxury imports and corrupt politicians. Without overseas remittances, many of the oligarchic regimes would collapse or enter into profound crises.

More specifically, the emigration of specialized professionals in health (doctors and nurses), education and engineering deteriorates still further the disastrous scarcity of trained personnel to attend to the needs of the poor in the ‘sender’ country. The poor health condition leading to millions of avoidable deaths and chronic illnesses further lowers living standards and productivity.  In contrast, the ‘receiving’ country, especially the US saves billions of dollars by receiving already trained professionals who provide important services to develop and maintain a productive workforce in the imperial center. 

In most cases immigrants are over-educated for the jobs they fill in the receiving country. Engineers drive taxis, trained nurses are domestic baby sitters or nursing home attendants or domestics, skilled farmers are dishwashers and electricians are busboys.  In other words, the under-utilized educational capacity of immigrants means that the ‘returns’ are far below their original time and energy spent in their education.

Finally immigrants and families, especially the elderly, do not receive personal support: remittance do not compensate for the loss of affection and for the destruction of the families. The increase in money income received by immigrant workers compared to that received in their country of origin may not lead to added wealth because of the high cost in rents, taxes, food, travel to and from work. In addition while some immigrants may improve their financial situation compared to life in a peasant community, they are at the bottom of the social and economic class hierarchy in the ‘receiving’ country.

Remittances and Development

Many ‘development theorists’ might accept the above mentioned ‘costs’ but defend the positive contributions of immigration by citing the growth of overseas remittances as a contribution to the development of the ‘sender’ countries and the welfare of families receiving payments.

From the point of development, if we refer to the expansion of the productive forces, namely investments in manufacturing, technology, skilled labor and scientific research, then overseas remittances contribute very little.  Most remittances are spent on personal consumption, survival and at best home improvements, taxis or private transport.

Educated family members usually ‘follow’ the remitter overseas for employment.  Moreover foreign remittances may create extended family dependency, lowering initiative and job seeking as family members live off the remittances instead of working in productive activities. Even where the foreign currency accrues to the government, very little is channeled into creating new productive employment for the subsequent generation. Most ‘sender’ countries since the advent of neo-liberalism do not advance from labor exporting economies to diversified industrial societies, as happened with Spain in the 1970’s. Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Central America are increasingly dependent or addicted to foreign remittances. The reason is that these countries see labor export as their role in the international division of labor, not as a ‘transitory’ phenomenon to a new development model.

Immigrant remittances strengthen the retrograde parasitic regimes and whole strata of intermediaries who profit from the overseas transfers without contributing any resources to local development. Labor-exporting regimes substitute overseas earning for engaging in local investments. Instead they use foreign earnings to pay foreign debts incurred by corrupt local borrowers, military weapon purchases and upper class luxury imports, while providing hard currency allowing local MNCs to remit profits based on sales in the domestic market. Equally important income from immigrant remittances has allowed regimes to pay the huge financial obligations of financial institutions, which have engaged in massive fraud. 

The advocates of the ‘positive role’ of overseas immigration overlook the frequency with which immigrant labor is cheated of their salaries or subject to a kind of perpetual debt peonage, or abused by employers because of the lack of sender country protection or local trade union solidarity. The extreme case of unpaid immigrant labor is evident in the multi-billion dollar sex-slavery economy, in which Third World officials and Western regimes are complicit.  While aggregate remittance payments may be large, individual remittances are very low and based on extreme sacrifice to health, habitation and work safety. Moreover many immigrant workers cut ties to the sender country, especially if their elderly parents die, making reliance on remittances a short-term source of income.


By way of conclusion I will present seven hypotheses concerning international immigration and empire building.

1. The principal factor generating international migration is not ‘globalization’ but imperialism, which pillages nations and creates conditions for the exploitation of labor in the imperial center.

2. Out-migration is an escape valve for neo-colonial regimes, a new source of foreign exchange for failed neo-liberal economies.

3. There is a correlation between intensified and expanded imperialist exploitation resulting in the increased transfer of profits, interest payments out of the neo-colonial countries and the increased flow of immigrant labor. Labor flows follow capital flows.

4. Imperial interventions, which block revolutions and profound structural changes and forcibly uproot families and labor, create a mass of potential international immigrants to the imperial country.

5. International migration is not simply an ‘individual choice’ nor a reflection of ‘market forces’ but is a consequence of the policies of the imperial state which establishes the time, place and size of immigration. Immigration is not a result of internal conditions (people want to leave) but of capitalist demands in the imperial state.

6. Immigration policies are a product of contradictory capitalist policies. The capitalist class needs immigrant labor to reduce labor costs, to discipline local labor and to compensate for declining domestic birth rates in order to increase pension and health payments for the growing elderly population.

7. The cost of out-migration for the ‘sender’ economy and people far exceeds the benefits from remittances. The alternative is for the young worker to stay and fight to change conditions, overthrow parasitical regimes and create a diversified economy with remunerative employment. For the working class in the imperial countries, the future lies not in attacking immigrants over low wages, high taxes and threats of job loss, but integrating immigrants in workers movements against the capitalists and the state which legislate regressive taxes, cut social programs and pit immigrants against local workers.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and State Power: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, was published in October 2005. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu.


Other Articles by James Petras


* Crisis of US Capitalism or the Crisis of the US Wage and Salaried Worker?
* Latin America, the EU and the US: The New Polarities
* ALBA: Proposals for the New Social, Economic and Cultural Order
* AIPAC: Lobbies and Whistleblowers Yes!, Spies No!