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Borders are not about political lines

Posted by Elena del Valle on October 3, 2006

By Patrick Osio, Jr.

Patrick Osio, Jr.

Patrick Osio, Jr., editor, 

Photo: Patrick Osio, Jr.

International borders are not about political lines dividing countries. Borders are about people living across each other separated by a political line. When people divided by borders are of different cultures, speak different languages and there is significant economic disparity between them the differences often become political problems.

In the Western Hemisphere most border political problems do not start, or are sustained, due to language or cultural differences. These differences may exacerbate the problems. The roots of most political problems exist where there is an economic disparity between the two divided nations. The greater the disparity, the greater the political problems.

Thus when the problems are not cultural or language, rather economic disparity, it makes little difference what the names or world locations of neighboring countries. So North Korea is to China what Mexico is to the US; Lesotho is to South Africa what Mexico is to the US; Guatemala is to Mexico what Mexico is to the US, and on it goes.

When there is no economic disparity, the political problems between countries are mostly based on historical issues, commercial rivalries and in modern times, environmental issues.

The US has two countries separated by the political line we call border, Canada and Mexico. The economic disparity between the peoples of Canada and the US is of little consequence thus the political problems based on the border as a dividing line were, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack, for the most part non existent, though there are Canadians living and working illegally in the US. And since 9/11 the political border problems the US has with Canada are perceptions that Canada is not doing enough to stop terrorists from crossing into the US.

Along the US-Mexico border the situations is dramatically different. The economic disparity between the two countries is so great that simply stating it in general terms cannot describe its enormity.

To better understand. Unskilled or semi-skilled factory workers in the US earn $11.30 an hour; in Mexico $1.13.  A US skilled factory worker earns $16.90 an hour; in Mexico $2.79. An office building janitor in the US earns $9.37 an hour; in Mexico $0.87. A US store clerk earns $8.91 an hour; in Mexico $1.67. A US plumber earns $26.97 an hour; in Mexico $2.50.*

How long do workers in the above job examples have to work for some basic staples like:  half-gallon milk; 10-tortilla pack; 1-lb butter; 1-lb Cheddar cheese; 1.42-liter corn oil; 1-lb potatoes; 1-whole chicken; 1-dozen eggs?*

The US factory worker: 1-hour 45-minutes – Mexican worker: 9-hours 16-minutes; US skilled factory worker: 1-hour 5-minutes – Mexican worker: 3-hours 34-minutes US office building-janitor: 1-hour 57-minutes – Mexican janitor: 11-hours 29-minutes; US store clerk: 2-hours 3-minutes – Mexican store clerk: 5-hours 58-minutes US plumber: 45-minutes – Mexican plumber: 3-hours 59-minutes.*

The above costs of basic staples take into consideration the difference in costs between the US and Mexico: chicken at 99-cents per lb in the US versus 81-cents in Mexico; potatoes in the US at 99-cents per lb versus 47-cents in Mexico; the US corn oil at $3.49 versus $1.78 in Mexico; US Cheddar cheese at $4.99-lb versus $2.24 in Mexico and so on.*

Mexican farmworkers earn less than 80-cents an hour, but a great number of farms have and continue to shut down unable to compete with US citizen-tax founded farm subsidized products exported to Mexico, creating high rates of unemployment, driving farm workers to the US seeking employment in agricultural fields.

For millions of Mexicans in other jobs their earnings do not provide sufficient income to provide the basic necessities to support a family, so they cross the political line without official permission in search of economic opportunity, and most find it rather easily. Due to the massive numbers crossing, a political problem has been created in the US.

The economic disparity in wages coupled with job availability in the US are the root problems causing political problems between the US and Mexico. So what does America, the country made great by immigrants, propose doing to solve the root problems?

Builds fences and militarizes the border, declare those desperate job-seekers felons, criminalize aiding them in any way, deny their children education, prohibit renting them shelter and classify them as terrorists to ease the American conscience.

If such laws are enacted, may our Lord have mercy on our beloved America.

*(Wage and price comparisons from: International UE at:
Patrick Osio is the Editor and Columnist for — an Internet public interest weekly publication. Patrick also writes a monthly column, The Connection, for the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine (, which have garnered 5 awards from the SD Society of Professional Journalists. For over 15 years, he was a consultant to the private and public sector on trans-border business and economic affairs. He is a frequent lecturer on U.S.-Mexico issues and a frequent guest on radio talk shows.