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On-Line Forum and Discussion on Immigration, Free Trade and US Farm Policy

Wednesday, March 1, 2006


From: Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI) and the Oakland Institute (OI)

To: Organizations, Study Circles, Faith Communities, Networks and Coalitions involved in Social Justice Struggles involving Immigrants, Farmworkers, Union Organizing, Farmers, Small Business Advocacy, Labor Rights, Indigenous Peoples Autonomy, Agricultural Policy Advocacy, and others.

Re: On-Line Forum and Discussion on Immigration, Free Trade and US Farm Policy, Proposed for June 7-28, 2006 in a Listserve yahoogroup format.

We would like to invite you and your organization, network, community group, faith group, coalition, union, etc. to consider participating in an On-Line Discussion Group on the topic of Immigration, Free Trade and US Farm Policy, to take place as a yahoogroup listserve starting on June 7th and running through June 28th, 2006.

With the historic mobilizations and public debate on immigrant rights in the US, whether documented or undocumented, following the passage in the House of Representatives of the punitive and draconian Sensenbrenner Bill in the House of Representatives, many issues have bubbled to the surface. What is often ignored, however, is that the most important root cause of the high levels of immigration to the US in the past two decades is due to a shift in economic policy emanating from Washington D.C. There is a common and misleading image of immigrants being pulled to the US due to affluence and alleged 'goodness' and democratic freedoms, but often missing from the explanation is the brutal reality of increasing impoverishment south of the US border as well as in Africa and Asia. This deepening crisis is responsible for a strong push of desperate and often displaced people seeking relief from their deprivation. That push is a result of what is known as corporate-led globalization, which takes many forms ranging from so-called 'free trade' in agricultural commodities, the privatization and corporate control of industries from telecommunications to water, sweat shop exploitation of cheap labor, and even the monopolization and privatization of crop seeds under intellectual property clauses.

The proposed on-line discussion is designed to be a short course on some of these interconnections and structural issues, as well as a place to learn about excellent advocacy work and to participate in such work to change these policies. We believe that learning should be a form of reflection and action followed by more reflection and more action. To honor that way of learning, this on-line discussion will also invite participants to action and into long-term networks who are working for change. The sponsors will be providing 5 or 6 documents but the bulk of the content of this on-line discussion will be the discussion itself shared among the participants in a give and take, a write and read process, a virtual roundtable forum.

We feel that in order to truly support the rights and dignity of immigrants coming to the US and to honor them and the work they perform, there needs to be a close look at why they are coming to the US in such large numbers in the first place, what impacts that immigration is having, not only on the US but also on the countries of origin, and who is benefiting from the policies that form the foundation for the current situation. We believe that with such a perspective and knowledge, one can truly understand how unjust and cruel it is to force (by means of predatory economic policies) millions of people to leave their farms and towns and cities, to leave their families and their homes and risk their lives to cross a desert in order to come and perform some of the most difficult and essential work of US society for very low wages. Cruel still is the current attempt of politicians and nascent paramilitary groups like the Minutemen to threaten to criminalize and deport such hard-working and in many ways courageous people, or worse.

Galvanized by that cruelty and incoherence, a strong immigrant movement has arisen, and we hope to be worthy allies for those immigrants struggling for their human dignity, and for others harmed by unjust economic and agricultural policies. For that we need knowledge and an accurate analysis of the root causes behind this system that so benefits corporations at the expense of the majority of people in society.

Please respond to this invitation and you will soon receive an invitation by email to subscribe to this listserve yahoogroup by returning the email sent to you. Alternately, you can send an email to: [email protected] and get on the listserve that way. The first document by the sponsors of this discussion will be posted to the list on June 7, and to respond to that with your own thoughts, analysis, critiques or comments you will email to: [email protected]

If you have a yahoo account or are willing to open one you can also go directly to: and get instructions there for how to access this yahoogroup.

If you have any problems or feel you may have been missed for some reason, please contact the yahoogroup moderator, Stephen Bartlett at: [email protected]

The on-line discussion begun on June 7 will be terminated on June 28 by the moderator so as not to risk further occupying your inboxes after that date.

Peace with justice,

Stephen Bartlett, Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI)
Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute (OI)