A few decades after the implementation of the NAFTA (The North American Free Trade), which brought the United States into a commercial agreement with the Mexico, the United States and Mexico alike have significantly been affected by the agreement both positively and negatively. Based on the discussions provided by Komar, Uniiat and Lutsiv (2016), NAFTA was presumed to be successful in restoring the Mexico’s growth rate before the 1980s; a period when the country enjoyed the developmental economic policies. It was unlikely for the immigration reform to be a source of significant political challenges within the United States as few Mexicans were expected to seek to cross the border. However, the immigration surge in the United States experienced between 1994 and 2000 was due to the poor progress of the Mexican economy.
In general, NAFTA boosted the export of Mexican farm products into the United States markets; consequently, tripling the value of exports before the agreement. Similarly, thousands of employment opportunities have been created in Mexico as investors prefer setting their industries in Mexico to enjoy cheaper labor. Similarly, the agreement opened an opportunity for Mexicans to migrate to the US to join the low-wage workforce in the United States (Komar, Uniiat, & Lutsiv, 2016). As a direct consequence, tens of thousands of new Hispanic immigrants ended up settling in the northeast Alabama. Cobb & Stueck (2005) the state in the small town of Attalla located near Gadsden were several Mexicans reside with large families containing more than five children, some of which are already married with their children. These Mexicans first migrated into Alabama as farm workers between late 1980s to early 1990s, having left their families in Mexico. However, most of them brought along their families in Alabama in 1994, settling them into the agricultural workforce and later getting jobs in Cagle poultry plants and other industries. By 1999, the Hispanics made up more than 60 percent of the workforce in the Cagle poultry plant (Cobb & Stueck, 2005). They gradually adjusted their lifestyles to match the typical life of a Native American. Presently, some of them have acquired mortgage of homes averagely worth of 15 thousand dollars, living the American lifestyle with cars and chicken in the backyard and running businesses in the neighborhood. Most of the immigrants Hispanics, both the early immigrants and the newcomers can hardly speak any English and also are illiterate in Spanish since a good number of them never completed their education back in Mexico.
Like other Hispanics, the new immigrants expect the government of the United States to provide them with an education that will break them and the younger members of their families from the cycle of low-waged and low-skilled work as well as poverty that describes the typical life of most of the Hispanics living in the northeast Alabama. The northeast Alabama like other states have experienced rapid cultural, demographic, social and economic transformation (Komar, Uniiat, & Lutsiv, 2016). The transformations are direct consequences of the new free trade policies like the NAFTA that encouraged migration of both labor and capital. Similarly, the reconstruction of the global, regional as well as national economies undermined other means of production like agriculture, apparel, and steel industries that were initially prominent in Alabama and the South (Komar, Uniiat, & Lutsiv, 2016). The new patterns of economic investments emerge as the United States’ foreign capital opted not only for the cheap labor found in Mexico, but also the new markets in the region as well as the government incentives accompanying such investments.
In a nutshell, the restructuring of the economy, as well as the free trade policies collectively, caused the powerful changes observed in the northeast Alabama and other regions in the South. Similarly, the global economy developed new patterns of transnational workforce migration. Mexico’s immigration into the United States’ Southwestern labor markets historically correlates to the American economic progress. The position of Mexico about the Southwest of the United States has enabled the expansion and the contraction of the migrant workforce in depending on the demand of the labor force in these areas.
- Cobb, J. C., & Stueck, W. W. (2005). Globalization and the American South. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=93h7INBdQLoC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=Mexico+and+the+impact+that+NAFTA+had+on+Mexicans+in+Northeast+Alabama&source=bl&ots=TgmUVa8C1j&sig=vjcxQQOpdRL5oHcWXBq-os__vS0&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Mexico%20and%20the%20impact%20that%20NAFTA%20had%20on%20Mexicans%20in%20Northeast%20Alabama&f=false
- Komar, N., Uniiat, A., & Lutsiv, R. (2016). Efficiency of the North American Free Trade Zone. Journal of European Economy, 15(3), 279-293.