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The United States-Mexico border is a 2,000-mile-long area where the socio-economic dynamics of two interacting cultures have a negative impact on the quality of life of adjoining populations. This adverse situation has been exacerbated by domestic and international policies espoused by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

The border region is characterized by:

  • political domination by a minority of rich and powerful families;
  • drastic economic disparity between segments of the population;
  • constant deterioration of the health conditions, particularly those affecting the poor;
  • high incidence of crime, drug trafficking, and human trafficking for the exploitation of children and adults; and
  • high rates of unemployment and underemployment, These detrimental conditions also affect the constant influx of thousands of refugees and undocumented persons coming to the United States seeking safe haven or better economic conditions. This situation of pain and suffering affects millions of women, children, and men residing on both sides of the border. The impact of these dynamics reaches well into the interiors of both countries.

Confronted by this human suffering along the United States-Mexico border region, we recognize that the vision of the "new heaven and new earth" (Revelation 21) will be only an illusion as long as "one of the least" (Matthew 25) continues to suffer.

We are particularly concerned about the following conditions:

1. Environmental:

a. the constant indiscriminate use of pesticides in the growing and harvesting of agricultural products, a problem on both sides of the border; and the export of banned or restricted pesticides across the border;

b. water contamination caused by corporations dumping industrial toxic waste and the flushing of poisonous compounds into the Rio Grande, the Colorado, and other rivers; and

c. growing air pollution on both sides of the border.

2. Health:

a. a high rate of birth defects and other health problems among industrial workers, many of whom have neither been given proper equipment nor been informed of the hazards of the toxic materials they have been exposed to;

b. the high incidence of dysentery, tuberculosis, and hepatitis especially among children in the Colonias (rural unincorporated areas), caused by lack of adequate water treatment facilities and a lack of food and fresh water;

c. the growing number of unsafe, crowded barracks and shanty towns without sanitation and other basic facilities due to a lack of adequate, affordable housing for workers; and

d. the lack of access to health, education and welfare services, already overburdened by the volume of need, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and dehumanization.

3. Economic:

a. wages kept low by repressing workers' bargaining rights, which keeps the border region below the average of Mexican industrial wage levels, despite the fact that the Maquiladoras are the second largest producers of export income (after oil), and the largest source of income for the Mexican border region;

b. the lack of long-range economic and industrial development strategies, making both the U.S. and the Mexican economies more dependent on quick economic fixes such as Maquiladoras, quick cash crops, tourism, and services that can help temporarily and superficially, but ignore the needs of most of the present and future generations;

c. the trade agreements (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement), which worsen existing economic dependencies and foster the exploitation of human and natural resources; and

d. the region's low level of educational attainment, high incidence of illiteracy, the high dropout rate, and the availability and influx of drugs, which have a greater impact on the low-income population along the border.

4. Civil and Human Rights:

a. heightened anxieties of Americans who perceive immigrants as unwelcomed foreigners who threaten U.S. social, political, and economic security;

b. strategies devised by U.S. governmental agencies and groups to harass, intimidate, and repress legal and foreign entrants into the U.S. territory; and

c. the poor administration of justice; the cultural insensitivity of border patrol agents; the high incidence of illegal use of force; and the constant violation of the civil and human rights of those detained or deported. These situations create an atmosphere of tension and distrust that adds to the polarization between Mexicans and U.S. residents and transients.

These detrimental conditions create pain and suffering among millions of women, children, and men residing on both sides of the border. The impact of these dynamics reaches well into the interiors of both countries. As Christians and United Methodists, we express our sorrow and indignation about this human suffering and accept the responsibility to use our resources toward the elimination of the root causes creating this tragic human problem. We are urged by God through Christ to love our neighbor and to do what we must to bring healing in the midst of pain, and to restore to wholeness those whose lives are shattered by injustice and oppression.

Therefore, we recommend and urge the Mexican and U.S. governments to:

  • develop national and international policies that bring more economic parity between the two countries, as an integral part of any trade agreement;
  • develop bi-national and multilateral agreements that improve the quality of life; safeguard water rights; and prevent the contamination of air, water, and land of both sides of the border;
  • develop binding and enforceable mechanisms with respect to: labor and human rights; agriculture, including farm workers; environmental standards; and health and safety standards for both nations and in any agreements to which they are a party;
  • develop and support national and international policies, such as the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, that facilitate the migration and immigration of peoples across the border while respecting their rights and aspirations; and
  • find alternative and creative ways to reduce the foreign debt of Mexico.

We further recommend that the General Board of Church and Society, with churches in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, seek ways to network on fair trade, labor and human rights, agricultural, and environmental concerns.

ADOPTED 1992, AMENDED AND READOPTED 2004

See Social Principles, ¶ 165.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2004. Copyright © 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.



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