The Migration and Labour Question: Lessons from the Mexico-US Corridor

The nature of contemporary capitalism has been inaccurately represented and distorted by an apologetic notion of globalization, which emphasizes the increase in international flows of capital, information, technology and workforce. Underlying this partial and limited vision is a blind faith in a supposedly free and self-regulating market as a route to achieving a just and equitable society, but which has instead provided political cover for a project of capitalist expansion, neoliberal globalization, that has had severe consequences in terms of development and social justice for the past three and half decades. One of the main features of the new global architecture, boosted by the emergence of one of the most distressing global crisis since the 1930 recession, is the assault on the labour and living conditions of the majority of the working class (Harvey 2004). The migrant workforce is among the most vulnerable segments of the global working class (Márquez and Delgado Wise 2011a). The purpose of this paper is to analyse some key aspects of the system in which contemporary migration is embedded, with particular emphasis on the process of segmentation and the precarization of labour markets. More specifically, the aim is to unravel: a) the nature of the dynamics of neoliberal restructuring under the aegis of neoliberal globalization, in search of cheap and flexible labour, as well as natural resources from the south; b) the growing asymmetries among and within countries and regions; c) the increase and intensification of social inequalities; d) the configuration of a gigantic global reserve army of labour associatedwith the emergence of severe forms of labour precarization and exploitation; and e) the predominance of forced migration as the main modality of human mobility under conditions of extreme vulnerability. The lessons derived from the experience of the Mexico-US migration corridor not only provide important empirical evidence to support our overall argument, but they offer crucial data for demystifying the dominant visions in the field, and, perhaps more importantly: they set an important platform for disentangling the migration and labour question today.