Trucks lined up waiting to cross the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Tex. (Photo by Callaghan O’Hare/Bloomberg)
NASHVILLE, TN – Love makes the world go round but business thrives on trade. By May 2020, four months into the pandemic, every country in the world had imposed entry restrictions. Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola reported that the pandemic has impacted global travel like no other event in history.
When borders closed the flow of capital, goods, and cheap labor came to a screeching halt. Economists predict world trade will likely fall 13.4 percent this year, its steepest drop in 60 years.
In nine months the virus has undone 30 years of globalization, culture, and interconnectedness that brought unprecedented prosperity. Faiola coined the term “global distancing” as the new normal and said it will “likely impact travel, trade, foreign investment, labor mobility and development for years to come.”
According to the World Bank, the global economy is experiencing the deepest recession since World War II.
As economies contract, nationalism and protectionism are challenging the globalization paradigm. Will COVID-19 drive the U.S. into a new isolationism or will it prompt more cross-national cooperation?
Two Nobel Laureates in economics tried to answer that question for Foreign Policy recently. Joseph Stiglitz argued for a “better balance between globalization and self-reliance” and noted that COVID-19 has been a “powerful reminder that the basic political and economic unit is still the nation-state.” He predicted a weak recovery with more bankruptcies and reductions in consumption and production. Translation: we are not out of the woods yet and China is beating us at our own game.
“The virus has created a wartime atmosphere in which fundamental changes suddenly seem possible,” Robert Schiller said. Perhaps, but in the meantime a lot of people are suffering.
The pandemic has disrupted global migration patterns. With so many travel bans in place, migrants are staying home or they return home from other countries when their money runs out. Filipino workers have returned from Saudi Arabia, Venezuelans from Colombia, Mexicans from the U.S. Migration from Africa has slowed and European countries are not getting as many refugees since the pandemic hit.
And yet the economies of developed countries depend on immigrants to do essential jobs. In the U.S. they work in meat-processing plants, in agriculture, in construction, and grocery stores. The economy can’t restart without them.
“I imagine in about a month borders will open a bit more,” said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute. He is a leading authority on migration patterns and immigrant labor around the world.
Papademetriou said that quick reliable self-administered COVID-19 tests are available and travellers can now test themselves before and after going on an airplane. Vaccines are coming soon. Antiviral drugs and steroids are effective treatments.
He said this trifecta will break the pandemic’s deadly grip on the world soon.
“Once we begin to trust each other and the government and airlines and everybody else I imagine some significant migration will resume and certainly mobility will resume,’ he said.
Vicente Calderón is editor of Tijuanapress.com and a veteran news producer. Tijuana is in the northwest corner of Baja California, Mexico, just a couple hours’ drive from Los Angeles.
“Tijuana is a hub of international migration,” Calderón said. “Originally, Tijuana was a source of migration towards the U.S (from Mexico). There is a long history of that but right now that has changed a lot,” he said.
Even before COVID-19 migrants were arriving in Mexico from many places seeking entry into the U.S.
“Right now there are several thousand people mainly from Central America, waiting in Mexico for their asylum requests to the U.S. “ Calderón said. They remain in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “migration protection protocols”.
“They aren’t really giving any more protection to migrants but just expelling them to do their waiting in a very dangerous part of the world, which is the northern border of Mexico,” he said.
Caldereón noted a troubling thing happening along the border: more Mexicans are seeking asylum in the U.S. than ever before.
“We now have a lot of Mexicans who are fleeing their homes due to the violence laid to drug organizations, the Mexican cartels,” he said. “This is pushing people who were in safe places but who are now fleeing the same violence and murder rates that we saw in other areas,” Calderón said.
At the same time, many undocumented Mexicans who have lived in the U.S. for years have been repatriated. More interdiction along the border has separated families with members living on both sides of the border. Calderón said many long-time Mexican residents in the U.S. have returned home by choice.
In the 1990s Iraqis fleeing the regime of Saddam Hussein emigrated through Mexico. Chinese came by boat to the coast of Baja California. After the 2008 economic recession President Barack Obama intensified border patrol operations along the 1933-mile land border between the U.S. and Mexico..
“We got to what is called net-zero immigration rate so there were just as many Mexicans going North as were coming back,” Calderón said.
In 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol arrested fewer Mexicans than immigrants from other places, mostly Central America.
“The migration of Mexicans was diminishing significantly but the migration issue as a phenomenon was still going on due to people from other parts of the world,“ Calderón said.
Mexico has become a very important migration route to the U.S. Haitians travelled to Mexico from Brazil where many had worked during the 2016 Olympics. Armenians migrated from Russia to Cancun, Mexico.
The Trump administration severely reduced both legal and illegal immigration from Mexico. A harsh reality greeted asylum seekers, their children, and family members due to Increased surveillance and enforcement along the border.
“What it’s doing is forcing migrants to take more dangerous routes to try and get to the U.S.” Calderón said more than 12,000 people have died crossing the border in the last decade.