Is drug violence in Mexico helping to spur immigration to Wisconsin? Drug cartel gunmen attacked police and army posts last weekend, after the arrest of a cartel leader by Mexican federal police. It's part of the ongoing drug related violence which has claimed thousands of lives in the last several years. But a UW Madison professor of History says there's much more going on in Mexico that doesn't get reported on the American side of the border.
"I don't think that it's the whole story about what's going on in Mexico, and I'm often quote perturbed by the fact that there is so much focus on that exclusively in the U.S. media," says professor Florencia Mallon. "Certainly there is a whole series of political and economic crisis that they have faced," Mallon says, "I think it's very important not to put Mexico in the category of a failed state. For example, they did a very good job dealing with the H1N1 flu virus, and a failed state doesn't do that."
Mallon says rural poverty brought on by free trade agreements with the U.S. has helped to spur immigration from all parts of Mexico, to places like Wisconsin, where the dairy industry has become increasingly dependent on immigrant labor. "That poverty is also at the heart of what allows the drug cartels to have the kind of influence that they have in various parts of Mexico, because they're able to recruit young, desperate people who have no other recourse," she says. "Wisconsin has a very long history of having welcomed Mexican migrants, many of whom worked in agriculture, and this has been the case for decades upon decades. Certainly the numbers have increased, but I think the process has been an ongoing one."