Ellison: National Borders Create 'An Injustice' for 'Regular People' Seeking Higher Wages

July 18, 2018

Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, on Wednesday said that national borders create "an injustice" for "regular people" seeking out the highest wages possible.

Ellison, who announced last month that he will not run for reelection to Congress and instead launch a bid for Minnesota attorney general, did an interview with Rabbi Michael Lerner in which they discussed several issues, including immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"And I might also mention to you, rabbi, and everyone listening, that, look, the so-called, or what we used to call the first world, the developed part of the globe, relies for its prosperity, let's be honest, on low wages, low levels of civil- and human-rights enforcement, low levels of environmental protection in what we used to call the third world, right?" Ellison said.

He added that the U.S. should "give something back" to the rest of the world, because if there is prosperity across the globe, then people would not have to leave "a place where they speak the language, they have their family, they know the culture, just to go to another place to be discriminated against and mistreated."

"Since NAFTA, Mexican wages have dropped between nine and 13 percent," Ellison continued. "Now, some people have said to me, 'Oh, Keith, that's too bad for them.' And my answer is, 'No that's too bad for us, because that means those people are going to be a low-wage sector not only in Mexico, but here in the United States.' And the undocumented worker is an exploited worker."

"We just have to say that the 12 million undocumented people in the United States are here because somebody wants them to be," Ellison added. "But they want them here to do the work, but they don't want them to get any rights. They don't want to pay them fairly. They don't want them to be able to bargain collectively. They don't want them to be able to get occupational safety and standards. And that is what's really going on."

Ellison then discussed the "injustice" that regular people face by not being allowed to cross national borders freely while corporations can, looking for lower wages.

"These trade agreements, they allow capital to travel over borders, and all capital is is [sic] people who happen to own something we call a corporation, which is a legal arrangement which gives them special rights," Ellison said. "And labor, which is a regular person, cannot travel back and forth across the border."

"And so corporations," he added, "certain people who get certain rights, can go back and forth across the border seeking out the lowest wages, but people, regular people, cannot go back and forth across the border seeking out the highest wages. So what it creates is an imbalance. It creates an injustice. And it creates the need for something like a global Marshall Plan."

The Marshall Plan was a large-scale American initiative to provide massive economic assistance to western Europe to help the continent recover after World War II.