In the Democratic presidential primaries NAFTA became a dirty word. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vied to out-diss the trade agreement and gain the votes of disenchanted (and often unemployed) workers in blue-collar parts of the country.
The collapse of immigration reform legislation is best understood not as a failure of short-term political leadership, but rather as an inevitable long-term consequence of NAFTA. NAFTA’s architects believed that as goods and services began to flow in unprecedented volume throughout the world’s largest free market, low-wage labor would remain largely fixed.Unfortunately, the unleashed forces of the free market uprooted longstanding social and economic arrangements in Mexico and caused the already meager economic opportunities, especially in the rural parts of the country, to evaporate. Millions of Mexican people—the bearers of cheap labor—were compelled to seek out their most rational reallocation.