St. Mary's Law Journal


Periods of rapid industrial growth and environmental degradation in the United States-Mexico Borderlands have historically coincided with negative shifts in Mexico’s economy. The Mexican economic crisis of 1982 sparked burgeoning growth in the maquiladora industry, with plants in the Borderlands increasing at a rate of fifteen percent per year. Due to the Mexican economic crisis of the mid-1990s, renewed industrial expansion and environmental degradation is once again expected. The maquiladora program is frequently used to identify cooperative industrial efforts between the United States and Mexico. The term refers to an assembly process in which twin plants operate on opposite sides of the border. This cyclical relationship has been on-going in differing forms since 1933, with the Mexican government promoting industrialization and development of the Borderlands. Yet, the maquiladora industry contributes both directly and indirectly to environmental degradation in the region. Directly because the assembly plants blight the environment with undisciplined and illegal waste disposal. Indirectly because the programs have pulled citizens from central and south Mexico to the Borderlands, which strain the region’s inadequate urban infrastructure and fragile ecology. Two contributory trends will influence the maquiladora industry’s contribution to environmental degradation in the Borderlands. First, free trade agreements, Mexico’s economic crisis, and accompanying wage depression invites further growth for the industry. The accompanying degradation will likely be further intensified by lax environmental enforcement. Second, the mid-1990s present a more mature Borderlands scenarios than before. NAFTA has mobilized potent political opposition to waste dumping. Furthermore, private companies appear to be more responsible. Finally, other political, social, and financial organizations are present in the Borderlands. The groups promise to manifest permanent vigilance and undertake programs to repair the damage of the past and avoid future depredations.


St. Mary's University School of Law