On the Trail of the NAFTA Highway

A few weeks ago, the New York Times posted this video clip, featuring various Republican presidential candidates at town hall forums in New Hampshire and Iowa facing angry questions about the “NAFTA Superhighway.” The candidates are baffled; they’ve never heard of it. But the audience has.

About six months ago I started following and reporting on the mythology that’s grown up around a so-called NAFTA Highway that would stretch from Mexico to Canada, and run right through the heartland. In this week’s Nation, I have a cover story that takes a look at the myths and realities of the highway. Here’s the opening section:

When completed, the highway will run from Mexico City to Toronto, slicing through the heartland like a dagger sunk into a heifer at the loins and pulled clean to the throat. It will be four football fields wide, an expansive gully of concrete, noise and exhaust, swelled with cars, trucks, trains and pipelines carrying water, wires and God knows what else. Through towns large and small it will run, plowing under family farms, subdevelopments, acres of wilderness. Equipped with high-tech electronic customs monitors, freight from China, offloaded into nonunionized Mexican ports, will travel north, crossing the border with nary a speed bump, bound for Kansas City, where the cheap goods manufactured in booming Far East factories will embark on the final leg of their journey into the nation's Wal-Marts.

And this NAFTA Superhighway, as it is called, is just the beginning, the first stage of a long, silent coup aimed at supplanting the sovereign United States with a multinational North American Union.

Even as this plot unfolds in slow motion, the mainstream media are silent; politicians are in denial. Yet word is getting out. Like samizdat, info about the highway has circulated in niche media platforms old and new, on right-wing websites like WorldNetDaily, in the pages of low-circulation magazines like the John Birch Society’s The New American and increasingly on the letters to the editor page of local newspapers.

“Construction of the NAFTA highway from Laredo, Texas to Canada is now underway,” read a letter in the February 13 San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “Spain will own most of the toll roads that connect to the superhighway. Mexico will own and operate the Kansas City Smart Port. And NAFTA tribunal, not the U.S. Supreme Court, will have the final word in trade disputes. Will the last person please take down the flag?” There are many more where that came from. “The superhighway has the potential to cripple the West Coast economy, as well as posing an enormous security breach at our border,” read a letter from the January 7 San Francisco Chronicle. “So far, there has been no public participation or debate on this important issue. Public participation and debate must begin now.”

In some senses it has. Prompted by angry phone calls and e-mail from their constituents, local legislators are beginning to take action. In February the Montana state legislature voted 95 to 5 for a resolution opposing “the North American Free Trade Agreement Superhighway System” as well as “any effort to implement a trinational political, government entity among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.” Similar resolutions have been introduced in eighteen other states as well as the House of Representatives, where H. Con Res. 40 has attracted, as of this writing, twenty-seven co-sponsors. Republican presidential candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire now routinely face hostile questions about the highway at candidate forums. Citing a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, the Concord Monitor reports that “the road comes up at town meetings second only to immigration policy.”

Grassroots movement exposes elite conspiracy and forces politicians to respond: It would be a heartening story but for one small detail.

There’s no such thing as a proposed NAFTA Superhighway.

The rest here.

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


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