A week ago, the lame-duck U.S. Senate refused to pass the so-called DREAM Act, which had been passed by the House in its lame-duck session. There will be some talk of reviving the bill in the next Congress, but the ground has shifted. The next immigration reform debate will be about Mexico.
The truth is beginning to dawn on amnesty proponents. We cannot have a rational debate about immigration reform in the U.S. until there is emigration reform in Mexico.
Last month I participated in a debate in Denver with Gustavo Arellano, the leftist southern California journalist and author of the “Ask a Mexican” column which runs in a dozen or more left-leaning “alternative weeklies” across the country. The topic of the debate – never formally declared – had something to do with the success – or lack of it – of assimilation into American society by illegal aliens from Mexico and Latin America.
Whatever the hopes of the sponsors of the event, the debate turned out to be a long conversation not about politics or pending legislation but about culture – American culture. In retrospect, I wish we had also scheduled a second debate – about Mexican culture.
Given that 70 percent of the 15-20 million illegal aliens in our country are from Mexico, and the fact that Mexico officially encourages and facilitates this exodus, it is natural for Americans to have many questions about Mexico.
I think these questions should be encouraged, and I hope the defenders of illegal immigration can provide some answers.
Let me begin by offering a few of my own, beginning with the most obvious one. Why does the government of Mexico encourage and assist this mass exodus? That one is simple. Mexico profits from the $25 billion in cash remittances sent back to Mexico by Mexican nationals, legal and illegal, living in the United States.
Isn’t Mexico ashamed of this policy? Is this not an offense to Mexican pride? For almost a century after the 1910 Mexican Revolution, to leave Mexico was indeed frowned upon. But after the U.S. enacted the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Mexican government discovered the importance of the remittances. Mexico actually changed its laws to permit dual citizenship, and around 2005 changed its laws again to allow Mexicans living in the U.S. to vote in Mexican elections.
In the view of the Mexican government, Mexican citizens who move to the U.S., even those who gain legal status and eventual citizenship, remain Mexican and retain a loyalty to Mexico.
Why can’t Mexico provide enough jobs for its people? The answer most often heard is that it’s all our fault: It’s the fault of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which supposedly destroyed Mexican agriculture and created mass unemployment. The problem with this excuse is that the Mexican government itself campaigned in vigorous support of NAFTA. Secondly, Mexican agriculture was notoriously inefficient and tied to socialist principles inherited from the Mexican Revolution, so it was never competitive in international markets.
Why does Mexico cling to socialist economic principles instead of adopting the principle of its more prosperous northern neighbor? In fairness, there have been some reforms begun in the last 20 years, but Mexican heavy industry, transport and utilities are still state-owned, and Mexico remains fundamentally hostile to foreign investment. For the most part, Mexico’s rich mineral deposits remain undeveloped, and its centralized control of roads and bridges, as well as air and railway lines, obstructs regional development.
But why do these attitudes persist in the face of failure? That’s the root question, and Mexico needs to deal with it. One possible answer is Mexican pride: “The Americans stole half our country in 1846, so we are not going to follow their example and let them steal our Revolution as well.”
Another question often heard in America is this: Why is Mexico so corrupt? Sadly, corruption is deeply ingrained in Mexican society from the local police to the government owned utilities. It’s a way of doing every day business. To end corruption in the police and the military, Mexico would have to end corruption in its courts and its financial institutions.
So, millions of Mexicans, poor and middle class alike, decide that leaving Mexico is a smart thing to do. The United States is right next door, and once you get past the undermanned Border Patrol, the odds of being deported back to Mexico are less than one in 10.
Americans have lots of questions about Mexico, but until Mexico confronts these questions, we have one question our own government has not answered: When will you secure our border?