A radical Hispanic movement's dream to retake the southwestern United States is becoming a reality with the aid of Mexican and U.S. policies, according to some immigration watchers.
A massive influx of illegal immigrants is "importing poverty" and growing an ethnic community with greater loyalty to Mexico than the U.S., maintains Glenn Spencer, president of Voices of Citizens Together, a California-based non-profit group.
"Unless this is shut down within two years, I believe that it will be irreversible, and that it will most certainly lead to a breakup of the United States," Spencer told WorldNetDaily. "I don't think there is any doubt about it."
A breakaway of U.S. states is a distinct possibility, according to prominent Chicano activist and University of California at Riverside professor Armando Navarro. In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Navarro would not answer directly whether he shared separatist aspirations, but said that if demographic and social trends continue, secession is inevitable.
"If in 50 years most of our people are subordinated, powerless, exploited and impoverished, then I will say to you that there are all kinds of possibilities for movements to develop like the ones that we've witnessed in the last few years all over the world, from Yugoslavia to Chechnya," Navarro said.
"A secessionist movement is not something that you can put away and say it is never going to happen in the United States," he continued. "Time and history change."
In a 1995 speech to Chicano activists, Navarro said demographic trends are leading to "a transfer of power" to the ethnic Mexican community in the Southwest. He notes that most studies show that within the next 20 to 30 years Latinos will comprise more than 50 percent of the population of California. This fact, and other cultural and social developments, are opening the door for "self-determination" and even "the idea of an Aztlan," he said in his speech.
Aztlan, the mythical birthplace of the Aztecs, is regarded in Chicano folklore as an area that includes California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Texas. Spencer believes the aim is to create a sovereign state, "Republica del Norte," the Republic of the North, that would combine the American Southwest with the northern Mexican states and eventually merge with Mexico.
"I see that as the overarching goal of the Mexican government and many Mexicans who want self-determination," Spencer said.
On its website, a group called "La Voz de Aztlan," the Voice of Aztlan, identifies Mexicans in the U.S. as "America's Palestinians." Many Mexicans see themselves as part of a transnational ethnic group known as "La Raza," the race. A May editorial on the website, with a dateline of Los Angeles, Alta California, declares that "both La Raza and the Palestinians have been displaced by invaders that have utilized military means to conquer and occupy our territories."
But the threat of secession is not merely from groups that might be considered on the fringe, Spencer insists, noting the declarations of Mexican leaders, up to the highest office. Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo said in a 1997 speech in Chicago to the "National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, that he "proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders and that Mexican migrants are an important – a very important – part of this."
Zedillo said that because of this fact his government proposed a constitutional amendment that allows Mexican citizens to hold dual citizenship. Spencer believes that the objective is to enable Mexicans in the United States to vote in the interest of Mexico.
Ultimately, many Mexicans hope for a "reconquista," a reconquest of territory lost when Mexico signed the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American War.
"One could argue that while Mexico lost the war in 1848, it will probably win it in the 21st century, in terms of the numbers," Navarro told WorldNetDaily. "But that is not a reality based on what Mexico does, it's based on what this country does."
Spencer argues that misguided U.S. policies and lax enforcement have allowed a steady stream of 1 million illegal immigrants a year to enter the country. Demographers agree that instead of integrating into a "melting pot," new Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal, are building a distinct, politically active community.
The problem is not that they have a voice, Spencer says, but that they increasingly are acting according to the interests of Mexico.
Spencer believes that the Mexican government played an important role in the legal quashing of a 1995 California voter initiative, Proposition 187, that limited taxpayer funds to services for citizens only. After a visit with California Gov. Gray Davis in 1999, former Mexican President Zedillo told reporters that he had a commitment from Davis to ensure that "the catastrophic effects which were foreseen with Proposition 187 several years ago will not come to pass."
Among other signs of Mexican influence on U.S. affairs, Spencer notes that less than two years ago, West Los Angeles businessman Eddie Varon Levy became the first person living abroad to join the Mexican Congress. Varon Levy said one of his goals as a member of the Chamber of Deputies was to establish a special attorney's office to defend immigrants' rights.
The U.S. has tripled its border patrol budget over the past five years, but the flow of immigrants has barely changed. At the same time, Mexican President Vicente Fox has pressed for an eventual erasure of the southern border and encouraged Mexicans who seek work in the U.S.
At a speech one year ago at a border post in Nogales, just south of the Arizona border, Fox said: "We want to salute these heroes, these kids leaving their homes, their communities, leaving with tears in their eyes, saying goodbye to their families, to set out on a difficult, sometimes painful search for a job, an opportunity they can't find at home, their community or their own country."
Under the Fox regime, Mexico has an Office for Mexicans Abroad that provides survival kits for Mexicans who seek to enter the U.S. illegally.
Some immigration watchdogs in the U.S. believe, however, that all this does not add up to a desire by the Mexican government to retake the Southwest. Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Los Angeles office of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, believes statements by Zedillo and Fox indicate "they are looking for some way to gain leverage with regard to American policy."
"They want to create one market where they will be able to send workers here without any restrictions, because it's in their interest to do so," Mehlman said.
The incentive to cross the U.S. border is high. The average illegal worker can make about $60 a day in the U.S. compared to about $5 a day in Mexico.
Immigration hurts both countries
But Allan Wall, an American married to a Mexican and a resident south of the border for 10 years, maintains that immigration is not helping Mexico. "I see it having many bad effects where I live," said Wall, Mexico correspondent for Project U.S.A., an immigration reform group in New York. "It's kind of like welfare; it encourages people to use the U.S. as a safety (net) rather than solve the problems in Mexico."
On the U.S. side of the border, Mexican migrant workers are viewed by many lawmakers and officials as an economic boon. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said that the illegal workers increasingly play an essential "anti-inflationary" role in the U.S. economy.
But Spencer argues that the most recent census confirms that the immigration tide is "importing poverty." Wall agrees that the influx is precipitating a demographic meltdown that could lead to a fracturing of the country. "The United States needs to drastically reduce immigration and go back to an assimilation model, where immigrants learn English and become American; otherwise it will be a disaster," Wall said.
Studies indicate most Americans believe immigration policy is not serving their interests, Mehlman said. "They're upset about it, but still haven't been upset enough to demand that the government change its policies."
Mehlman explained that the impact on the average citizen is not easy to assess. "Even though they are aware that this is not necessarily beneficial, it's hard to convince someone of how much it is costing in social costs, how much it might be costing in lost wages."
Polls show that most Americans want something done about immigration, said Spencer, but are afraid to speak out because they don't want to be labeled as racist, or anti-immigrant. "That's the weapon the other side uses against us," said Spencer, who served among Native Americans for many years. "It is very effective, and they know it, and so they use it at every opportunity."
Wall believes that the "whole discourse on immigration" must be changed. "We have to distinguish between being anti-immigrant and anti-immigration," he said. "Like any other public policy issue, it should be debated. Unfortunately the mainstream press is only giving us one side of the immigration issue."
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