Mexicans Keep Coming Because U.S. Businesses Can't Stop Hiring
Saturday, November 30, 2002
The Dallas Morning News
published in the Salt Lake Tribune
DALLAS, TX -- Wouldn't you love to have been a mosca on the wall
in Mexico City this week when Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S.
Ambassador Tony Garza and other high-ranking U.S. officials met with
their Mexican counterparts to discuss what the Americans like to call
a mutual problem: 4 million to 5 million Mexicans working and living
illegally in the United States?
Can't you hear the Mexicans chortle, "What do you mean our problem,
Immigrants -- illegal or otherwise -- have become one of Mexico's
most profitable exports. Mexican workers in the United States send
an estimated $10 billion annually to relatives back home. That money
flows into the Mexican economy and, in some cases, keeps entire villages
Besides, the Mexican officials might ask, "Haven't you Americanos,
in essence, given these immigrants an engraved invitation to join
you in your country with your hiring practices, your willingness to
turn a blind eye to fake IDs, your insatiable appetite for cheap labor?"
Still, the Mexicans must consider it in their best interests to try
to bring some order to an immigration system that has become chaotic
at best. Mexican President Vicente Fox used Powell's visit to challenge
the Bush administration to restart negotiations on immigration reform
derailed by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Fox's impatience
is partly rooted in a concern over how Mexican migrants are being
treated in the United States.
Mexicans hear stories about citizen posses who roam the American side
of the border in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas trying to play border
patrol agents. Winchesters at the ready, these vigilantes spend their
weekends out on patrol capturing Mexican immigrants who cross into
the United States illegally. Sometimes immigrants get hurt. A few
have been killed. The posse leaders say they are frustrated by the
inability of the Border Patrol to keep out illegal immigrants.
They are right to be frustrated, wrong to take matters into their
hands and foolish to think that the problem begins and ends at the
Listen to the Mexicans again. "Those stupid Americans! They think
they're John Wayne. Haven't they figured it out by now? Mexicans can't
stop coming because Americans can't stop hiring them. Do they really
think the United States -- the world's last remaining superpower --
lacks the resources to stop illegal immigration? What it lacks is
the will, and the reason for that is the current system benefits U.S.
business interests who are, after all, in America, the straw that
stirs the margarita."
The immigrants do keep coming. In the days after the attacks, with
the ensuing crackdown on the nation's borders, the numbers dropped
off a bit. But recent statistics compiled by the Border Patrol --
the real one, not the weekend warriors -- show that apprehensions
of illegal immigrants are more or less back to what they were before
the terrorists struck.
In fact, an assistant chief in the South Texas office says the numbers
down there might be "slightly higher" than what they were
before Sept. 11. This despite the fact that immigrant smugglers are
charging as much as $2,000 a head.
So with armed vigilantes at the border, and more Mexican immigrants
than ever entering the United States illegally, who needs government?
In the cat-and-mouse game playing out along the border, some people
will try to cross and others will try to stop them. And what politicians
say or do -- in either country -- is rapidly becoming irrelevant.
That should suit Congress just fine. Since Sept. 11, few members have
had the courage to say or do much of anything about reforming the
immigration system. Afraid of being accused of encouraging more traffic
across our borders at a time when Americans are understandably skittish
about border security, our representatives have ducked their responsibilities.
In a climate of such fear, it is no wonder that the idea of "regularization"
(read: amnesty) for millions of Mexicans already here -- backed by
the Fox and Bush administrations -- has languished on Capitol Hill.
Amnesty isn't the answer. But it is long past time to, once again,
start asking some tough questions. At the top of the list: What do
Americans hold more sacred -- our immigration laws or the desire to
profit from cheap labor? In the first few days after the Sept. 11
attacks, official Washington was quick to assume that the debate about
immigration reform was off the table. That was accepted as a political
reality. Now, not having the debate seems out of touch with reality.