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Mexican Immigration

Feelings about Mexican immigration run high among WAISers on both sides. Not all gringos are critical of it. Big-hearted Jaqui White, who loves Mexico, favors almost free immigration for all. However, it should be stressed that the criticism comes from gringos who are favorably disposed toward Mexico and other countries, but who are concerned about the disruptive effect of mass immigration, which is capable of distorting the American political system. Woodrow Wilson, one of my heroes, whose sympathetic interest in the world generally led to his rejection by American xenophobes, wrote at length and with deep concern about the impact of mass immigration. There are security issues. That Mexico bans foreigners from owning property within a certain distance from the coasts and from the border shows a concern which is the mirror image of ours. Finally, we are finding it almost impossible to check the mass of immigrants to detect criminals and drug mafiosi. In brief, the concerns expressed by WAISers are quite different from the crude hatred of foreigners, especially Mexicans, which would be prima facie grounds for rejection by WAIS.

Ronald Hilton - 03/19/99

More on Mexican Immigration

Passions continue to run high on the immigration issue. John Wonder "makes to apologies" for his hard stance:

"I cannot comprehend what motivates people like Jacqui White. Are we to open our country indiscriminantely to anyone who takes a notion to cross the border, with or without papers? Why should we mix politically, socially, and intellectually with people who do not seem to offer any advantage to us, but will simply constitute an economic and educational burden to the society? Can our public schools really stand much more, and bluntly, why should they?

It seems to me that Yugoslavia is a fine example of delightful diversity. Shall we repeat something of the sort?"

My comment: I can tell you what motivates Jaqui White: I don´t know anyone kinder, more public-spirited, more enthusiastic, more interested in the world at large. It is a delight to work with her. She is unique. (Please do not take offense, other WAISers; note the important word "moreŞ). On the other hand, I was appalled to see the latest U.S. school scores. California is third from the bottom, and getting worse. Here we see the contrast I noted between female idealism and male realism.

Rodney Beard enters the immigration fray:

"Why should our policy oward immigrants from Mexico be different from that for immigrants from Canada? No doubt implementation of that policy at our southern border must be more difficult, but the regulations and their application should be the same. I wonder if a bracero program would be a bad thing if exploitation of the workers could be prevented? Is there really a shortage of agricultural workers in California? "

My comment: As far as I know, the regulations and their application are the same. Canada is a very different country from Mexico and has a different political tradition. Canada was created by Loyalists who kept the parliamentary system. The United States was created by non-loyalists who invented "a more perfect union", replacing the parliamentary system with the presidential one. Whether that was an improvement is open to question. Canadians do not have a disruptive effect. It is probable that the American states will become more assertive toward Washington and American federalism more like that of Canada.

As for the braceros and American workers, I just saw a program in which an economist argued in favor of NAFTA, using graphs to show that its helps American capětal even though it harms American workers. He did not realize it, but he was bringing grist to Pat Buchanan´s mill.

Robert Gard, a distinguished army general and academic, feels twinges of conscience about the war with Mexico. He supports NAFTA:

"While we must ensure that displaced workers have the necessary skills to find another job, it seems clear from the data that NAFTA has resulted in a net increase in employment in the US.The protectionists don't seem to understand that average wages in firms that export are some 15% higher than those that do not. If we hunker down and pass protectionist legislation or impose quotas, there will be retaliation that will work to the disadvantage of the US economy and our labor force."

My comment: This complex must be broken down into parts. The issue of trade is different from the political and social effects of immigration. My experience convinces me that, with training, Mexicans can be just as good workers as Americans. The opening in San Luis Potosí of a major U.S.-owned industrial plant confirms this.

John Wonder is a Hispanist who knows Latin America well. He says:

"In response to Rodney Beard, surely he can't be serious in questioning why the policy toward Canadian immigrants should be different from that of the policy toward Mexican immigrants, unless it is from an abstract legal standpoint, which has little to do with reality. Despite the differences in the political origins of the two countries, the differences between Canadians and Americans can only be classified as trivial."

John Wonder exemplifies realpolitik. He says:

"With regard to the ideas of Robert Gard, I can only ask:"How does one ensure that displaced workers have the necessary skills to find another job?" It sounds airily simple, but to insure such an outcome some enormously expensive and complicated government program would be necessary, and who could guarantee its success? Why is it necessary to import workers when we have many prisoners costing us money in jail and many able-bodied (and not so able-bodied) homeless on the streets, who with the necessary organization and coercion, if necessary, could work under supervision? Of course, the unions would hate it, but do they not see they are cutting off their nose to spite their face?

Of course Mexican workers are just as good -- perhaps, even better -- than Anglos. This is, of course, part of the problem."

Ronald Hilton - 03/21/99