Cinco de Mayo... and Immigration
I was talking yesterday with someone about Cinco de Mayo and I asked her if she knew what was the reason for celebrating the day. Almost without thinking, she said, "Mexican Independence Day, of course. "
Well of course, her answer was wrong. Cinco de Mayo is the day the Mexican Army, under the direction of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French troops in the Battle of Puebla. There is a great account of that battle and the history here.
Now in Mexico, unless you are in Puebla, the day is hardly even mentioned. It seems as if the hoopla generated by the day here in the US is more a creation of Budweiser than anything else.
Nonetheless, in honor of the day, I want to take a few minutes and share some of my personal thoughts and observations on the immigration issue as it relates to Mexico. And then I will step aside and let the more educated people and the politicians sort it all out.
I hear frequently that people have no problem with immigration, they just wish Mexicans would "play by the rules." This is a fair statement, if in fact there are rules. Or if those rules are explained.
Many may not be aware of the process to try and receive a VISA to even visit the US. After you get your Mexican passport, you must make an appointment for an interview with a case worker in one of four consulates in Mexico. They are located in Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, and Mexico City.
When you get there, you must pay your fee for the interview, approx. $125.00, just for the interview. The fee is not a fee for the VISA, it is only for the chance to get a VISA.
During your interview, you may be asked about anything. Remember, our agents are trying to protect our country. And then after a few minutes, the interview is over. Minutes later, you learn your fate. And there are no appeals.
You are seldom, if ever, given a reason. You are just told, after having paid your fees, and followed all the rules you could find, that no, you may not even visit the US. And you are not told why.
And this is part of the problem. Mexicans want to play by the rules. They understand buereaucracy, it is in their blood. Just tell them the rules. The hard and fast objective rules. Rules that our agents must also follow.
When we do that, and eliminate a subjective judgement based on some unknown criteria, then we can say "play by the rules," because it is unfair to enforce rules that only one side knows.
I am asked frequently here in the US why Mexicans cannot just stay in their country, that we cannot afford to have them taking jobs from Americans. On the surface, this is a reasonable concern. But let's look deeper.
What if you were a steel worker in Pittsburgh and the government of China decided that they would guarantee their steel producers above market price for their steel, allowing those producers to undercut the world market, yet still get their profit, courtesy of the government?
Would you support that? Of course not. Yet that is exactly what is happening in Mexico. It costs less for Maria to buy US corn than locally grown corn. That's right, Maria can save money buying corn from the US because our farmers and US agribusiness can sell our corn at below market prices and still make money.
How can this happen you ask, because our government guarantees a basement price for corn that enables US producers to undercut emerging markets like Mexico.
This in turn has idled many small corn farmers because they have been frozen out of the local market by cheap US corn. Under these conditions, is it any wonder Mexicans might want to come and work here?
I could go on like this for hours. Our history of dealings with a country whom President George W. Bush said "that the United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico, " has been shameful. And this includes the current drug war where many in the US act as if we have no guilt ourselves, even though it is our insatiable desire for these drugs that is at the root of the problem.
But none of that is to say we, as a country, do not have an absolute sovereign right to secure our borders. I just wish we could do it in a way that is mutually beneficial, respectful, and takes into account the needs on both sides of the border for the other.