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Old 11-08-2009, 01:35 PM
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Jeanfromfillmore Jeanfromfillmore is offline
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largest demonstrations—held on May Day, with thousands of protesters waving Mexican flags and bearing placards depicting the communist insurrectionist Che Guevara—only confirmed to most Americans that illegal immigration was out of control and beginning to become politicized along the lines of Latin American radicalism. I chronicled in Mexifornia the anomaly of angry protesters waving the flag of the country they vehemently did not wish to return to, but now the evening news beamed these images to millions. In short, the radical socialism of Latin America, seething in the angry millions who flocked to support Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Mexico’s Andrés López Obrador, had now seemingly been imported into our own largest cities.

Turmoil in areas of Mexico that send many illegal aliens to the United States is especially worrisome. Recently, for example, almost the entire state of Oaxaca was in near-open revolt over efforts to force the resignation of provincial governor Ulises Ruiz. There was widespread lawlessness, vigilantism, and at times the complete breakdown of order. All this feeds the growing perception that illegal aliens increasingly are arriving not merely as economic refugees but as political dissidents who don’t hesitate to take to the streets here to demand social justice, as they did back home.

More important still, Oaxaca’s troubles cast doubt on the conventional wisdom that illegal immigration is a safety valve that allows Mexico critical time to get its house in order. Perhaps the opposite is true: some of the areas, like Oaxaca, that send the most illegal aliens to the United States, still experience the greatest social tensions—in part because of the familial disruption and social chaos that results when adult males flee and depopulated communities consequently become captive to foreign remittances.

Two further issues have persuaded Americans to close the borders: the attitude of the Mexican government and the problems with first-generation native-born children of illegal aliens.
Worker remittances sent back to Mexico now earn it precious American dollars equal to the revenue from 500,000 barrels of daily exported oil. In short, Mexico cannot afford to lose its second-largest source of hard currency and will do almost anything to ensure its continuance. When Mexico City publishes comic books advising its own citizens how best to cross the Rio Grande, Americans take offense. Not only does Mexico brazenly wish to undermine American law to subsidize its own failures, but it also assumes that those who flee northward are among its least educated, departing without much ability to read beyond the comic-book level.

We are also learning not only that Mexico wants its expatriates’ cash—and its nationals lobbying for Mexican interests—once they are safely away from their motherland; we are also discovering that Mexico doesn’t have much concern about the welfare of its citizens abroad in America. The conservative estimate of $15 billion sent home comes always at the expense of low-paid Mexicans toiling here, who must live in impoverished circumstances if they are to send substantial portions of their wages home to Mexico. (And it comes as well at the expense of American taxpayers, providing health-care and food subsidies in efforts to offer a safety net to cash-strapped illegal aliens.) So it is not just that Mexico exports its own citizens, but it does so on the expectation that they are serfs of a sort, who, like the helots of old, surrender much of the earnings of their toil to their distant masters.

But even more grotesquely, in the last five years, the Mexican real-estate market has boomed on the Baja California peninsula. Once Mexico grasped that its own unspoiled coast was highly desirable for wealthy expatriate Americans as a continuation of the prized but crowded Santa Barbara–San Diego seaside corridor, it began to reform its real-estate market, making the necessary changes in property and title law, and it welcomed with open arms cash-laden subdividers looking to come south. This is sound economics, but examine the ethical message: Mexico City will send the United States millions of its own illiterate and poor whom it will neither feed nor provide with even modest housing, but at the same time it welcomes thousands of Americans with cash to build expensive seaside second homes.

Of course, the ultimate solution to the illegal immigration debacle is for Mexican society to bring itself up to the levels of affluence found in the United States by embracing market reforms of the sort we have seen in South Korea, Taiwan, and China. But rarely do Mexican supporters of such globalization, or their sympathetic counterparts in the United States, see the proliferation of a Wal-Mart or Starbucks down south in such terms. Rather, to them American consumerism and investment in Mexico suggest only an owed reciprocity of sentiment: Why should Americans get mad about Mexican illegals coming north when our own crass culture, with its blaring neon signs in English, spreads southward? In such morally equivalent arguments, it is never mentioned that Americanization occurs legally and brings capital, while Mexicanization comes about by illegal means and is driven by poverty.

At the same time, focus has turned more to the U.S.-born children of Mexican illegal immigrants, in whom illegitimacy, school dropout rates, and criminal activity have risen to such levels that no longer can we simply dismiss Mexican immigration as resembling the more problematic but eventually successful Italian model of a century ago. Then, large numbers of southern European Catholics, most without capital and education, arrived en masse from Italy and Sicily, lived in ethnic enclaves, and for decades lagged behind the majority population in educational achievement, income, and avoidance of crime—before achieving financial parity as well as full assimilation and intermarriage. Since 1990, the number of poor Mexican-Americans has climbed 52 percent, a figure that skewed U.S. poverty rates. Billions of dollars spent on our own poor will not improve our poverty statistics when 1 million of the world’s poorest cross our border each year. The number of impoverished black children has dropped 17 percent in the last 16 years, but the number of Hispanic poor has gone up 43 percent. We don’t like to talk of illegitimacy, but here again the ripples of illegal immigration reach the U.S.-born generation. Half of births to Hispanic-Americans were illegitimate, 42 percent higher than the general rate of the American population. Illegitimacy is higher in general in Mexico than in the United States, but the force multiplier of illegal status, lack of English, and an absence of higher education means that the children of Mexican immigrants have illegitimacy rates even higher than those found in either Mexico or the United States.
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