Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Mexican View Of The Border Wall Under Construction

The Sunday November 12th, 2006 edition of the Deseret Morning News contains an editorial discussing the Mexican viewpoint on the wall currently being constructed along portions of our southern border. It is the first of a three-part series to be published in the Deseret Morning News over the next three days, and best illustrates the significant differences in perspectives on immigration between the United States and Mexico. Some will be surprised not only at what Mexicans believe, but what they are taught about the United States. To better understand those differences, I am posting the column in its entirety (picture of wall under construction at left courtesy of Deseret Morning News).

A Southern View of 'The Wall'

Deseret Morning News editorial

First in a three-part series.

Deseret Morning News archives

MEXICALI, Mexico — On a white-washed wall near the Mexicali border crossing, a photographer has hung a dozen black-and-white photos. They show a shadowy figure looking over a landfill, looking at graffiti and contemplating a slum. The last photo shows an asphalt parking lot leading up to a great, imposing wall. The caption reads: "What do you see in Mexico's future?"

The wall — "el muro" — is on a lot of Mexican minds these days. Mexicans generally think the United States has the right to build it, but few of them understand the reasoning. Isn't the robust American economy partly being driven by Mexico's low-wage workers? And if, as President Bush says, Mexico is a "friend," why is Mexico getting the door slammed in its face?

Aracelli Lopez, who runs a business a literal stone's throw from where the wall is to be built, says she doesn't think there will be protests when — and if — the wall goes up. But, she says, "There is already a lot of talk. Newspapers have stories every day. Cartoonists make jokes. Most people aren't angry, they're nervous. Here, we don't see the wall as a political issue. We see it as a family issue. We don't want to see our relatives — many of them U.S. citizens — walled away from us forever."

The "family issue" concern is just one example of how perspective changes on the "southern exposure" of the wall. Another disparity is how many Mexicans link "immigration" with prisoners at Guantanamo and Vice President Cheney's belief in "water torture." They hear the harsh rhetoric about terrorists crossing from Mexico into the United States and fear their friends and family will be mistaken for terrorists, sent to Guantanamo and tortured. To Americans, that may seem to be the work of an overactive imagination. But when a fear becomes the reality, one must deal with the reality.

"The United States has invaded other nations 169 times," Ignacio Solares writes in the current edition of Proceso, the Spanish-language news magazine. "Woodrow Wilson wrote, 'The Mexican people have demonstrated that they are not strong — nor sane — enough to govern themselves."' He then goes on to cite the times the United States has forced itself on Mexico, including the 1847 "invasion" of Mexico. He says the great invader is now being invaded by Mexican workers who have the God-given right to fight off hunger and fight for their own survival. He then claims the wall is pointless. Mexicans will continue to go north because there are jobs there. He concludes, "Nobody could stop the 169 invasions by the United States. What makes the U.S. think it can stop our invasion?"

And that perspective may be most telling. What the United States sees as "ancient history," the Mexicans still regard as open wounds. People up north think about the war with Mexico seldom, if at all. People down south think about it almost every day. Mexico has a long memory. And unless the United States is willing to address its own nebulous history of adventurism when it comes to Mexico, and understand it from a Mexican perspective, it will be hard to find common ground for trust.

The famous wall looks much different from the south than from the north. And until the United States is willing to take a look at things from that "southern exposure" and truly grasp the resentments and fears still alive in the hearts of Mexican people, the wall on the border will remain nothing more than an emblem of the bigger barrier: The wall of mutual distrust that has slowly been allowed to rise over the past two centuries.

Analysis: The wall is a direct result of the American government refusing to exercise proper control over immigration in the first place. Had we systemically, consistently, and efficiently enforced our immigration laws, the wall would not be necessary. Before Congress passed the now-infamous Immigration and Naturalization Services Act of 1965, which abolished national-origin quotas and threw open the gates wide for Third World immigrants, we had little problem with immigration from Mexico. The guest worker "bracero" program in places like California supplied a limited number of Mexican workers for an agricultural industry extensively dependent upon migrant labor. But over the years, we became dependent upon cheap immigrant labor, and now we pay a social and demographic price.

Specifically noteworthy is how the flames of historical grievance are deliberately fanned in Mexico. Generations of Mexicans grow up with the notion that Mexico did not really lose the Mexican War, but that the U.S. "stole" the Southwest (despite the internationally-recognized peace treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo and the extremely generous $15 million financial settlement bestowed upon Mexico as part of the treaty). Also note that the pretense of "economics" is slowly being supplanted by open talk of "invasion" by Mexicans like Ignacio Solares. Yet the American elite dismiss such talk as being alarmist. Perhaps they need to view the Mexica Movement website (graphic courtesy of WorldNetDaily). This group claims that all European-Americans are invaders and must be repatriated to Europe. However, they overlook the fact that most Latinos have Spanish blood. Did it occur to them that Spain is also in Europe? Another Mexican supremacist group of concern is the Mechistas.

And polling history shows that the tiny fraction of Americans constituting the elite, or the political and economic aristocracy of the United States (defined by NumbersUSA as top leaders of corporations, unions, religion, unviersities, think tanks, political parties, the Federal Administration, and Congress), are significantly disconnected from mainstream Americans on the immigration issue. The NumbersUSA site provides a list of many recent significant polls on immigration, including several from politically-neutral pollsters like Gallup, Harris, and Rasmussen. One Harris poll conducted in 2002 showed that while 60% of the public considered current immigration levels a "critical threat" to this country, only 14% of the elite shared this viewpoint. The economic status of the elite makes it unlikely that they would be forced to live amongst those immigrants whom they profess to cherish; immigrants rarely have the means to move into the exclusive gated communities increasingly populated by the American elite. And in August, NumbersUSA published crime statistics showing disproportionate involvement in crime by illegal immigrants.

And the Republicans still can't understand why they lost both houses of Congress in the midterm elections? Americans not only have spoken loudly of their desire for immigration reform, but clearly define immigration reform as the elimination of illegals through attrition, and the reduction of mass immigration to manageable levels.

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