Natalia J. Garland
The Mexican government seems to want us to believe that America is an
economic region rather than a sovereign nation. When viewed as an
economic region, it is easy to nullify America's immigration laws and
to justify illegal immigrant labor. This is why Mexico's president,
Felipe Calderón, who cannot adequately govern his own country,
could boldly recommend that the American government pass comprehensive
immigration reform legislation. This is why Calderón, while
standing on American soil, could laughingly intimate that some of his
relatives are illegal immigrants.
apparently feels no disgrace over the fact that the citizens of
his country, possibly including his own relatives, cannot find jobs in
Mexico. On the contrary, Calderón seems quite comfortable with
the fact that approximately 20 percent of the Mexican population has
fled to America in search of a better life. Although Calderón
claims to be committed to improving job conditions in Mexico and
keeping families together, he also views immigration as a
"natural" process and good for both countries.
The Mexican diaspora to
America has a long history. Over the years, the economic impetus of
the diaspora has given rise to a cultural focus. It is the magnitude
of this cultural focus that enables the Mexican government to acquire
an ethnic-bound political stronghold in America. Since this stronghold
has been conscientiously pursued, it can be viewed as an imperialistic
endeavor on the part of Mexico.
The complex factors of
American democracy, civil rights, wealth and consumerism, and the
porous border between the U.S. and Mexico, have been manipulated by
both Mexicans and Americans for self-serving purposes. Although
illegal immigrants may seem to be at the center of concern, it is
doubtful that all immigrants, like many working-class and middle-class
Americans, really know what is going on. The American system of
government is open to abuses by political radicals as well as by
unscrupulous businessmen. There are aggressive individuals and
organizations whose voices overpower the everyday worker. Let's trace
the development of some of these complexities.
Relationship Between Mexico's Cultural Imperialism
America's Failure to Enforce Immigration Laws
- Mexico is unable to manage its own government.
- Mexico is unable to educate and employ its own citizens.
- There is an economic diaspora of Mexico's poor and dark-skinned
peoples to America.
- Mexico disregards the national sovereignty and geographic territory
of America by permitting illegal emmigration.
- American businesses disregard American immigration laws.
- American government fails to enforce its immigration laws.
- Mexicans and Mexican Americans in America become major contributors
to the Mexican economy through remittances and through purchase of
- 1970's: Mexican foreign policy begins promoting the development of
Mexican culture and Mexican national identity among Mexicans and
Mexican Americans residing in America.
- 1975: American government recognized Hispanics [and Asians] as a
victimized minority by amending the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Hispanic
electoral districts were then created.
- 1986: American government passed the Simpson-Rodino Act which
granted amnesty to over 2 million illegal immigrants.
- Mexico begins to re-define itself as a borderless, cultural,
collective unit as well as a geographic territory.
- 1990: Mexican culture-based foreign policy was made official when
the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad was established by Mexico's
Secretariat of Foreign Affairs.
- 1996: Mexico declared that Mexicans who become American citizens
are still recognized by Mexico as Mexican nationals.
- Fostering cultural pluralism and the self-esteem of Mexicans and
Mexican Americans in America is now regarded as the joint
responsibility of the American and Mexican governments.
- 2007: President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, says,
"Mexico does not end at its borders."
- 2008: Calderón tells the American government how to manage
the illegal immigration problem: "It is clearly important to have
comprehensive immigration reform, and that comes at the federal
level," (i.e., state rights and city ordinances should not go into
effect when the federal government refuses to enforce current
- 2015: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and other Hispanics will form a
majority in California and Texas.
The continuation of the
endless supply of illegal labor is justified by two premises. The
first is that America cannot survive economically without illegal
immigrant labor. The second is that illegal immigrants do the jobs
that Americans will not do. It has not been proven that either of
these premises is true. Nevertheless, the advocates of illegal
immigration, the Mexican government, and some American businesses
promote illegal immigration based on this perceived need for such labor
in America. Let's take a look at how each premise unfolds in political
America cannot survive without illegal
- Illegal immigration is justified.
- The most powerful nation in the world is dependent on a weak
- The weak nation can feel powerful and in control of the strong
nation's labor situation.
- The weak nation can exploit the labor situation to make demands on
and to influence the politics of the strong nation.
There are jobs Americans will not
- Illegal immigration is justified.
- Illegal immigrants contribute to America, economically and
- The culture and language of illegal immigrants should be
reinforced as a civil right.
- It is the responsibility of government (especially schools) to
nourish and protect the culture of immigrants' (legal and illegal)
country of origin.
- The American labor market calls for laborer mobility which, in
turn, calls for binationalism.
- Binationalism justifies cultural pluralism which, in turn, enables
Mexican cultural imperialism within America.
- Binationals have a right to vote in their country of origin.
- Comprehensive immigration reform should be passed, thereby securing
the right of binationals to vote in America also.
America has not been
put to the test of survival without illegal immigrant labor. Certainly,
there would be a temporary disruption in services during the period of
transition to legal labor. Wages would have to be increased to attract
American workers, jobs would have to be sufficiently advertised, and
training or re-training would have to be provided.
Nobody really knows if
there are jobs that Americans will not do. Unless America could
experience a period of time without illegal labor, it cannot be known
whether or not Americans would fill those jobs. If America needs
foreign laborers, then we must enforce a legal pathway for skilled
foreign workers to enter the job market, and develop ways to track
their whereabouts and to enforce return to their country of origin
when their labor is no longer needed.
America must not view
itself solely as an economic region in response to globalism, but must
re-motivate its historical success as a nation of self-reliant
peoples--especially because we live in an era of globalism and we risk
losing our positive influence. There are other ways to maintain a
workforce and to promote the wellbeing of the nation. One way would be
to develop prison work programs. Some of the most difficult and
essential work in America is in agriculture. We seem to rely totally
on immigrant labor in the fields and in the processing plants. However,
prison work programs could reduce the need for foreign labor and
promote prisoner good behavior.
American parents must
teach their children the value of a dollar. One way to appreciate
money is to work for it. Teenagers should be encouraged to get summer
jobs. We need to bring back the 3-month summer vacation so that
youngsters can earn a significant amount of money before returning to
school. Maybe we need to go back to the olden days when youngsters,
not illegal immigrants, mowed lawns and shoveled snow. America's
overweight kids need physical activity, and raking leaves would burn
Now, what is really
behind the two premises of illegal immigration? The premises seem to
present a reversal of reality.
The Reality Behind Premises #1 and #2:
- #1: Mexico cannot survive without remittances from America
or without exports to America.
- #2: There are duties that Mexico will not do: create jobs,
provide education, and develop a sense of pride in Mexican culture for
all Mexicans and within Mexico.
Whether or not American
businesses need illegal immigrants, at this point it seems beyond
argument that illegal immigrants place a financial burden on America's
public coffers. One estimate, as per the Center for Immigration
Studies (from research based on the National Academy of Sciences), is
that each adult Mexican immigrant, over his or her lifetime, costs the
American taxpayers $55,200.00 as of the year 2000 ("taxes paid
minus services used").
What would happen if
America enforced its current immigration laws, including penalties on
employers who hire illegal immigrants? Some people assume that
American businesses would then move their companies to Mexico in order
to hire cheap labor and to maintain high profits. So, those jobs still
would not become available to Americans. Illegal immigrant advocates
argue that the jobs are going to go to Mexicans, whether they get the
jobs in America or in Mexico, and so it is futile to try to enforce
immigration laws. It may be true that the jobs would still go to
Mexicans, but there are some overlooked accompanying consequences.
What If American Companies Moved to Mexico?
- Some illegal immigrants currently in America would follow the job
market back to Mexico.
- There would be competition for jobs between resident Mexicans and
- There would be a housing shortage in Mexico.
- Repatriot Mexican children would place a burden on Mexico's
- Mexico would be faced with the problem of bilingual education for
the English-speaking children.
- Repatriot Mexicans would take some level of an American identity
- There would be adjustment issues, psychologically and socially.
- A cultural divide could develop between resident Mexicans and
- Some family members, especially the American-born members, would
stay behind in America.
- Some illegal immigrants would choose to remain in America because
they have grown to prefer America over Mexico, despite Mexico's
cultural imperialistic efforts in America.
Even if American
companies moved to Mexico, this would not be possible for every
business that hires illegal immigrants. American farmers could
purchase land in Mexico and continue to grow crops with Mexican labor.
Food processing plants and other factories could relocate to Mexico.
However, America would continue to need restaurant and hotel workers,
mechanics, landscapers, miners, and construction and mason workers.
The American economy would not halt.
America-based jobs should go to American citizens and legal immigrants.
But, even if Americans were not hired for those jobs or did not want
them, the American taxpayers would save millions of dollars from the
repatriot movement of illegal immigrants back to Mexico. For each
outsourced job, Americans would save $55,200.00 (and more if that
figure were adjusted for 2008) per potential immigrant who decided to
remain in Mexico and work for a Mexico-based American company.
How does the the Program
for Mexican Communities Abroad fit into the immigration picture?
Rodulfo Figueroa-Aramoni, a former director of the Program, states
that, "The program, supported by other federal agencies and state
governments in Mexico, works to bridge the communication gap between
those who live within Mexico and those who live abroad, to provide
services aimed at improving the quality of life of the latter, and to
encourage their acculturation to their host environment." He
further describes the objectives of the Program as follows.
Objectives of the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad
- "To promote and facilitate joint projects and to serve as a
link between the Mexican community and individuals and institutions of
the private and public sectors in Mexico;
- To achieve better images of Mexico abroad and of Mexican Americans
- To promote among the communities of Mexican origin abroad the
knowledge of Mexican history, traditions, and culture to help them
achieve the respect and fair treatment they deserve;
- To support the organization of mechanisms abroad to improve their
capacity for adjustment and self-reliance;
- To improve Mexico's image abroad by making the struggles,
contributions, and achievements of Mexicans at home and abroad known to
a broader public.
- And finally to encourage the specialization of the local officers
who work for the program in the United States and those in the Mexican
foreign service who direct and coordinate the program's
[End of quote.]
With the exception of
promoting "adjustment and self-reliance," the above
objectives are pro-Mexican. The focus is on the culture, business
profits, and self-image of Mexico. Does this focus facilitate
adjustment to America or ensure perpetuation of identification with
Mexico? Why should a foreign government be permitted to influence the
citizens or any immigrants living in America? Why does Mexico not
admonish its citizens to obey America's immigration laws? Why do the
two premises trump obedience to and enforcement of immigration laws?
Besides the economic
impact of illegal immigration, there is the fact that third-generation
Americans of Mexican descent remain poorly educated and have a large
number of single-parent households. It must be questioned if
preservation of native language and culture are the keys to
self-esteem, especially now that we know Mexico has emphasized these
qualities since the 1970's and officially since 1990. It would seem
that a cultural focus, along with lack of education and lack of upward
mobility, may have aided the marginalization of many Mexican Americans.
Marginalization, in turn, renders Mexican Americans susceptible to
If Hispanics become the
dominant populations in California and Texas, then we must find ways to
develop an educated and well-informed citizenry in those states, and we
must resolve the illegal immigration crisis. Again, it must be
questioned if Mexico's cultural imperialism is the best way to promote
fairness and wellbeing in America. English fluency, assimilation into
mainstream society, educational excellence, job training, strong
families, respect for law and order, and love of America are the real
keys to success for Mexican Americans. (Written 05/19/08: bibliography available.)
[NOTE: This is the
second preparatory essay for future writing on what I call the Spanish
Language Movement. To read the other preparatory essays, see Languages in America: Legislation and Costs
(written 03/10/08), Every Child Should Speak English (written
Until we meet