Friday, October 27, 2006
Yesterday, President Bush signed the recently-passed legislation to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence along a portion of our southern border with Mexico. Understandably, this has not made the Mexicans happy. In reading the eruptions of Mexican politicians, though, it is not clear where reasoned argument turns into political pandering. President-elect Felipe Calderon had this to say:
The president-elect, Felipe Calderon - who takes over from Mr Fox in December - was even more blunt. "The decision made by Congress and the US government is deplorable," he said.
"Humanity committed a grave error by constructing the Berlin wall, and I am sure that today the United States is committing a grave error in constructing a wall along our northern border."
Whether or not the decision of the United States to build this fence is deplorable -- my own view is that it is both right for us to build it and appropriate for Mexico to be outraged by it -- Mr. Calderon's quoted reason is -- how to say? -- idiotic. The people who built the Berlin wall -- not "humanity," but a Communist police state at the behest of the Soviet Union -- did so to keep their own people in. Our purpose in building the wall along the southern border is to keep other people out. There is an obvious difference, even though the motivation in both cases is political preservation.
I can't agree with you that it is appropriate for the Mexican government to be outraged by a domestic decision. I understand they are and I understand why they are but that doesn't make it appropriate. Is it appropriate for the Mexician government to be angry that US government is moving to prevent the unending wave of illegal immigration? Leaving aside the comparison of the US government to communists, I'm think the Mexican government doesn't have the moral authority to be outraged. The use brutal tactics to prevent illegal immigration into their country and they're outraged that the US wants to build a fence? That position goes over like a lead ballon with me.
I can't agree with you that it is appropriate for the Mexican government to be outraged by a domestic decision.
Well, the Berlin Wall was a "domestic decision," and lots of people were pretty outraged over that.
The extended version of my point -- and I admit I might have tweaked the words to make it more clearly -- is that this decision by the United States is a slap in the face to Mexico. It is essentially saying that Mexico is so lame at providing opportunities to its own people, that it sucks so royally as a place to live, that a large and dangerous barrier has to be erected to keep them from fleeing the country into the United States. Mexico's democratically elected politicians can't really let that pass with a "good point, we really do suck" shrug. They must be outraged. Not only would it cost them votes if they weren't, but it would be truly weak not to stand up to one's own country. Everybody feels that way, even us. Look how annoyed the United States gets when some other country imposes a stiff visa requirement on Americans -- not a wall, but a visa requirement! And that's when we impose far more onorous visa requirements than virtually any other country that we deal with. I'm not saying that's bad -- people want to come here, so we have to control it -- but I don't think it is at all inappropriate for Mexican officials to be pissed off about it.
The Mexican government has a responsibility for protecting their citizens, and they have passed the buck to the US. Now that we are refusing that responsibility, it forces them to deal with the fact that so many Mexicans don't feel protected. Of course they're upset.
Mexico has more than a thousand miles of empty, beautiful coastline immediately south of it. The Mexican people should be rich.
Mexican law makes it very difficult for foreigners to invest there. I don't know what its like today, but 20 years ago a foreigner couldn't own property in Mexico without partnering with a native Mexican first.
My own belief is that the USA should adopt a practice of reciprocality. We will treat foreign nationals of a particular nation using the same restrictions that person's home country would place on American attempting the same thing in their country.
Mexico would of course scream bloody murder about such a reciprocal policy ;->