Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Listening to Donald Trump verbally assault Mexico disgusts me to the point of illness. There are problems with and in Mexico, but his characterization of it is a grotesque parody of the real situation. His rants are nonsense, and he is a vile man.
My comments are informed because I am a retired Foreign Service Consular officer who spent two tours — four years — at our Embassy in Mexico City. Unlike Trump, I have first-hand knowledge of Mexico, its immigration patterns and economics, and have travelled extensively through the country.
I am in no way in favor of illegal immigration (most consular officers aren’t) and do not turn a blind eye to the problems that mass immigration brings. But I understand why Jeb Bush says that these people are motivated by love. They are in a difficult position in Mexico and want to improve themselves by working in the United States. Leaving to work in another country is difficult. (But that doesn’t mean that we should let them; we have no need for more unskilled laborers, and Scott Walker is spot-on on this point.)
Trump’s accusation that the Mexican government is actively sending criminals to the United States is a filthy lie. There is no evidence to support that. (If they had been, I think that the United States Embassy would have noticed.) It is true that there are posters, especially in border areas, cautioning migrants about the dangers crossing the border (and it is dangerous). But they are not encouraging people to leave, and Mexican politicians know that the strong push to leave is a failing, their failing. Mexico isn’t going to build a wall to keep people in; only Communist countries do that.
This is of course not to deny the huge amount of remittances that Mexicans send from the United States and the importance of it to their economy. But Mexico is not alone; there are few underdeveloped countries in world that don’t get money sent from the United States. This is a much bigger part of the economy in Central America, for example.
The vast number of Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, are hard-working and are coming for economic opportunities. There are bad elements in that population, of course. he fact that it is often unmarried men that go is part of the reason why there is criminal activity in that population. This is not a Mexican-only phenomenon; look at any mining town anywhere, where you have large numbers of young men unconstrained by family responsibilities. Or in some of our own cities, for that matter.) Crime happens in this atmosphere.
Mexican illegals would not come here if there were no jobs. I recall that in the mid-1980s, there were no Mexicans applying for visas to go to visit families in North Carolina, but in the mid-2000s there were, because so many Mexicans went there to work, to do jobs that many Americans didn’t want to do for lower wages. Remove the opportunity to work and illegal immigration will go away.
Remember when that awful Mitt Romney said that we could solve the illegal immigration problem by self-deportation, and remember how he was lambasted for it? Everybody thought he was an idiot? Well … self-deportation is exactly what happened several years ago. Mexicans, unable to find jobs in the United States, started going home. And this is not the first time that this has happened. If you want to stop illegal immigration, the place to build a wall is at the workplace.
We need to understand that the border is porous both ways. Mexican migrant labor has always had the practice of returning home and then going back (the belief that tightening the border is causing more Mexican illegal immigrants to stay has some credence, because it is making that back-and-forth flow more difficult). There are many villages and towns in Mexico that have a tradition of sending workers back to the States, and many come home after a few months, or after a few years, to retire. The nice new house in the village with the new pick-up and the satellite dish? That man worked in El Norte, but came back to his family. That happens a lot. In my second tour, I ran the passport office in the Embassy, and one of our biggest clients were young children of Mexican immigrants to the United States who had sent their children back to Mexico, to the aunt and uncle or grandparents, while the parents worked. It’s a lot better for those kids than American daycare, to be sure. Those cases were often difficult to process because of a lack of documentation owed to the transient nature of these people’s situations, and if they didn’t have convincing evidence of citizenship, we didn’t issue.
The Mexican economy has grown tremendously in the past quarter-century, and much of that is due to NAFTA. Trade has transformed big parts of Mexico, and has increased and strengthened the Mexican middle-class. Donald Trump probably does not realize the tremendous amount of goods that we export to Mexico. I’ve seen this progress — sleepy villages that were poor and dusty thirty years ago are now clean, modern towns full of prosperous workers. Every day, over one billion dollars of goods cross the Mexican-U.S. border. I don’t expect Trump to understand this; he’s in real estate and services — and casinos — and neither he nor his companies have made so much as a widget. If we cut off trade with Mexico, we would lose a huge, huge market. The biggest retailer in Mexico is Wal-Mart (many small Mexican shopkeepers now use Wal-Mart as their supplier, bringing basic goods to their towns and villages). Mexicans do a tremendous amount of shopping when they visit the United States. It’s almost a tradition, now, that when a wife becomes pregnant, they drive up to San Antonio to buy things for the new baby and his nursery.
I am not denying that Mexico has economic problems, or that it is a burdened by serious corruption. I will note, however, that many of the States in Mexico that have done well economically have been run by the insurgent PAN, and not the long-time PRI ruling party.) Because of corruption and the absence of rule of law, drug trafficking has destroyed many parts of the country. I’m also not denying the huge social problems that the mass of poorly-educated illegal immigrants pose in this country, especially in places like California. But this is no reason to build a wall against Mexico, or cut them off. They’re still going to be our Southern border. The answer is more engagement, not less.
And if you’re looking for someone to help solve these problems, it’s certainly not going to be Donald Trump. He’s so full of himself that he has none of the personal skills to successfully deal with anybody from Latin America. We shouldn’t deal with him, either.