Beware Mexico's generosity

Georgie Anne Geyer

July 22, 1993|By Georgie Anne Geyer

Washington -- MEXICO HAS long taken a persistent and unbending stand toward its massive illegal immigration to the United States. Its "high-minded" attitude has generally been couched in arguments that the United States has a responsibility for these immigrants because it needs Mexican workers.

Mexican governments have even been known to huff and puff at the highest levels of moral indignation at the merest hint of a Mexican citizen, illegally in the United States and transgressing American laws, being even slightly mistreated in the Colossus of the North. Mexican illegals have "rights" in America, even ones they don't have at home!

Over the last year, as 1 million more illegals have flooded into the United States, dangerously overloading school and medical facilities all over the Southwest, Mexico's high-mindedness over its unwillingness to care for its own people has reached remarkable heights. Mexico has been pushing harder than ever for the United States to change its immigration policies to allow ,, more Mexicans living on the Mexican side of the border and working in the United States to cross more readily and legally.

That is why the last two weeks have been so very revealing.

We all know by now that early in July, 659 Chinese refugees, having paid small fortunes to be smuggled by international pirate-smugglers into the United States, were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard off the Mexican coast. After several weeks stalled at sea, they were in desperate shape.

So Mexico, with its moralistic concern for the huddled masses, the poor of the world, really pitched into help these refugees, right? Mexico at least would give them the right to land, get food and water and be sent home? Well, not exactly.

There is no one so arrogant as a Mexican bureaucrat warmed by the anti-Gringo rhetoric of his history, and all those old vibes and genes immediately kicked in. How haughtily, how surely the Mexican officials for days denied American requests to allow the Chinese to land before being sent home at American expense! The Washington Post reported: "Mexican authorities, anticipating the arrival of the three ships in Ensenada, dispatched 150 policemen, helicopters, patrol boats and buses to ensure that the Chinese migrants would not be able to escape. Ensenada is about 60 miles south of a U.S. border fence that is jumped by tens of thousands of illegal Mexican immigrants annually."

And when the Mexicans finally relented, the words were cold as ice. "None of the undocumented immigrants will remain in Mexico," said Andres Rozental, undersecretary of foreign relations in charge of North America, "and it will not be permitted that they pass into a third country seeking asylum.

"At the moment that the boats enter national territory, they will be confiscated and the crews will be arrested ..."

Mexican authorities, Rozental finally told the Los Angeles Times, "intend to send a message that they will not allow the immigration laws of other countries to be applied in their nation."

Meanwhile, while we ponder the significance of these generous fTC and noble words, we might consider what our neighbor to the south has been up to this last year.

Only last year, Mexico was beginning the "repatriation" of some 40,000 Guatemalan refugees who had escaped that country's cruel civil war and had been camped on Mexico's southern border for a decade. Mexico also expelled 123,050 illegal immigrants from India, Latin America and Asia. Mexico's southern border with Central American states torn by civil war has long been patrolled by dogs and anxious men with machine guns, protecting Mexico from its own big heart.

Well, I have an idea how we might respond to Mexico's generosity in insisting that we Americans have a duty to take all its huddled masses that it refuses to care for.

Roughly four months from now, Congress is expected to cast a decisive vote on the North American Free Trade Agreement that is intended eventually to tie the United States, Canada and Mexico into a single, tariff-free zone. Investment in Mexico is expected to soar under NAFTA.

So is illegal immigration, by the way. The blithe idea of "dealing with illegal immigration through improving the Mexican economy" is woefully unfeasible. It will never happen, particularly when the Mexican labor force is going to double in the next 15 years. So, why -- in these last few months, while there is still time -- are we not tying approval of NAFTA to Mexico's real cooperation on its out-of-control immigration?

Sen. Pete Domenici is one who proposes this, and it makes such sense that one has to wonder why our negotiators -- more sensitive to Mexico's inflated nationalistic pride than to our own compelling interests -- did not do this from the very beginning.

After all, why shouldn't we appeal to Mexico's big heart, too?

Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist.

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