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Column 092506 Brewer

Monday, September 25, 2006


Mexico, the U.S., and The Tortilla Curtain Anew


By Jerry Brewer


Although our tired Lady Liberty still stands in New York Harbor, lifting her lamp beside the golden door, hallowed ground nearby is missing twin towers.  However Emma Lazarus’ famous lines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty continue to express what America has meant to millions of people.  “… Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”


It is indeed those words that continue to stir such passion on the issue of immigration.  It remains a sensitive topic that demands attention by our legislators and executive branch of government.  It is a complicated issue with no easy solutions that has gone on for decades, and we are no closer to resolving the issues today.


Border security is the hot topic in partisan politics as this year’s elections near, yet the real issue is immigration. Is there a legitimate fear of terrorists attacking from our southern border?  The answer is probably not, as terrorist networks or cells already reside in our cities, and recent history reminds us that the strikes came from the skies and not ground attacks from the border.


The fact is that illegal immigration is a problem that demands coherent policies as to who and who cannot be admitted into the United States, and how many immigrants can be admitted.  Everyone who lives in the U.S., or their ancestors, came from somewhere else and we simply cannot, with a straight face, address immigration without a little guilt.  And obviously our ancestors were victims of earlier attempts to exclude newcomers.


It will be a nightmare to ponder in what manner and what criteria will be used to make the choices of who stays and who goes.  Ideals must be balanced against reality.


The whole truth of the issue of immigration is that the incentives are far too great for walls and fences to stop the flow of those seeking a better future.  Nowhere in the world is there such a disparity in income between two countries that share a common border such as Mexico and the U.S.


Walls and fences have become the national cry of many in the United States.  Securing our borders against terrorism is the convenient phrase to pacify those who have no real plan in mind that might solve the dilemma.


So what should be done to end the decades of handwringing and frustration?


Immigration requires complex diplomacy and genuine economic problem solving.  The best conceivable short-term solution is an early start on the long-term solution.


In short, Mexico has lucrative natural resources in oil, gas, and minerals, plus of course labor, whereas the United States has capital and technology.  So helping Mexico to expand its industry and agriculture would be a proactive panacea, and skilled Mexican workers would not need to emigrate, even temporarily.  In lieu of billions of dollars worth of walls and fences that will do little more than divert the wind, those funds could be better used as an investment in the future of both nations.  Too, the initiatives would render a barricaded border impractical.


Diplomats on both sides of the border would need to ensure that Mexico is carrying out social and economic policies that benefit the working classes, and that the nation’s wealth is not just enriching the elite.  Helping Mexico to expand its industry and agriculture would create jobs and new opportunities.  Too, Mexico would be encouraged to match U.S. funding at appropriate and agreed upon rates.


Without doubt the issue of millions of immigrants who are currently in the United States will remain.  And their status will need to be resolved, either by voluntary return to their country, guest worker status or amnesty programs.


Identification systems must be designed for recognition needs and registration, and this must not be done in such a way that would allow fraud and forgery.  Yet this can, in fact, be solved with existing identification, fingerprint and DNA typing technologies.  But here the first issue to rise in the crucial proof testing will be protests of civil liberty violations and intrusion on privacy.


The alternatives however would mean decades more of indecision, and billions of dollars spent on barricades and more border patrol agents manning a 2000-mile line in the sand.  Walls did not and will not stop terrorists who come as students and visitors to the United States, while Mexican migrants cross the border to work.



Jerry Brewer, the Vice President of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in Miami, Florida, is a guest columnist with MexiData.info.  He can be reached via e-mail at Cjiaincusa@aol.com.