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Column 013006 Thompson

Monday, January 30, 2006


The Nosedive Continues in U.S.-Mexico Relations


By Barnard R. Thompson


Nearly 150 years ago Charles Dickens began his historical novel A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, …” – a dichotomy of yore in reference to the times in France and England, and maybe today applicable to U.S.-Mexico affairs.


This to use Dickens’ grim tale as an analogy, for U.S.-Mexico attitudes and relations seem to get worse by the day.


Apart from charges and countercharges, insults and worse in the media of both nations, along with sensationalized renditions by xenophobic immigration control commentators and militants versus pro-migrant advocates and organizations, the two governments are at loggerheads.  Sure they say that is not the case, but if matters are not there already we are certainly close to the worst of times and stupidity.


But rather than work towards real and lasting solutions, both sides seem content to throw fuel on the fire.  This nonsense, borrowing from another Englishman, with their Queens’ of Hearts yelling, “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”


The fact is the U.S.-Mexico border region has problems that have escalated out of control, including illegal migration, drug demand and use, narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, gang warfare, murderous violence, and terrorist threats.  And name-calling or finger pointing cannot overcome any of these serious troubles.


A Draconian effort in the United States, to end or at least slow illegal and unwanted cross border activities, is House Resolution 4437, the U.S. Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 that is now before the U.S. Senate.  This ill-conceived legislation, that would seem to have little chance of being approved by the Senate, plus the proposal to build walls along key sections of the southern border, have caused a firestorm of resentment and criticism in Mexico.


Now, with impeccably poor timing, Mexican politicians are announcing a countermeasure that will rub more salt into wounds north of the border, and most certainly cause further uproars notwithstanding if the proponents might be right or wrong.


Members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) delegation in the Chamber of Deputies have just announced a counterproposal to HR-4437, the so-called Sensenbrenner Bill of the U.S.  This flying in the face of generations of demands that the United States stay out of Mexico’s internal affairs, while touting Mexican constitutional dictates of self-determination of peoples and nonintervention.


Apparently what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.


Still, the proposal that is already in committee may not be quite the interference in U.S. domestic affairs and politics many to the north will claim.  Or is it?


According to bulletin number 2599 of the Chamber of Deputies, dated January 29, the PRI deputies have “presented a counterproposal to the anti-immigrant (Sensenbrenner) law of the United States….”


The initiative, named the Federal Law of Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families, calls for a comprehensive legal framework that will guarantee the rights of migrants, and acknowledge their contributions to the economy.  Among other things, it also demands facilitation and humanization in the transit of migrants, a crackdown on trafficking in people, and a stop to exploitation related to remittances sent back to Mexico.


The bill’s author, Alfonso Nava Díaz (PRI, San Luis Potosí), said that migration must be elevated to a state policy level in Mexico.  Moreover, the rights of people to emigrate must be acknowledged, he said, while assuring migrants and their families the protection and rights guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution, in addition to giving them a say in national affairs.


Keys here are the reference to remittances, and the sweetener of supposed expatriate influence in Mexican national affairs (baloney).  Because when all of this is boiled down its about money – money Mexico cannot afford to lose or get along without.


For the first 11 months of 2005 remittances sent to Mexico, the most by far from the U.S., totaled US$18.3 billion, which was 20.4 percent more than the corresponding period in 2004 (the total for 2004 was US$16.6 billion).  And when December is added, the 2005 amount will be around US$20 billion.


There’s more.


The quoted remittance figures are for money transferred to Mexico, and not that carried back by workers and family members – so a conservative figure would put the total at maybe US$25 billion.


That means remittances are second only to oil income, which is thanks to sky-high oil prices in 2005.  Mexico’s crude oil sales were US$25.7 billion through November of last year.



Barnard Thompson, a consultant, is also editor of MexiData.info.  He can be reached via e-mail at mexidata@ix.netcom.com.