DC Skeptics has a new contributor: Alexis. He’s written a good perspective piece on immigration, shown below. We’re looking for contributors who can parse trends and phenomenon, social and scientific, into explanations that build our understanding of the world. If you can add humor, bonus. If you’d like to be a contributor, email us.
Will Arizona’s new and controversial illegal immigration law become the first step, albeit an uncertain one, in finding a comprehensive and inclusive solution to the chaos that is US illegal immigration? Or is it just another half-assed attempt to patch-up a system that is beyond repair? Is this the Cullen-Harrison Act before the 21st amendment, or are we patching up the levees before Katrina? Is this the beginning of true reform or just another layer of inefficient bullcrap?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I doubt our politicians or the general public they purportedly represent know them either. What I do know however is that no cross-border conflict (political, economical, cultural or demographic) in history has ever been peacefully resolved unilaterally. And those that have been are usually called wars.
Bilateralism on the other hand, the sane, logical, reason-driven hand, is the very nature of cross-border conflicts, and by extension the means to their solution. In its most basic of forms, a cross-border conflict involves at least two parties, and in the case of the ongoing illegal immigration debate it involves primarily the United States and Mexico. But for a reason that eludes my intellect, the US Government’s approach in the last few years has been to find a unilateral quick-fix from within our borders; an issue —not a “conflict” nor a “war” (like the War on Terror, or the War on Drugs) — that can be apparently solved by building The Great Wall of the Rio Grande and by deploying the ever growing National Guard to the southern border. Mission Accomplished.
If the problem involves Americans, Mexicans (and immigrants from other countries), and Mexican-Americans, shouldn’t the answer be formulated by the same forces? Id est, American and Mexican policy makers. But enough about my opinions, let’s talk about what people are saying:
“Americans that promote hateful and racist laws like the one in Arizona are hypocritical chauvinistic bigots”.
“Americans that stand idly while Mexicans invade and take over our country are traitors and should burn in Hell, or in Mexico with the rest of them”.
I won’t discuss the quotes above, I made them both up. But the idea I want to get across is that the current debate is polarized, impulsive, and chaotic. I’ll also throw in moronic for good measure. It doesn’t take much insight to realize that the common denominator in all points of view, pro and against the Arizona is FEAR; modern day humans after all are just easily frightened hyper-evolved ape-creatures. From helping us outlive the dinosaurs to kicking the crap out of Neanderthals into extinction, fear has kept us safe throughout our history. Why would we change this million year-old American tradition now? Mericuh! But immigration, legal and illegal, has made this country what it is today. Just ask the Statue of Liberty. Counter Mericuh!
But this blog is all about facts, not regurgitation of opinions. So let’s talk some facts, historic facts.
There is an intrinsic difference between the ongoing wave of Mexican Immigration and previous waves of immigration. Whereas during the 18th and 19th centuries, Scotts, Poles, Irish, Asians, etc., were forced to accept and assimilate into their new surroundings upon arriving to America, Mexican immigrants today do not. Hear me out; Mexican immigrants in Montana or in Delaware might have to become “Americanized” (whatever that means) just like the Scots did, but what if the immigrant is moving from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to Laredo, Texas? See what I mean? Earlier waves of immigrants had no choice but to assimilate, they were physically distant from their country and culture, they were surrounded by multiple and diverse peoples, a new economy, a new language, a new world. The majority of Mexican and Latino immigrants are moving into borderlands that were conquered by the United States between 1846 and 1848. These immigrants are not physically separated from their land; this is historically their land as much as it is American land. We won the war yes, but Mexican culture, Mexican families, and Mexican history never left. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that officially ended the war in 1848 established the US-Mexican border of the Rio Grande, and ceded to the United States the states of California, Nevada, Utah, parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
Wyoming was once part of Mexico.
I’ll let that one sink in for a second.
From this not so ancient history spurs the fear that predominantly Mexican immigrants are re-populating historically Mexican lands, reversing the outcome of the 1848 US-Mexico war and quietly taking over the country. This fear becomes manifest in laws like the one recently passed, though severely limited by federal courts, in Arizona.
For nearly two centuries, the United States and Mexico, two sovereign nation-states have encouraged immigration in the borderlands: US as a source of cheap labor, and Mexico as a way to allocate surplus workforce. So why has the immigration debate become so heated in recent years? For many reasons, but discussing them all in depth would take many a blog post. But in samarium, illegal immigration is hot on the table because current laws and policies are outdated, because of America’s post- 911 collective paranoia, because of Mexico’s economic woes, and more recently because transnational drug Cartels are taking over large portions of the border (on both sides) and plunging them into lawlessness at an alarming rate.
Immigration laws all over the country, not just in Arizona have to be viewed in these broader contexts and not just as an Arizona vs. Washington debate.
George Friedman, CEO of private intelligence corporation Stratfor, said it best:
“Ultimately, this is all about the relationship between Mexico and the United States on a range of issues, immigration merely being one of them. The problem as I see it is that the immigration issue is being treated as an internal debate among Americans when it is really about reaching an understanding with Mexico. Immigration has been treated as a subnational issue involving individuals. It is in fact a geopolitical issue between two nation-states. Over the past decades, Washington has tried to avoid turning immigration into an international matter, portraying it rather as an American law enforcement issue. In my view, it cannot be contained in that box any longer.”
It’s time to join the rest of the world America, open up our arms and broaden our international policy horizons. I’m not arguing in favor of further opening our porous borders mind you, but rather that we take a hard look at the way we deal with trans-national issues and conflicts and lean towards bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Whether we admit it or not, the time of All-Powerful America has been slowly ebbing away since the fall of the Berlin Wall. America’s stance on transnational conflict-resolution must learn to appreciate bilateralism as an advantage, get past its wounded ego, and realize that strength in numbers is the way of the 21st Century. And what better way to do just that and more, than by being a good neighbor.