The people of the United States and the State of Colorado will play host this month and next to the annual United States-Mexico Interparliamentary Conference. There elected representatives of both nations will discuss common concerns, which doubtless will include U.S. immigration policy.
Mexican officials have said they should have a role in formulating that policy. Mexico today is the largest single exporter of immigrants to the United States. And as Mexico's population continues to grow, migratory pressures are bound to become more acute.
Mexican assertiveness about U.S. immigration policy is not a new phenomenon. On Dec. 8, 1982, the Mexican senate adopted a resolution claiming its right to be consulted on this issue. The resolution stated that U.S. immigration policy "should be treated from a bilateral and even multilateral perspective."
Further, it demanded "that this matter be turned over to the Foreign Relations Committee of the [Mexican] Senate for detailed analysis, and that it be included as part of memos to be treated at the next . . . Mexico-U.S. Interparliamentary Conference."
Six months after the Mexican senate adopted that resolution, that nation's government unilaterally took steps to stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming across Mexico's southern border. In explaining his government's policy, Interior Minister Manuel Bartlett Diaz stated that immigrants have "taken jobs from Mexicans" and caused "social pressures because of excess demands in all services."
In addition to tightening control of its own southern border, Mexico since 1984 has required citizens to show a national identity card to gain access to many government services.
Mexico appropriately established these domestic policies. The steps were not taken with malice toward Mexico's southern neighbors, and they reflected no xenophobia on the part of Mexican officials. They were, rather, a manifestation of the government's desire to protect the interests of its citizens and ensure stability.
Those of us who advocate immigration reform in the United States are motivated by similar concerns for our own fellow citizens. Many of the U.S. citizens adversely affected by large numbers of Mexican immigrants (both legal and illegal) are minority group members, including Mexican Americans, who must compete with aliens for jobs and social services. Any government that does not protect the welfare of its citizens is abdicating its responsibilities.
In the past, Mexico has protested U.S interference in its domestic affairs, often with good reason. Restrictions on the influx of Mexicans to the United States may have some unpleasant consequences for the Mexican government. But that doesn't entitle that government to a determining voice in our policy-making process. Mexico's own history shows the inadvisability of meddling in another nation's internal affairs.
The Mexican Constitution of 1917 was itself a response to foreign meddling. For the past seven decades, Mexico has jealously guarded its sovereignty -- primarily against interference from its giant neighbor to the north, such as U.S. intervention during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
Mexico is justified in guarding its right to make its own decisions, unfettered by foreign interference -- but it must be prepared to live with the consequences of its policies. Mexico's poor and unemployed are Mexico's responsibility, and it should not view the United States as a convenient place to export its problems.
Mexico has grown used to having the United States as a safety valve for its excess population. For years Mexico has delayed dealing with its internal and economic problems because that option was available. It would appear many Mexicans view emigration to the United States as their inalienable right and the United States' obligation.
The U.S.-Mexico Interparliamentary Conference should focus its discussions this year on how the United States and Mexico can work together to solve the problems that are causing massive emigration from Mexico.