Mexico’s foreign minister, speaking here Monday to a conference of American Jews, compared “the stench” of anti-Mexican “bigotry” in U.S. political dialogue to international anti-Semitism.
“Today in the 21st century, here in the United States, a climate of intolerance is sending a similar message: Mexicans go home,” Claudia Ruiz Massieu said in a speech to the American Jewish Committee’s annual conference in Washington. “Separate those who are different, blame the minorities, demonize the stranger.”
“Well, let me tell you who those strangers are,” Ruiz Massieu said of Mexican Americans. “No different from American Jews from all walks of life.”
While she did not mention Donald Trump, Ruiz Massieu appeared to be directing her remarks at the presumed Republican presidential nominee. “To the dismay of those who prey on disinformation and fear for political gain,” she said, “the Mexican people are and have always been a positive presence and force for good in the United States.”
Criticism of Mexicans, here and in their own country, has been a frequent theme of Trump’s campaign, from his initial declaration that the Mexican government was sending criminals and “rapists” to the United States, through his declared intention to build a border wall to keep Mexicans out. He has charged that the North American Free Trade Agreement had “destroyed” America and that Mexico was “killing” this country with cheap labor.
In recent weeks, Trump has charged that the Indiana-born federal judge overseeing a class-action suit alleging fraud by Trump University is biased and should be recused because of his Mexican American heritage.
In February, Ruiz Massieu called Trump’s policies and comments “ignorant and racist” and his proposed border wall “absurd.” A month later, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s chief of staff said the government would not respond to comments made in the U.S. presidential campaign but would instead highlight the economic benefits to the United States from the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
Ruiz Massieu said that “contrary to what has been irresponsibly repeated lately . . . immigrants contribute with their honest and hard work to this country. They earn about $240 billion per year, paying $90 billion in taxes and use only about $5 billion in public benefits and services.” She did not cite the source of those figures.
“Data shows that there are less, not more, Mexicans migrating to the United States this year,” she said.
The percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. population has been steadily increasing over the past century and is now at 17.3 percent, with Mexico the largest single country of origin, according to U.S. census data. Most of the increase in more recent years has been caused by native U.S. births rather than migration.
The overall flow of Mexican immigrants is smaller than at any time since the 1990s, with more Mexicans leaving this country than entering it. According to a census analysis by the Pew Research Center, 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to this country from 2009-2014, compared with 1 million Mexicans and their families, including U.S.-born children, who returned to Mexico from the United States.
“The naked truth is that today, over 6 million commercial jobs depend on U.S. relations with Mexico,” Ruiz Massieu said. “We do not steal jobs from the United States,” she said, citing manufacturing that relies on component parts and assembly on both sides of the border, including “automobiles that cross the border eight times in the process of production, to smartphones, computers, from beer to state-of-the-art Learjets.”
“Those who want to make political profit stigmatizing these people, be they Mexicans, Jews, Muslims, people of color or Asians, are wrong,” she said to sustained audience applause. “Let me say loud and clear, fighting anti-Semitism, like standing up to anti-Mexican sentiment, is not a Jewish issue or a Mexican issue. It is a common battle for human rights.”