Hold the u.S. to a high stan­dard

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

In the wake of the Fourth of July, I’d like to see the crit­ics of com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form be­more pa­tri­otic. They can start by hold­ing the United States up to high stan­dards and quit in­sist­ing it em­u­late coun­tries that are worse off.

My gripe is with those who use the flaws in Mex­ico’s im­mi­gra­tion law as an ex­cuse not to fix the flaws in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion law — as if one had any­thing to do with the other.

It doesn’t. Just be­cause Mex­ico went over a cliff by clos­ing it­self off to for­eign­ers— both in terms of shut­ting its doors to im­mi­grants and re­strict­ing for­eign in­vest­ment in key in­dus­tries such as petroleum — why should the United States fol­low?

It re­mindsme of the ar­gu­ments thatmy un­cle, a col­lege lec­turer, used to have with col­leagues who re­sponded to any crit­i­cism of the U.S. by say­ing how much­worse life­was in the Soviet Union. My un­cle would re­spond that this ar­gu­ment “de­meaned” the United States, and that hewould rather hold his coun­try to the stan­dards set by its own ideals.

Like­wise, op­po­nents of any re­form ef­fort that would al­low il­le­gal im­mi­grants al­ready in this coun­try towork their­way to le­gal sta­tus de­mean the United States by com­par­ing it to Mex­ico. The idea is that, since our neigh­bor would never make a sim­i­lar of­fer to Cen­tral Amer­i­cans liv­ing il­le­gally in­Mex­ico, theUnited States shouldn’t make the of­fer to Mex­i­cans. The­more you think about this con­cept, the less sense it makes.

By the­way, you can say the same thing about Barack Obama’s murky agenda on im­mi­gra­tion, which came to the fore­front again Thurs­day­when the pres­i­dent gave yet an­other speech on the need to fix the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem. As one po­lit­i­cal ob­server who has worked on the is­sue for more than 25 years told me, Obama has sent mixed mes­sages by feed­ing the pub­lic hys­te­ria about il­le­gal im­mi­grants when he dis­patched the Na­tional Guard to the border and then ar­gu­ing thatwe have to let il­le­gal im­mi­grants al­ready here re­main in the U.S.

Nat­u­rally, the crit­i­cism of Mex­ico flares up when­ever the Mex­i­can govern­ment or a high­rank­ing Mex­i­can of­fi­cial dares to ques­tion an im­mi­gra­tion­mea­sure thatMex­i­cans con­sider fool­ish, cruel or un­fair. And since the Ari­zona lawthat turns lo­cal po­lice into a posse hunt­ing for il­le­gal im­mi­grants is all of those things, it was no sur­prise­whenMex­i­canPres­i­den­tFelipe Calderón blasted the­mea­sure lawin his re­cent speech to Congress. For the next few weeks, I heard­nu­mer­ous com­plaints from­con­ser­va­tives that Calderón was a hyp­ocrite for de­mand­ing more of this coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion laws than he did of his own.

As aMex­i­canAmer­i­can, I feel the same­way. Like Calderón, I also de­mand much more of this nation than I do of Mex­ico, or any other coun­try for that mat­ter.

A lit­tle more than 100 years ago, my grand­fa­ther made a choice that changed his life and the lives of all of his de­scen­dants. Just a boy at the time, he and his fam­ily mi­grated to the United States — legally. In do­ing so, he chose the United States over Mex­ico. Now, by sug­gest­ing that we adopt im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies that are sim­i­lar to those of our neigh­bor, some peo­ple want me to choose Mex­ico over the United States.

Come again? In Mex­ico, you have a Third World coun­try­with a sec­ond-rate econ­omy. It’s a coun­try concerned that, should the United States de­port large num­bers of Mex­i­can na­tion­als, the re­turn­ing work­ers could cap­size the econ­omy. It’s a coun­try that sti­fles its own growth by pulling up the draw­bridge like­many coun­tries in Europe, putting na­tional iden­tity be­fore the well-be­ing of a nation.

Iron­i­cally, many of the crit­ics of re­formwho love to bashMex­i­cowould agree that the coun­try is in bad shape — so bad that many of the Mex­i­cans who left the United States and re­turned home to es­cape a bad econ­omy here are now com­ing back be­cause they found the sit­u­a­tion to be even worse. Yet those crit­ics don’t con­nect the dots and see that a big rea­son for this is thatMex­ico has al­ready em­braced some of the re­stric­tive poli­cies that im­mi­gra­tion re­form foes say we should adopt here.

With logic like this, these peo­ple shouldn’t op­er­ate heavymachinery, let alone be al­lowed near the levers of govern­ment.

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