End the meddling
October 1, 2007
In a speech to a gathering of border governors from both the United States and Mexico, President Felipe Calderón described immigration as a “natural phenomenon that is economically and socially inevitable.” He also said that the U.S. Congress should create more legal avenues to allow Mexicans to enter the United States to work.
Not again. We're starting to think that what is inevitable in the modern age is for the president of Mexico – no matter who he is – to meddle in U.S. immigration policy instead of focusing on creating jobs at home so migrants don't have to leave their country in order to feed their families.
Calderón wasn't speaking broadly about people migrating to his country from Central and South America. That armed guards are stationed along the border between Mexico and Guatemala would suggest the Mexican government doesn't consider all immigration to be “inevitable.”
Ironically, we agree with Calderón on the urgent need for some sort of comprehensive immigration reform and an increase in the number of visas the United States makes available to those who migrate to this country legally. And we also think there is a grain of truth in what we assume Calderón was getting at: With two side-by-side countries separated by a gaping wage disparity, there is always going to be some number of workers streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border.
And yet we must frown on Calderón sticking in his two centavos in this case. When it comes to the explosive issue of immigration reform, such meddling is never a good idea. Americans have no appetite for self-righteous lectures from south of the border. They know full well that Mexico could be doing a better job of keeping more of its people satisfied and gainfully employed, and they frankly resent being told how to police their border.
For a while, it seemed as if Calderón understood that. While he was running for president, and for the first 100 days of his administration, he took care to tread lightly on the issue. In fact, Calderón rarely mentioned, it and that was in stark contrast to his predecessor. Former President Vicente Fox talked about immigration all the time, and that may well have helped drain public support for a more reasonable policy here in the United States.
Lately, Calderón is taking a more aggressive stance on the issue, and he could wind up repeating Fox's mistakes. He would be much better off continuing his efforts to bring well-paying jobs and economic development to the dozen or so poorest regions of Mexico, which tend to lose the most people to the immigration phenomenon.
Calderón knows that. He admitted in his remarks to the governors that Mexico is losing its “best people” to the United States. And so, if the Mexican president can manage to double the average daily wage for low-skilled workers in Mexico – from $6 per day, where it is now, to $12 per day, where it needs to be – he might find a way to cut those losses, retain more workers, and serve his country in the process.