Immigration: we need bridges not walls
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a forum on immigration at Georgetown University, speaking before students who will probably be members of the U.S. diplomatic corps.
The bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States is one of the most important relations in the world. Mexico is not only the entry point to Latin America, it is also a strategic partner of the United States, and millions of people of Mexican origin live north of the Rio Grande. In fact, it was based on this premise we launched Azteca America in 2001.
Among all the big issues in the bilateral relationship, immigration is key because it touches the lives of millions of people, specifically, the 12 million undocumented immigrants north of the border and the more than 20 million family members living south of the Rio Grande.
In a globalized world it is natural and even desirable that all resources flow freely: capital, commodities, technology, and people. Immigration is a controversial question, but I believe that no one could seriously argue that we should prohibit it. On the contrary, many times immigration is a motor of development for the receiving country, and in this sense Mexico also must reflect on its own immigration policies.
The history of the migration of Mexicans to the United States has been a big issue since 1847 when, far from crossing the border, thousands of Mexicans saw how the border crossed them. To begin with, the experience was not pleasant, since our countrymen experienced terrible discrimination, despite the fact that they did not choose to change countries.
Today, the Latino community in the United States is young, productive, and enterprising, and as a result it imprints a great vitality on that nation. The anti-immigrant arguments could not be more untrue and hypocritical. In fact, it is thanks to the constant flow of extremely competitive labor that the U.S. economy has maintained its dynamism for so many years. Its gain is our loss.
Now is the time to eradicate the myths.
The great majority of the Latino population in the United States has no connection to the problems that are attributed to them, often with malice and racism. Latinos do not steal jobs from anyone, they do not exploit public services up and above their own tax payments, nor are they the cause of crime in the United States. On the contrary, Latinos put in long and arduous workdays, they pay more in taxes than they consume in public services (even in Arizona), and their contribution to U.S. society is invaluable.
For every undocumented immigrant there is always someone willing to hire them and to pay them for their work, their skills, and their talent. Economics teaches us that whenever a transaction is freely conducted, both sides win; in this case, employer and employee both benefit.
For this and for many others reasons, we should support the Latino communities in their efforts to achieve immigration reform. But the politicians typically will tell us that this is not the moment, especially today, amid a full global crisis. But it is precisely today that the United States must urgently boost its competitiveness in relation to the rest of the world.
As a result of the worst financial crisis in eight decades, today there are 15 million Americans who are unemployed. But this is not an excuse to be against immigration reform, because unemployment will end. Instead of fighting for crumbs, our obligation is to increase the size of the pie.
A fair system is needed that would value the contribution made by migrants, perhaps a process of registration and submitting applications that would open up the opportunity that people need to contribute economically and later to return to their country of origin, because most Mexican emigrants only think of returning to their homeland.
On the Mexican side, we also have an enormous responsibility to offer opportunities for development and prosperity, especially at the bottom of the pyramid, so that people are not forced to emigrate. By the same token, we have a moral obligation to deal fairly with immigrants from other nations who have chosen our country as their adopted homeland.
Mexico needs more productive and job-creating investments. But even if we were to create millions of jobs, migration will continue to exist because throughout history, migration is a natural movement for people.
For decades, the United States fought to tear down the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, today, some politicians in the United States do not understand the meaning of the struggle for freedom. They promote discriminatory laws, such as SB1070, and they support the construction of an insurmountable wall along the Mexican border. What the world needs today is bridges, not walls.
The promise of freedom and progress attracted millions of talented people from all parts of the world to the United States. Let’s hope the politicians of that country never forget that. There are immigrants to be found at some point in every American’s genealogical tree. They were attracted by the same freedom that some politicians are trying to destroy.