- Immigration policy
Intertwined to some degree, any discussion of Mexican perceptions of the United States should include history, migration, politics, economics and crime.
The history of the two neighbours includes Mexican scars dating back to the early 19th century. While most Mexicans now tend to forget the unfair treatment by the US related to its appropriation of half of Mexico’s territory, they resent current imbalances in the relationship. I bring up historical precedents because they are germane to the rule of law argument presented by US politicians to oppose immigration reform.
Historical breaches of the rule of law by the US include the gradual and insidious annexation of Texas, several military invasions of Mexico, the decisive interferences in Mexican politics that contributed to the coup d´etat against President Madero and to prolonged internal fighting through the provision of weapons to various 20th century revolutionaries. The fall of Madero sparked a lengthy armed struggle that cost millions of lives and was a considerable economic, demographic and political setback for Mexico. The peaceful transition from dictatorship into democracy that Madero had achieved was lost and for a long time Mexico was denied a stable economic growth path within a liberal democratic regime.
Can the US acknowledge its unfair and often unlawful treatment of Mexico and the human rights of its undocumented migrants by accepting their right to remain, work and/or study in the US? Has the US government taken into account the net fiscal benefits of undocumented workers? A recent UK study showed a net fiscal benefit for the UK government and research by James Wilkie at UCLA has shown the same effect in the US. In both cases the result is explained by the scant use of public services by migrants.
Our bilateral economic relationship includes foreign investment and trade. Both countries have benefitted enormously from the trade opening brought about by NAFTA, but Mexicans are perplexed by the failure of US media and authorities to convey convincingly its benefits to the population at large. There is therefore a worrying strand of opinion, not based on facts, that undermines and could threaten important and profound new linkages between the two countries.
Mexico is continuously criticized for its high crime rates with no recognition of the insurmountable difficulties it faces due to the policies of its northern neighbour
Partly because of the above and despite the benefits of NAFTA for Mexican productivity, employment, wages, environment and exports, we perceive there to be a continuous asymmetry in the US-Mexico relationship that does not always respect the letter and spirit of our treaties. Examples of this are the unjustifiable delay in allowing avocado exports from Mexico to the US, the difficulties in implementing the agreement to allow trucks from both countries to cross their respective borders, and the unfair and illegal restrictions on tuna exports.
Mexico and the US would do well to decriminalize drug consumption, production and distribution and to imitate Portugal in this regard where successful decriminalization has been combined with programmes to combat addiction. Having said that, it is widely accepted on both sides of the border that the root cause of our problem is the US ‘war on drugs’. Among many brilliant articles by Milton Friedman on this topic, one quote sums it up: ‘The failure of both countries to treat drug consumption as an addiction in need of treatment has led to a spiralling of crime on both sides of the border. In Mexico to a degree that challenges the power of the government’. The interdiction of Caribbean drug-trafficking routes by the US has created new alternative routes through Central America and Mexico. Together with the high concentration of gun stores close to the US-Mexico border, this has created a lethal combination that nurtures an ever rising crime wave within Mexico. Mexico is continuously criticized for its high crime rates with no recognition of the insurmountable difficulties it faces due to the policies of its northern neighbour.
At the cost of considerable political turmoil and protests Mexico has since the early 1990s been embarked on a continuous liberalization strategy. Its government has eliminated several monopolies, shed over a thousand public firms while opening up to private sector participation in the energy sector within a competitive market framework. It has opened up its foreign trade and created a network of treaties to avoid the international double taxation of profits. It has reformed electoral legislation to allow the alternation of power between political parties at all government levels while allowing for independent candidates. The reform of telecommunications, radio and TV to foster greater competition and attract foreign investment is another significant transformation of an important economic sector. Other significant reforms include education, the judiciary, transparency and allowing foreign ownership in the banking and insurance sectors. Infrastructure has been considerably improved, modernized and largely privatized. Many federal government services have been digitized and many are now available online, with streamlined procedures and reduced waiting times.
I could go on, but this list should help to show the sort of transformation Mexico has performed on its way to becoming a modern market economy. Given all these reforms, is it possible to consider a Marshall Plan for Latin American countries that fulfil certain conditions? A new redesigned Alliance for Progress? The funds could go exclusively towards infrastructure and would be managed by reputable private organizations.