Search This Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Take Them In

It seems that, compared to a year ago, there are many more Mexican license plates circulating in this American border town with only 150,000 inhabitants. Some plates are from tourists who like to come shopping, an important source of  revenue for local municipalities and businesses. Others belong to people who have made this town a temporary shelter from the violence in their country; they are wealthy and may often become a prime target of gangs totally unrelated to the cartels. These local Mexican thugs know how scared people are of Zetas and other cruel factions, but like to be confused with those as victims often remain mute for fear of reprisals. There are also a lot of temporary workers who cross the border daily to make a few more dollars unavailable in Mexico where their skills are very poorly paid. They drive beat up trucks and cars from which lawnmowers and other tools can be seen.

This is the unknown reality in Washington where politicians propose laws that seriously affect American citizens living on the border. They cannot understand for example why Governor Perry has authorized in-state tuition for undocumented students at college level.  Perry knows the important relation between the two countries can only grow and improve if we send back to Mexico well-educated young men and women who speak English fluently. We need friends and so far the middle-income Mexicans are not precisely fond of us. They may admire us, but they don't love us.

The rich Mexicans fleeing  their country are grateful to find shelter where they can establish businesses that will employ thousands of Americans. The middle class that sends their children to American schools across the border are enriching our Mexican-American culture; they are here because they want a better and safer life for their young ones. If you had children on the border with the United States, wouldn't you want the best for them? We are still the magnet for millions of desperate people who envy our law enforcement system, who envy our relative peace and multiple opportunities to be successful.

Pyramid square

Mexico is a rich and beautiful country as any seasoned American traveler will attest to; their main problem, dating from the 70 years of dictatorship by one party, is their widespread corruption. It affects many politicians of course (mostly unpunished), but also the backbone of justice and protection: policemen, custom agents, attorneys, traffic cops, government employees, inspectors, auditors, department heads, etc.. One cannot do business in Mexico without greasing the palm of dozens of well-placed individuals. I have friends in Mexico, very good friends since I lived there as a teacher for many years. One of them told me that a tax auditor "discovered" a huge mistake in his declarations of past years. He was told that he owed the federal government 100,000 pesos (approx. $85,000). He was also offered a way out for 20,000 pesos, money that would never find its way to the national treasury.

Stories of sudden and suspicious wealth abound; many years ago a Mexican governor was detained in Houston with one million dollars that he had somewhat forgotten to declare at the airport. This is just a drop in the bucket of corruption. How can a country prosper and pay for its many infrastructure needs if most of the citizens don't pay their fair share? A comparison with the obscene corruption prevalent in Afghanistan, our tax dollars ladies and gentlemen, gives us a good idea of what is taking place in Mexico.

When Mexicans come to work in our country they leave behind (mostly) their bad habits such as "mordidas" (graft) and crazy driving. They know that our cops strictly enforce traffic laws (most of the time) and that offering a bribe will land them in jail. They feel safe from cartels and "bandidos"; they can raise their children without fear, trusting our (mostly) good and free public education. They pay taxes every time they buy merchandise or gasoline. They pay school taxes when they buy a house. Most of them quickly learn English (mandatory in Mexican schools), and while they miss their culture, customs and friends, they know they have a chance at realizing the American Dream.

Taking them in can only help us in the long run, whether documented or not.

No comments: