|OPENING THE BORDER|
August 25, 2000
Mexico's president-elect Vicente Fox has proposed opening the border between his country and the U.S. After a background report, three experts debate the president-elect's proposal.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mexico's president-elect, Vicente Fox, has spent the past week in Canada and the U.S. outlining his vision for a more integrated North America. Perhaps most provocative was his proposal to open the U.S.-Mexican border once the wage disparity between the two is narrowed. Fox spoke on the NewsHour last night.
VICENTE FOX: I'm talking about a community of North America, an integrated agreement of Canada, the United States, and Mexico in the long term, 20, 30, 40 years from now. And this means that some of the steps we can take is, for instance, to agree that in five years we will make this convergence on economic variables. That may mean 10 years we can open up that border when we have reduced the gap in salaries and income.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Exact figures on Mexican immigration are hard to come by, but somewhere around 350,000 Mexican immigrants are believed to enter the United States each year, the vast majority illegally.
Many who try to come don't make it. The U.S. Border Patrol last year made 1.5 million apprehensions. Some of those who are caught keep trying until they do get through. The journey can be extremely dangerous. At least 100 people have died so far this year crossing the border according to some estimates. The Mexican press has reported that 340 have died. Some drowned; others were shot; still others died of exposure and dehydration.
In the New York Times today President-elect Fox wrote: "The violent deaths of my countrymen on the border are simply intolerable."
|A new vision for the border|
FARNSWORTH: For more we turn to Raphael Fernandez De Castro, professor
of international relations at the Autonomous Technological Institute of
Mexico, known as ITAM, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution;
he was a member of a binational study on migration funded by the United
States and Mexico. Philip Martin, chairman of the University of California's
Comparative Immigration and Integration Program; he was also a member
of the binational study on migration. And Peter Andreas, Assistant Professor
of Political Science at Reed College and author of Border Games, Policing
the U.S.-Mexico Divide.
Mr. Fernandez De Castro, would you put this proposal or the proposals by the president-elect in the Mexican context. What's the problem he wants to solve?
RAPHAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO, ITAM University: Well, what he wants to do is to put migration on the table. We haven't discussed migration much in the last 10 years; when we were trying to pass NAFTA through the U.S. Congress, President Salinas decided to put migration under the table. Now it's on the table, and what President Fox is doing, he's putting - he's setting up a vision. This is not a proposal; it's a vision of immigration that sets up a course for the Mexican economy that is setting up a course that is only in the long run will Mexico have a per capita income similar to the one of the U.S., then migration from Mexico will stop coming into the U.S.
He's also put in a vision of the border. The border lately has become truly the bottleneck of the NAFTA expansion and what President Fox is trying to do here is to have the border of a very important element in this NAFTA partnership that we Mexicans and Americans launched here since '94 - and which has been very positive for the Mexican economy.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Philip Martin. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
RAPHAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO: Again, this is a vision, not a proposal. He's only president-elect, and he will develop in the next month a proposal, which has to be very creative and which has to be very smart.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Philip Martin, recognizing that this is a vision and not a proposal, is it a realistic vision, especially the 10-year part that he spoke to Margaret about last night?
PHILIP MARTIN, University of California, Davis: Well, I applaud President-elect Fox for laying out a vision which shows Mexico coming closer to the United States. We are already integrating economically. There are in many parts of the southwestern United States already sort of a - a mixture of American and Mexican culture, and what President-elect Fox has done is say that in the future the two biggest countries in North America will be - will come ever closer, and the closeness, which he said could be up to 40 years, could be symbolized by reducing, rather than increasing, the Border Patrol.
But it's important to emphasize, as both as candidates Gore and Bush said, that in the short term this magical wand of eliminating border patrols is not likely to happen, and so as a vision, as to where these two large economies in North America are going, I think it's admirable. It's an historic reversal for Mexico, which used to say "so far from God, so close to the United States" as a curse, but now say so close to the United States as a vision to shoot for. And I think that's very good.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But specifically, is it realistic to think that in 10 years, for example, you could get the wage differential down and perhaps drop some restrictions?
PHILIP MARTIN: It's -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is it desirable?
PHILIP MARTIN: It's important to keep in mind that around the world we know that when wage differences get down to three or four or five to one, economically motivated migration slows, and pretty much reaches an equilibrium. That was true between Southern Europe and Northern Europe. Therefore, we don't have to make the incomes and wages in Mexico be exactly what they are in the United States so long as we close that gap -- which is now eight or nine to one -- to four or five to one we will dramatically slow the migration. That is not likely to happen in 10 years; it might happen between 10 and 20 years. So if - we are on the right track. We're doing what needs to be done, to excelerate economic and job growth in Mexico, as well as in the United States. But it is a slow process, and Mr. Fox has laid out a vision as to where he would like to see it come, but it will not happen overnight.
|The border paradox|
|ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Peter Andreas, you've written about
the border and the policing there. Give us -- explain that context. How
bad a situation is it from the point of view of people coming over. I
noticed the American Foreign Service Committee has a press release today
giving all the names of the people that died and they're 14 years old,
16 years old, 19 years old.
PETER ANDREAS, Reed College: That's right. I mean, the situation at the border is rather paradoxical because we have the busiest border crossing in the entire world and also arguably one of the most heavily fortified. I can't think of two friendly countries that have a more intensively patrolled and policed border and some would even call increasingly militarized border. Hundreds of Mexicans are dying every year getting into the United States. And the tragedy of it all is, is that really the U.S. is sending mixed messages. One is: don't come. We're going to stop you at the border. You may die at the border. But the other message is if you get across, if you go through the gauntlet, you have a job waiting for you, basically you have an open door policy in the fields and factories but not at the border. And there is some hypocrisy involved there obviously.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So just put that - put what the president-elect has been saying in that context. What do you think of what he is saying and what we're going to do about that?
PETER ANDREAS: What I admire about Mr. Fox' proposal is that it's bold and visionary. I mean, everybody complains that politicians don't have the vision thing. Well, he has clearly shown he's got that. He has got very good advisors who are very familiar with U.S.-Mexico relationships. I don't think there is any no pretense on the Mexican part -- that this is going to be taken enormously seriously in the short-term in the United States, but political it is a boon for him I think domestically in Mexico. I can't think of a more politically popular statement he could have said to the Mexican public about the U.S.-Mexico relationship: Open the border. We're friends, not enemies, and so forth. So I applaud that. Obviously, you know, if I was president of Mexico, I would think this is exactly the strategy one should pursue but, of course, this is a long-term vision as he said many times himself. And in the short-term politically in the United States this isn't going to go very far obviously.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is that true, Mr. Fernandez de Castro, that this is really popular in Mexico?
RAPHAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO: He is very popular in Mexico. His approval rates in Mexico are above 84 percent. I read 86 percent.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And this proposal is really popular? Or these ideas?
RAPHAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO: I would say it's popular, but it's hard to tell. I wouldn't say that Mexicans in general have become so interested in U.S.-Mexican relations right now. We're very much thinking in the election, we're very much thinking the popularity of Mr. Fox itself. We're thinking domestic issues. And this is, I would say, interesting for the Mexican people.
I wanted to add of what Peter Andreas was saying. The way we Mexicans see this is that the time has come to recognize that the U.S. policy towards Mexican migration of the last six years or so, this militarization of the U.S. Southwest border, has been a big failure. It's been a big failure because the only thing you really have done is to increase the agents of the Border Patrol, put a lot of these technological devices at the border and you have achieved very, very little.
And basically what you have achieved is to change the routes of the Mexican crossing to the U.S. Instead of going through San Diego, now they go through Arizona. In these very dangerous places. And that explains that in the last five years more than 500 Mexicans have died trying to cross into this.
Another very important feature of this failure is that it hasn't, all of this militarization of the border has not changed the willingness of the Mexicans to cross. When they have been apprehended at the border, they try and try and try again. And this causes a big problem because last year we have 1.5 million apprehensions of Mexicans trying to cross. And this creates a lot of problems in terms of human rights. So the possibilities of human rights problems expanded a lot. And we Mexicans, we're very sensitive to these issues. We have these great images about Mexican migrants. We tend to idolize the migrants. I guess, finally Mr. Fox, in the way is saying let's talk about migration, let's improve the management of this very complicated issue.
|Expanding the guest worker program|
FARNSWORTH: Okay. Before you respond or respond briefly to that if you
want, but Philip Martin, I want to get on to the specific thing that the
President-elect did talk about, which is giving more visas to people who
come over, which is essentially expanding what has always been called
the guest worker program in the United States. He did talk about that
rather specifically. What is the history of that and is that a good idea?
And do respond to what Professor Fernandez de Castro said if you want,
PHILIP MARTIN: Let me just say that while I applaud, and I think many people applaud Mr. Fox for his vision, it's going to be very difficult to start with what has been a very troublesome issue between the United States and Mexico for most of the 20th century. In truth, the United States is not going to have a massive development aid program for Mexico. We are creating more jobs through freer trade and more investment. And we have to be careful that while we're on the right long-run road for economic integration, we don't do something on the migration front that slows that integration and job growth as opposed to accelerates it.
So what happens is, is that the one concrete element that could come out of what Mr. Fox proposed is a large-scale program by which the United States would grant not the roughly 100,000 legal immigrant visas per year, plus perhaps another 30 or 40,000 temporary work visas, but instead grant about 300,000 per year.
And, in exchange, Mexico would do more to try to control people from leaving illegally. Right now there is fairly open massing of people on the Mexican side of the border up against seven or eight thousand Border Patrol agents. So we do know what the problems are.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What would be the problem with that, briefly?
PHILIP MARTIN: The main problem historically is that there is nothing more permanent than temporary workers. All the programs tend to get bigger and last longer than anyone ever anticipated; that is under the Bracero program, more Mexicans were apprehended coming illegally than ever came legally as Braceros. So what one would have to do in another new big guest worker program is to make sure that people coming illegally are funneled into the legal program so that we don't have more legal immigrants coming in as well as illegals. In the past, they were not... the guest worker program was not a substitute for illegal immigration. Instead, it was an add-on. And so there is the real challenge to design a program that does not wind up increasing the number of people coming north and the dependence of U.S. employers on those people coming north -- and to channel the illegal immigration to legal channels and not make it worse is a very, very difficult challenge.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Peter Andreas, we have just a little time. Do you want to respond to both Mr. Fernandez de Castro and Mr. Martin?
PETER ANDREAS: First on Raphael Fernandez de Castro's point about the failure of the border policy: On the one hand while recognizing the very clear failures in terms of deterrents, stopping the sheer number of people crossing the border, the INS has, in a fairly short period of time, has been able to establish an image of greater law and order along key segments of the border - say Tijuana, San Diego, El Paso, Juarez, and so forth -- that gives the image of a successful policy. And it's this very image which has been -- has made the policy so politically successful domestically in the United States. But this should not substitute for long-term immigration policy between the U.S. and Mexico. On Fox's vision, I mean, really he would like the United States to treat Mexico as the rest of he EU say treats Italy or treats Spain. When, in fact, the current model is treating Mexico as the EU treats Morocco. And so the vision is actually to bring Mexico in, rather than have Mexico out. And certainly that's to be applauded in the long term.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you all three very much.
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