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City Journal Winter 2006.
Winter 2006
Table of Contents
  L etters

Diplomatic Impunity

To the editor:
I write in response to Heather Mac Donald’s article “Mexico’s Undiplomatic Diplomats” [Autumn 2005]. I would like to stress my deep concern regarding its misrepresentation of both the nature and the purpose of Mexico’s policies toward Mexican nationals living in the United States.

In no way is the Mexican government trying to “get [migrants] into the United States in violation of American law,” as Mac Donald states. By publishing documents such as the Guía del Migrante, Mexican authorities are solely seeking to prevent the more than 350 tragic deaths that occur at the border every year, and to provide information about the risks of crossing the border illegally or residing in the United States without the required documentation.

By promoting the use and acceptance of consular IDs, a practice recognized by the Vienna Convention and exercised by most countries, including the United States, Mexico does not seek to interfere in the internal affairs of the U.S. Far from the deceiving characterization as “subversive” used in the article, a consular ID does not alter a person’s migratory status; it merely states that an individual is a Mexican national and provides his address in the U.S. American local authorities, financial institutions, and police departments have acknowledged consular IDs as an asset in a post-9/11 world.

One of the most significant achievements of President Vicente Fox’s administration has been its concern for Mexicans living and working abroad.

This cornerstone of our foreign policy is a source of pride for our country and is a regulated and established practice in international affairs. But I firmly believe in drawing a clear distinction between such protection, which Mexican consuls throughout the world have tirelessly worked for, and unacceptable interference with internal issues, which the Mexican government does not accept or promote.

Gerónimo Gutiérrez
Undersecretary for North America
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico

To the editor:
Heather Mac Donald argues that I am objecting to the application of local and state regulations such as housing and fire codes on Long Island. In my statements regarding the eviction of day laborers from overcrowded houses in Suffolk County, I have repeatedly emphasized that I do not question the local authorities’ right and obligation to ensure that landlords and tenants comply with housing regulations. What I have stated is that Suffolk County authorities are engaged in a selective application and enforcement of those regulations in what is clearly a campaign against day laborers in that county and a violation of their human rights.

Arturo Sarukhan
Consul General of Mexico in New York

To the editor:
As a retired diplomat who was posted in Guadalajara for two years, I can tell you that any American diplomat in Mexico who conducted himself in the manner you describe would almost certainly have been labeled persona non grata and expelled by the Mexican government. More important, nearly any American diplomat would consider such behavior grossly unprofessional, highly improper, and a violation of his status in the country.

Ray Caldwell
Via e-mail

Heather Mac Donald responds:
I have no doubt that Mexico is trying to prevent crossing deaths by publishing the Guía del Migrante. Such a motive is not the same, however, as trying to prevent the crossings themselves. Were Mexico serious about that, it could start enforcing its own laws against illegal exits from the country. It could stop providing safe escort through the desert to illegal crossers. It could stop giving advice to would-be illegal crossers on how to breach the borders safely and avoid detection once here. It could send an unequivocal message that Mexican citizens have no right to violate U.S. laws and that doing so hurts Mexico’s relationship with its neighbor to the north. Most radically, it could dismantle its wasteful public sector, which sucks so much vibrancy out of the Mexican economy, and promote free-market reforms.

Undersecretary Gutiérrez objects to my characterization of the matricula consular campaign as “subversive.” Perhaps he would prefer “militant,” which is how Mexico’s former foreign secretary, Jorge Castañeda, described it. Mr. Castañeda understood quite well that this unprecedented effort to persuade American authorities to recognize the card has one purpose only: to further normalize the status of illegal Mexican aliens within the U.S.

The undersecretary believes that “interference with internal issues” is “unacceptable” for consuls. That is welcome news. He might instruct them to stop denouncing the enforcement of American laws; the consul general in New York, Arturo Sarukhan, would be a good place to start. Mr. Sarukhan claims that he was protesting only the “selective enforcement” of fire and housing codes when Suffolk County officials shut down three houses, containing a total of over 100 occupants, last July. But Mr. Sarukhan provides no evidence that the authorities are ignoring similarly overcrowded housing containing legal residents. Until he does, his charge of biased enforcement will look like window dressing for his real complaint: that the enforcement of neutral laws that have a disproportionate impact on illegal Mexicans is, as he puts it, a “violation of their human rights.”

Call It Overtime

To the editor:
Steven Malanga’s piece [“The Conspiracy Against the Taxpayers,” Autumn 2005] was a superb documentation of a horrific situation. Consider a follow-up piece on the numbers of public-sector employees who are also members of state legislatures. Most state legislatures are part time. In my state, Washington, about 75 percent of all members of the legislature are also current public employees, retired public employees, members of public-employee families, or contractors for public funds. Within the Democratic Party, this figure is close to 100 percent.

The Speaker of the House here leads a home-health-care organization, for example, and led the successful effort to include home-health-care workers in collective bargaining units. The Democratic Party actively recruits public employees to run for office. The presence of public employees in the legislature, in overpowering numbers, turns the legislative branch of government into an arm of an expanding executive branch.

In addition, the absence of ordinary taxpayer representation—and experience—permits lawmakers to ignore private-sector impacts. They simply have no experience in the private sector, which is, of course, the bank for their activities. What we have here is an enormous transfer of wealth from the private sector, particularly the working class and lower middle class, to the increasingly wealthy public sector.

Sue Robinson
Camano Island, WA

To the editor:
Houstonians have done something about the problem that Steven Malanga describes. In November 2004 we passed Proposition 2, which requires that in any year that the city council wishes to increase total city revenues and expenditures (including debt service) more than the combined rate of increase in population and inflation, it must first obtain 60 percent voter approval.

Bob Lemer
Author of
Proposition 2
Houston, TX

Big Danger in the Big Easy

To the editor:
Normally, I try not to read outsiders’ views of what is going on in New Orleans. It’s amazing how far off the mark they can be. But Nicole Gelinas’s article “Who’s Killing New Orleans?” [Autumn 2005] hits the bull’s-eye. Its details about New Orleans are insightful and accurate.

The police believe that they can now keep the murder numbers low. Those of us who know and love the city don’t share their confidence. Without some kind of intervention, the city will never flourish again.

Eileen Engel
Hammond, LA

To the editor:
I support Nicole Gelinas’s recommendations of a protected zone in New Orleans to secure its citizens, and of local accountability regarding any federal funding.

Before Katrina, I was an owner of a software company with about ten employees in New Orleans—most of whom have since vacated to our Florida office. Today, I am a member of a local vigilante group that has attempted to provide some level of security in the absence of police protection.

New Orleans has a well-founded reputation for corruption in government. The entrenched political establishment has had an interest in maintaining an undereducated, underpaid, entitlement-dependent, easily malleable, and predominantly black lower class. My company is disinclined to return to a city with a permanent underclass, with all the personal safety issues discussed in Ms. Gelinas’s article.

John Ryan
New Orleans, LA

To the editor:
It’s wrong for Nicole Gelinas to criticize New Orleans, my hometown. I now live in Detroit, which is much worse. For the last five years, Detroit’s violent-crime rate has been almost double that of New Orleans, and it was rated the most dangerous big city this year.

Also, since Gelinas says that New Orleans has more murders per capita than New York, she should also say that East St. Louis, Illinois, and Highland Park, Michigan, have more murders per capita than New Orleans. Those cities aren’t put on many lists because they have fewer than 100,000 residents, but if you can compare New Orleans with New York, which is 16 times larger, then you also need to compare it with cities that are 16 times smaller.

Mark Dargin
Detroit, MI

Nicole Gelinas responds:
Detroit’s overall violent-crime rate is indeed higher than New Orleans’s. However, as I noted in my article, New Orleans’s specialty before Katrina was murder. In 2004, New Orleans’s per-capita murder rate was 56 per 100,000 inhabitants; Detroit’s was 42.

Neither the FBI nor the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which reliably track crime statistics, gives murder figures for East St. Louis, only for the metropolitan region that includes its 30,000 inhabitants. That region records a murder rate of about eight per 100,000. And only HUD reports reliable statistics for Highland Park: over the six years for which recent data are available, this city of 17,000 has reported murder rates ranging from 53 to 101 per 100,000 inhabitants (the figures vary wildly from year to year because the city is so small).

I would agree with Mr. Dargin that Highland Park is a dangerous place to live, more dangerous than pre-Katrina New Orleans. However, I do not agree that Highland Park can be compared with traditional urban areas like New Orleans and New York. Highland Park is surrounded by, and dependent on, Detroit, with no real economy of its own; New York and New Orleans are historically independent cities with the diverse industrial, economic, racial, educational, and cultural characteristics one expects to see in an urban environment.

 

 


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