The Mexican government constantly hectors the American people about how we should treat its illegal migrants. President Vicente Fox, Foreign Secretary Ernesto Derbez, and Mexican consuls in the United States insist that Americans should be grateful for the hundreds of thousands of surplus Mexicans who break across our border each year. Without them, these leaders explain, the American economy would grind to a halt (never mind that Mexico’s management of its own affairs would seem to undercut the officials’ economic expertise). Therefore, as a token of appreciation for keeping us afloat, say the Mexican apologists, we must grant amnesty to the law-breakers and reward them for illegal entry with a host of rights.

Fine. If Mexico wants to dictate our immigration policy to us, let’s follow their example to the letter. That example is particularly relevant on this further day of protests demanding amnesty for illegals. Among the demonstrators in at least 60 cities nationwide will undoubtedly be thousands of border lawbreakers. What would Mexico do? The answer is easy: deport them on the spot. In 2002, a dozen American college students, in Mexico legally, participated peacefully in an environmental protest against a planned airport outside of Mexico City. They swiftly found themselves deported as law-breakers for interfering in Mexico’s internal affairs.

If Mexico was willing to strip these students of their duly-obtained travel visas, imagine what it would have done had the students broken into the country surreptitiously—not just summary deportation but undoubtedly howls of complaint to the U.S. government for winking at this double violation of Mexican sovereignty. Open borders propagandists in the U.S. constantly present deportation as a patent act of cruelty that no right-thinking person would tolerate. Yet Mexico has no qualms about deporting not just illegals but legal immigrants as well whom it deems fractious.

If participation in an environmental protest constitutes unlawful interference in Mexico’s internal affairs, how much more intrusive would it deem mass demonstrations to legalize immigration law-breakers? No issue is more central to a country’s sovereignty than immigration policy. Yet we won’t be seeing any statements by Mexican diplomats today urging its citizens in the U.S. to refrain from efforts to influence American laws.

It is particularly delicious to imagine what would happen if American students in Mexico ran the American flag up a flag pole over an upside down Mexican flag, as students in a Southern California high school did last month. An international crisis! Each participant would be promptly ejected and possibly the American ambassador as well. When President Ernesto Zedillo tried to revise Mexican textbooks in the 1990s to be more favorable toward U.S. foreign policy, Mexico’s pundits denounced him as a traitor. Yet Mexican consuls in the U.S. work mightily to disseminate Mexican textbooks in U.S. schools and they have raised not a peep of remonstrance against Mexican protesters carrying signs such as THIS IS STOLEN LAND and WE DIDN’T CROSS THE BORDER, THE BORDER CROSSED US during the mass demonstrations last month.

Efforts to portray the student protesters in particular as modern day civil rights crusaders are laughable. Far from representing a sacrifice, cutting school is something of a tradition among Hispanics in the U.S., who have a high school dropout rate of just under 50 percent. Taxpayers must pay for the schooling of illegal aliens and their children, yet local schools get stiffed on their per-pupil payments from their state governments because truancy rates are so high. Immigration protests just drive the base truancy rate up higher. In December 2003, the school district in Santa Ana, California, the most Spanish-speaking large city in the country, promised to raffle off a color TV set to students who came to school on the day of a statewide protest against the repeal of a California law granting drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The streets won out over the free TV, and the district lost thousands of dollars in state funds.

Then there’s the question of whom we should favor in our immigration policy. Accept only the economic cream of other countries. Mexico’s immigration law grants preferences to scientists and other professionals likely to contribute to “national progress.” Peasants with third-grade educations aren’t high on their wish list; in fact they do everything they can to keep them out. Local observers have often alleged Mexico’s brutal treatment of impoverished Central Americans crossing its borders. Yet according to Mexican officials, millions of uneducated, unskilled campesinos are just what the American economy needs.

You have to admire the Mexican elites. They have a clear-sighted understanding of their country’s national interest—which lies above all in getting as many Mexican citizens as possible into the U.S. for their billions of dollars in remittances—and they’re unapologetic about pursuing it. Mass demonstrations that include illegal residents demanding that Mexico override its laws to accommodate them wouldn’t cow those elites for an instant. Too bad American officials can’t summon the same commitment to the wishes of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose the rewarding of law breaking. The U.S. government isn’t about to deport the thousands of illegals who will be exploiting the American right to protest today, but it should at least not be swayed by their mass show of force.


City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

Further Reading

Up Next