Coming to America - Two Tales and Two Methods

I generally believe - as the son of one immigrant and the spouse of another - that anyone who wants to come here and make a better life for themselves is welcome here. I also believe that nothing occurs in a vacuum; where there are results, there must be causes. If people are risking everything for the slim opportunity to do what amounts to scut work here in the US, then their options in their own country must be severely limited.

If you want to understand how tragically unjust a society Mexico is,
you need look no further than these two articles in the New York Times: one on Saturday on the front page and one in the Real Estate section on Sunday.

The Saturday article is about immigration, in particular, the horribly grim story of Felicitas Martínez Barradas:

"I can't breathe," Felicitas Martínez Barradas gasped to her cousin as they stumbled across the border in 100-degree heat. "The sun is killing me."

They had been walking for a day and a half through the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, the purgatory that countless illegal immigrants pass through on their way from Mexico to the United States. 

Ms. Martínez was 29 and not fit. A smuggler handed her a can of carbonated energy drink and caffeine pills. But she only got sicker and passed out, said her cousin, Julio Díaz.

  There, near a mesquite tree a little over 10 miles from the border,Ms. Martínez died, her eyes open to the starry sky, her arms across her chest and Mr. Díaz, 17, at her side.

Gone was her dream of making enough money in the United States for a house for her four young children in Mexico.

Expect it to only get worse. What I find disturbing about our government's policy is the fact that the crackdown on illegal border crossings have been designed to drive potential illegal crossers to the inhospitable Sonoran Desert, ostensibly with an eye towards discouraging such crossings. In that regard it really doesn't appear to have worked in quite the way they expected:

The Border Patrol has reported a large drop in the number of illegal
immigrants apprehended at the border with Mexico this year, the consequence, the agency says, of additional agents and the presence of National Guard troops. Yet the number of migrants dying while trying to cross here in Pima County is on pace to set a record, according to the county medical examiner.

Pima County, which includes the Tucson area, is one of the busiest areas for illegal crossings along the 2,000-mile border. The medical examiner's office handled 177 deaths of border crossers in the first eight months of this year, compared with 139 over the same period last year and 157 in 2005, the year the most such deaths were registered.

As for the Sunday article, it discusses the ease and frequency in which wealthy Mexicans are able to gain residence legally in the US. One woman profiled has absolutely no interest in becoming a US citizen:

ANA LUISA SANCHEZ MACCISE, a Mexican citizen, is neither seeking a
path to American citizenship nor living a fitful undocumented existence. Yet she lives and works in Houston, where she sends her son to a local private school. She has another home in Mexico City, where her husband still works. He visits his family in Houston regularly.

Mrs. Maccise is among a small but growing group of Mexican citizens who are creating parallel lives in this sprawling city north of the
border; Dallas and San Antonio are other cities of choice.

Their motives are more than economic. They are also seeking a safe haven for themselves and their families, away from the threats of kidnapping, ransom and even murder that are routinely directed at wealthy Mexicans.

How does she get to live and work in the US? She has a business visa granted to her by a provision in NAFTA that allows for those involved in a Mexican business doing business in the United States. So, what is her business? Did she open a factory here? Do she have a service business? No, she owns a franchise of a Mexican jewelry store chain. Here's her reason for living in Houston:

"Right now in Mexico City, the situation is not good because of safety problems," said Mrs. Maccise, who is 43. "You can be robbed anytime in any restaurant. You can't drive a nice car. You can't wear a nice watch. So I really like the U.S. because I feel free."

I don't begrudge her desire for safety and a more tranquil life. I wonder how she feels or even spares a thought about those whose desire to put food on their families' plates and a roof over their heads necessitates their having to risk life and limb for the privilege of crossing a desert to provide for the most basic needs in their lives.


While the passage of this tax reform law is a step in the right direction, so much more needs to be done. One wonders if those who are able to take the easy way out, like Ms. Maccise are as dedicated to improving the lives of their significantly less privileged fellow citizens as they are in being able to drive nice cars or wear nice watches.

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