mexico and its anti-US demeanor

Posted on June 3, 2007


Poor Miss USA.

What an awful time she had in Mexico City recently for the Miss Universe pageant.

To her immense credit, this year’s Miss USA, Rachel Smith, did not sink to the level of her tormentors and not only kept her composure, she also showed them what good breeding and grace is all about.

The unfortunate woman was the target of Mexican anger and angst against the US government. She faced hostility throughout her time in Mexico City, from the preliminary stages, right up to the night of the finals, when the crowds at the Auditorio Nacional booed her while she was answering questions from the judges.

That type of behavior from Mexicans is perplexing. Mexicans are generally extremely courteous, warm and hospitable to visitors. But their shocking behavior in front of an international audience highlights the tensions between the two neighbors.

American athletes have also been on the receiving end of abuse by Mexicans, most significantly in 2004, when American soccer players traveled for games to Mexico and faced crowds chanting “Osama, Osama” at them and booing when the Star-Spangled banner was played.

So while there are those who are risking life and limb to swim across treacherous waters, walk through arid deserts or scale high fences to get into the US for a better life for themselves and their families, there are those, such as the Mexican elite and government, who conveniently use the US as a boogeyman for much of the country’s troubles to whip up anti-US sentiments and deflect from their own failures.

It’s a strange dichotomy. People in the know confirm the New York Times’ analysis — many of the nation’s rich are busy enrolling their kids in American schools, so much so that one of the American schools in Mexico City isn’t really an American school anymore, as about 70 per cent of its students are actually Mexican.

But the Mexican audience’s reaction to poor Miss USA could enrage and even galvanize feelings against the immigration reform measures currently before Congress. It’s understandable how Americans would feel outrage at what’s regarded as an entitlement mentality by illegal immigrants, who were unwelcome in the first place, broke US laws to enter the country, and are now demanding to be granted amnesty and legal status.

A country has a right to choose whom it welcomes into it. The US has the absolute right of preferring highly skilled or educated people to become guests workers or migrants. Many other developed countries have those rules. That attitude should not be seen as discriminatory. After all, why should countries like the US pay for the failed policies of the illegal immigrants’ governments? It doesn’t help that Mexico’s government is lobbying for the immigration reforms as its economy is actually heavily dependent on remittances from its citizens abroad, many of them illegal, to the tune of $20 billion last year. One could even accuse the Mexican authorities of abetting the illegal immigration, such as by calling illegal immigrants “heroes” and giving its illegals a “survival kit” when they attempt to sneak into the US. No wonder an estimated three quarters of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the US are Mexicans.

The plight of illegal immigrants is sympathetic and they ought to have a shot at a better life. But, after moving to Mexico City and witnessing the corruption, incompetence and the overall malaise of the Mexican government, which isn’t doing enough for its own citizens and fobbing its responsibilities off to a foreign government and people, I can understand the anger of those on the side of anti-illegal immigration. The US should not be Mexico’s safety net. Mexicans have to solve their own problems. It’s sad that the Mexican poor are unfortunate enough to be caught in this tug of war, but if they should blame anyone, it should be their own government.

On the other hand, big businesses in the US wanting cheap labor and hiring illegal immigrants to keep prices down should also be prosecuted. At the same time, consumers shouldn’t complain if prices went up.

Countries like Australia, Canada and those in the European Union have strict requirements about who they let in and also enforce deportation when those who don’t meet their requirements show up. A sovereign country like the US ought to have similar rules and should not have to feel apologetic if they sent more guards to the border or built more fences to secure the nation against illegal immigrants and stopped being lax about the issue.

And Miss USA should be proud of the dignity and class she displayed in the face of such ghastly behavior, even if it wasn’t personal.