The Mexican government’s recent publication of a comic-book style pamphlet on how to safely cross the border is a direct affront to the country’s relationship with the United States. The two countries have pledged to work together on the problem of illegal immigration, yet this book serves as yet another sign of Mexico’s blatant disregard for that spirit of partnership.
The booklet, entitled “Guide for the Mexican Immigrant,” was released in December by Mexico’s Foreign Relations department. More than 1.5 million copies have already been distributed in the United States and Mexico.
Mexican officials claim the booklet was designed simply to warn would-be immigrants of the risks they would face when crossing illegally into the United States, thereby preventing unnecessary deaths.
If this is true, and the pamphlet simply discouraged illegal immigration in order to save lives, it would not be objectionable. Sneaking into the United States involves a perilous trip across the Rio Grande as well as five days of walking in the desert, where temperatures are often higher than 100 degrees.
At least 300 people died while trying to illegally enter the United States last year alone, according to U.S. government figures.
The pamphlet, in fact, is not a new idea. Mexico has been publishing booklets on the dangers of illegal immigration for years. The difference is that in the past, these pamphlets, as with similar pamphlets published by the U.S. government, simply warned of the dangers of illegal passage in order to discourage potential immigrants.
“Guide for the Mexican Migrant” takes this a step further, not only explaining the dangers, but also explaining how to get around them.
In addition to warning that “crossing the river can be very risky,” the guide explains that the way to get around this is to avoid big clothing. “Heavy clothing grows heavier when wet, and this makes it difficult to swim or float,” the pamphlet reads. It goes on to counsel migrants that “drinking water mixed with salt will help to replace lost body fluids” and prevent dehydration while crossing the desert. Those who find themselves lost are advised to “use power lines, train tracks or dirt roads as guides.”
These phrases are clearly not aimed at discouraging migrants. Rather, those who may have been previously discouraged may feel more secure sneaking across the border with the booklet’s advice in hand.
If this isn’t blatant enough, the booklet also includes advice on how to avoid being detected once migrants have successfully crossed the border. These suggestions include avoiding “loud parties,” “fights” and “domestic violence,” and encourage migrants not to divulge their migratory status if questioned by authorities.
These are clearly not instructions from a government that wishes to prevent its citizens from illegally entering the United States, which is fitting considering that Mexico has historically encouraged its citizens to migrate.
As Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington explains in his book on immigration, “Who Are We?” this is because Mexicans working in the United States make a significant contribution to the economy of Mexico by sending all their earnings home.
According to Huntington, “the Mexican government estimated that (money sent from the U.S. to Mexico) would increase by 35 percent in 2001, exceed $9 billion and probably replace tourism as Mexico’s second largest source of foreign exchange after oil exports.”
It’s clear that the Mexican government has something to be gained from illegal migration and has, since the 1980s, promoted the idea of dual nationalities for those who are willing to sneak themselves across the American border.
In fact, Mexican President Vicente Fox described these people in 2000 as “heroes” for having left the country in search of opportunity and for their contribution to the Mexican economy”.
This situation represents a unique threat both to the American economy and to its national sovereignty. The United States is a nation of laws. Any country that encourages its citizens to violate U.S. laws, does not respect the United States’ sovereignty, and is clearly not a good neighbor.
It is in the interest of both the United States and Mexico to engage in free trade and work together. However, it is not in the interest of the United States to put that friendship above its own interest and stand by while its national character is being uncontrollably shaped by illegal immigration and while its neighbors disregard its laws and borders.
While the publishing of this pamphlet does not constitute a national crisis, it does point to the fact that communication on and resolution of the subject of illegal immigration is necessary as we move into a new congressional and presidential term.