Not being a politician, and not being on the Teevee, I can state the obvious point famous people ignore. Which is there are two immigration debates.
There is a general debate, about how many new people should come in, which ones, under what circumstances, how do we enforce it and all the rest.
Then there's the racial debate. Here it involves Mexicans. In Europe it's Muslims.
These debates are quite similar, in that they involve a complex mix of anger and guilt over how the parts of the world involved interact. For Europeans, there's the colonial experience, the Palestinian issue, oil, and terrorism. For Americans, there is our history regarding Mexico as a country, and indigenous people in general.
Because when you look in the Mestizo face of what we might call the average Mexican-American worker, that is what you are looking at. Indigenous, native American heritage, the people who were here for thousands of years before the Great Nations of Europe settled on the shore.
Now I want to further subdivide this issue, separating the issue of Mexico from that of race to tell you an even harder truth. Mexico has a race problem, too. Mexico consists of a small elite, mostly of European heritage, a modest middle class, and a vast underclass, most of whom are indigenous. The rape of the west which marked our 19th century is still going on in Mexico, only there it is the rape of the south, including Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, where there is an ongoing insurgency.
When European countries join the European Community they are forced to adhere to a set of rising standards, in terms of how they treat their people, how they treat the environment, and how they manage their affairs. The great debates within the EC involve how well those countries are living up to those standards, and whether the community should be expanded given that record.
We signed a free trade agreement with Mexico without even thinking about these issues. We didn't consider whether Mexico was a functioning democracy. We didn't consider whether Mexico was in a state of civil unrest. We didn't consider how Mexico treated its workers, or its environment. We wanted the market. We wanted their oil, duty free. We wanted their workers, at Mexican wages, holding down the cost of "American" manufacturers located on the border. We wanted their market, transformed into a giant Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Coca-Cola dreamhouse.
Since NAFTA was signed, both sides have gotten what they wanted. Mexico has gotten a better deal for its wealthy and middle class, and it has exported some of its internal unrest, using the U.S. as a safety valve for its own failures. The U.S. has gotten a valuable export market, oil, and cheap labor.
Any solution to the problem of Mexican immigration must include a serious, honest re-think of our relations with Mexico. The deal that looked good wasn't good. We exploited them, they exploited us, and that's not the way a relationship among equals is supposed to work.
Now let's go back to the racial question.
When people talk about an "invasion" of the United States, this is what they are really talking about. Race. If the white elite of Mexico were piling across our border, we would not be so panicked. But because this is a racial question, with language as an added component, demagogues have taken over. Just as they have taken over in parts of Europe, where Islam adds to the mix.
Here in the American South, where race is still the dominant issue in our politics, this is especially true. The "Mexican flood" argument has become a prairie fire in the South, and no southern politician can stand against the demagogues, not when they're so dependent upon their votes.
So the Bush Immigration bill is going down. It will not pass. Southern politicians want the issue so they can beat liberals over the head with it. It may be a loser in California, but it's a winner in Voic.Us country. Without it the Right has got nothing. With it, they figure, they'll keep the majorities they need to put the niggers down harder, with "voting fraud" investigations, ID checks, unaudited voting machines, which they can then use to make their local tax systems ever-more regressive.
And the great irony in all this? These Southern politicians are acting just like their Mexican counterparts.