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U.S., Mexico relationship at crucial crossroads

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2001 10:00 pm

Reliable Washington, D.C., sources confirm that President "Jorge" Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of State Colin Powell have formed a mariachi band called "Los Tres Chiflados" ("The Three Stooges").

The trio plans to serenade Mexican President Vicente Fox in September with a rousing version of "El sol que tu eres." ("You Are My Sunshine")

Let's pick up where I left off last week. An 800-word column is hardly enough space to cover all of the reasons why a United States capitulation to Mexico on amnesty or guest-worker programs would be a nightmare.

Over the last three months, I have written repeatedly that Fox faces plenty of challenges at home. He has no business in the U.S. telling us how things are going to be when he faces serious domestic woes. Joe Guzzardi

Fox wants to send his poorest people to the U.S. under the guise of "win-win." Of course, the more needy, unemployed people Fox can send north, the fewer he will have to deal with in Mexico. This glaring fact has escaped our fearless federal leaders.

On July 22, New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson wrote another story about Fox's problems in Mexico. In her story, "Farm unrest roils Mexico, challenging new president," Thompson states that because of the farm crisis, Fox will soon have to find alternative employment for millions of subsistence farmers who are going out of business daily. (Thompson's story is online.. Access through the archives is free until Saturday. Registration is free, but required to use the New York Times Web site.)

Secretary of Agriculture Javier Usabiaga, summing up the plight of the Mexican farmer, said, "In essence, he is going to have to find another job. He is going to have to become a part-time farmer.

"We have to change an entire culture. A small farmer, no matter how productive, is not going to be able to make enough money to survive," Usabiaga added.

This is bad news not only for the Mexican farmers but also for California. As the farm situation deteriorates in Mexico, all eyes are looking north.

The governors of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Nayarit confirm that the farming crises have forced more people to flee to the U.S.

Fox would no doubt love to send his bankrupt sugar growers to the U.S. under a legal guest-worker program. Things are so much easier for a president when he can send his most beleaguered citizens to another country.

In several Mexican states, the signs of deep-seated resentment toward Fox are everywhere.

In Campeche, rice farmers commandeered the cereal plants to force a renegotiation of bank debt that they cannot repay.

Gov. Juan S. Millan declared a state of emergency in Sinaloa. Pablo Salazar, governor of Chiapas, noted that the most severely affected states are those most prone to armed uprisings.

Where is Bush's crony Señor Vicente Fox as all of this unfolds? He is in Denver, Chicago and Milwaukee telling anyone who will listen that illegal aliens must have driver's licenses and in-state tuition rates.

Instead of giving Fox the proverbial abrazo, Bush should give point him home with good wishes for solving Mexico's problems.

Throughout the debate on whether or not the U.S. should grant amnesty to illegal aliens or devise a newer, kinder guest-worker program, those in favor are forever writing in the prosaic, almost poetic terms.

Louis Freedberg in the July 22 San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Now it is Mexico's turn to be wooed, seduced and embraced." In the same article, Demetrios Papademetriou, co-director of the Migration Policy Institute, said, "The unsavvy thing, the politically stupid thing would be to kill the Mexico deal. You have to deal first with the one country that will offer the best return on our investment."

The U.S. should woo, seduce and embrace Mexico? Am I reading this correctly? And Mexico offers the best return on our investment? Exactly what is Mexico offering beside some vague and transparent promise to "maybe" do a better job of policing the border?

How about if we deal in facts? According to a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, the following is the true picture of Mexicans living in California:

. 69 percent of Mexicans and their children live in poverty. That is double the rate for U.S. natives and their children.

. 36 percent of households headed by Mexican immigrants receive aid from one of the major welfare programs.

. 41 percent of Mexican immigrants and their children have no health insurance while 13 percent of U.S. natives and their families are without insurance.

. 25 percent of the K-12 enrollment of public schools is comprised of the children of Mexican immigrants.

Even ardent pro-immigrant advocates do not challenge these figures.

We're at the crossroads. Powell and Ashcroft continue to negotiate with Mexico behind the scenes. America is kept in the dark while talks go on between one nation with everything to gain and another nation with lots to lose.

Sooner or later, Congress will have its say. By that time, the outcome of the Mexican-U.S. talks about "regularization" may depend on the voice of the people.

If the people object strongly enough, Congress may back away. But if only a whimper is heard, then Fox will prevail.

Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.

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