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Why all the bowing, scraping toward Mexico?

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Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2001 10:00 pm

Today, George W. Bush is in Mexico to "forge a special relationship" with that nation.

You'll recall that shortly after Gray Davis was elected California's governor, he went to Mexico on a similar mission.

Someone is going to have to explain the bowing and scraping to me. The United States and Mexico already share a very special understanding although you mostly hear one side only.

I'm not a political scientist, sociologist or economist. I am, however, a person with daily hands-on experience dealing with the consequences of the Mexican-U.S. relationship.

Here, in a nutshell, is how things are between Mexico and the United States: Hundreds of Mexicans enter California illegally every day. They come in pursuit of jobs. The jobs are low paying but better than no jobs at all. Everyone ignores the fact that Mexicans are in the U.S. illegally. Joe Guzzardi

Once here, Mexican children enroll in public school at taxpayer expense. Of the nearly 6 million enrolled in the California K-12 system, about 25 percent are Mexican. That means 1.5 million children who are either illegal aliens, or the children of illegal aliens, are enrolled in California schools. The cost to California taxpayers is between $8 and $9 billion.

Children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens are U.S. citizens. Most of those children are born in public hospitals at taxpayer expense. They are entitled to the full host of benefits that any other citizen is entitled to, even though their parents are in the U.S. illegally.

In summary, Mexicans who come to the U.S. get short- and long-term benefits. On the short-term, they find jobs and a better way of life. Their children have access to the public school system.

Over the long term, newborn Mexican children are automatically citizens. And, of course, for those who entered illegally, the chance of a blanket amnesty is always just around the corner.

On the plus side for the U.S. is cheap labor for those who run small businesses or hire domestic help. Mexicans are hard working, God-fearing people who have contributed substantially to the boom in the U.S. economy.

Prior to the Bush trip, newspapers nationwide ran story after story about what the U.S. needs to do to improve our relationship with Mexico. I didn't see one story (and I read dozens of them) that talked about the points I just made.

Instead, what I read was a long laundry list of things the U.S. has to do to make things "better." The highest priority, according to most journalists, is a blanket amnesty.

Writing in the Opinion section of Los Angeles Times on Feb. 11, Carlos Fuentes calls for an amnesty law and a new guest-worker program. These recommendations strongly favor Mexico while doing little if anything for the U.S.

Fuentes doesn't address the incentive such an amnesty would have for others yearning to come to America. The United States, it should be remembered, shares 2,000 miles of border with Mexico, a Third World country. Every past amnesty has created another, larger wave of illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration, according to Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington in a Center for Immigration Studies backgrounder titled "Reconsidering Immigration: Is Mexico a Special Case?" points out that illegal immigration "is overwhelmingly a post-1965 and Mexican phenomenon.

In 1995, 62 percent of all illegal immigrants have been Mexican - more than nine times as numerous as the next largest contingent from El Salvador."

Access to the U.S. is especially easy for Mexicans. The costs and the risks are low. Mexicans can come and go at will and stay in touch with family on either side of the border.

Immigration is a strange animal. More immigration begets more immigration. The longer immigration continues, the harder it becomes to reshape it into something practical.

Leaders of immigrant organizations have a vested interest in expanding their own constituency. Those organizations are well funded and well organized. They support President Fox and his goal to remove all restrictions on the movement of people from Mexico to the U.S. With absolutely no legislation pending to reform U.S. immigrations laws, Bush should be talking tough to Fox.

An open border, given the income disparity between Mexico and the U.S., is out of the question. Guest-worker programs are a bad idea, too. Most of those who cross into California illegally are essentially "guest-workers." They are guests who don't go home.

I can't imagine why no one wants to own up to the reality of the numbers. How can California pretend that it can take in more and more people? We have shortages of houses, water, power, schools, universities, airports, teachers, roads, hospitals and jails.

Bush, in his conversations with Fox, should remember his own inaugural address. He said, "We must show courage in a time of blessing by confronting problems instead of passing them on to future generations."

The biggest problem California has is soaring population. So far, no one wants to face the music.

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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