Newsday, February 18, 2004
There has been much well-deserved criticism of President George W. Bush's proposed amnesty and guestworker plan. But its possible effect on America's sovereignty has seldom been mentioned, even though that may be the most harmful in the long term.
Although the president's proposal is not specific to Mexico, it would benefit that nation the most. Some 5 million of the estimated 8 million illegal aliens here are Mexican, and Mexico would likely be one of the main sources of the new guestworkers and increased permanent immigration also called for in the Bush plan.
This is important because, in the 1990s, Mexico embarked on a campaign of extending its political authority into the United States - not just over Mexican immigrants, but also naturalized and native-born Americans of Mexican ancestry. There are 10 million Mexican-born people in this country (including 5 million illegals) plus more than 10 million additional Americans of Mexican descent.
Now, this is not the fantasy of reconquista - retaking the Southwest, lost in the 1846-'48 Mexican War. Instead, it is an attempt to set up a special status for people of Mexican origin, like the status Europeans enjoyed in China in the 19th century.
There's nothing secret about this effort. President Vicente Fox once referred to himself as president of all 118 million Mexicans - the 100 million in Mexico and the (then-)18 million in the United States, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens. And this is a long-term proposition for them: In June 2001, Juan Hernandez, former head of Fox's cabinet-level office for relations with Mexicans abroad, said on ABC's "Nightline," "I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think, 'Mexico first.'"
There are several elements to the Mexican government's campaign:
Dual citizenship. In order for an immigrant to become an American, he must renounce all other political allegiances. But our government has been remarkably nonchalant about this and, in response, Mexico in 1997 passed a law allowing for a form of dual citizenship. Mexico will soon permit voting from abroad, perhaps in time for the 2006 presidential election, meaning that potentially millions of dual nationals would be able to vote in both countries. Already, a number of dual citizens have won public office in Mexico, including a member of Mexico's Congress. A tiny number of dual citizens may be little more than an irritant; huge numbers of them represent a political crisis.
Consular network. Mexico has more consulates in the United States than any country has in any other, 45 at last count. These offices don't just promote Mexican exports and help tourists in trouble - they play an active role in domestic American politics, lobbying local officials to promote acceptance of the Mexican government's illegal-alien ID card, driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens, and other issues. This interference in America's internal affairs has become so extensive that Mexican consuls often don't even pretend to be mere representatives of a foreign government. Mexico's former consul in Atlanta, for instance, actually helped found a local Hispanic political organization then, upon his retirement from Mexico's foreign ministry, stayed in Atlanta and became head of the group.
IDs for illegals. One of the biggest problems for illegal aliens is their lack of identification; it prevents them from getting driver's licenses or bank accounts and leads police to inquire into their legal status when stopped for traffic violations. This is a good thing, because making life difficult for illegal aliens is one important part of any successful effort to prevent illegal immigration.
But the Mexican government rejects our attempts at enforcing immigration controls and has launched a successful effort to get the Mexican consular registration card - known as the matricula consular - to be acknowledged by many banks and local governments.
Acceptance of this card confers a quasi-legal status on illegal aliens, partly shielding them from detection and incorporating them even more completely into our national life.
Mexico's efforts to extend its authority over a large part of the American population represents the most serious threat to our sovereignty since the Civil War. The president's amnesty/guestworker proposal, which would lead to vastly increased legal (and, inevitably, illegal) immigration from Mexico, would hugely accelerate this trend.
Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.