BY YEH LING-LING
President Bush and Congressional leaders of both parties are determined to achieve defacto amnesty in 2006 for millions of illegal migrants. Why should Americans concerned with racial harmony and national unity take a close look at the social and political impacts of massive Mexican immigration?
Professor Samuel P. Huntington, chairman of Harvard University’s Academy for International and Area Studies, warned in 2004: “Demographically, socially, and culturally, the reconquista (re-conquest) of the Southwest United States by Mexican immigrants is well underway…. No other immigrant group in U.S. history has asserted or could assert a historical claim to U.S. territory. Mexicans and Mexican Americans can and do make that claim.” Huntington also said that “Mexican immigration differs from past immigration and most other contemporary immigration due to a combination of six factors: contiguity, scale, illegality, regional concentration [in the American Southwest], persistence, and historical presence.”
In May, 2005, the BBC reported: “The Latinization of California is nothing short of a revolution. California will become a predominantly Spanish-speaking state within the next few years. And, as the majority population, there is really no need, or incentive, for them to assimilate into mainstream American society as their predecessors have always done. Whether Latinos then decide to push for greater autonomy or to seek a political agenda of their own with closer ties to Mexico and Central America is very much up for grabs.” In 2001, the pro-immigration New California Media reported that Mexico “continues to mourn the loss of half of its territory to the U.S. in the 19th Century.”
Mexico is pushing hard for amnesty and various benefits for millions of illegal Mexican migrants. Once naturalized, amnestied migrants could add tens of millions of people and future voters to the U.S. through births here and through immigration of extended families. U.S.-born children, even of illegal immigrants and guest workers, are American citizens and could vote at 18. Furthermore, in 2001 Ernesto Ruffo Appel, then-border czar of Mexico, reportedly advised Mexican migrants: “If the border patrol agent finds you, try again.” In 2004, the Mexican government published a guide with safety tips for Mexicans who want to illegally cross the U.S. border.
According to the 2000 Census, the U.S. population had increased by about 13% from 1990, but those who identified themselves as Mexican had increased by 53%. In 1997, Ernest Zedillo, then-President of Mexico, declared in Chicago that “the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders and that Mexican migrants are an important – a very important – part of it.” Is Mexico using legal as well as illegal migration to extend the Mexican nation?
To quickly expand the Hispanic electorate, activists across the country have campaigned to secure the right to vote for non-citizens and actively register voters. MEChA, an acronym for a Chicano student organization with chapters on many U.S. college campuses, has actively recruited Mexican-American voters. MEChA’s founding constitution called for the “liberation of our land.” It has had prominent political leaders among its members, including current Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who headed MEChA’s chapter in Los Angeles when he was a student at UCLA; Cruz Bustamente, the lieutenant governor of California; and California State Senator Gil Cedillo, who has pushed legislation to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
The Mexican government and many Mexican American leaders have lobbied in tandem very effectively. For example, after California’s voters approved Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure that would have denied public benefits to illegal immigrants, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and other pro-illegal groups sued to overturn it. Parts of the initiative were ruled unconstitutional in a federal district court and the measure was taken up on appeal. Before the appeal could be, Mexican President Zedillo paid a visit to California Governor Gray Davis.
Subsequently, Davis decided to settle the case “out of court” through mediation. But only the opponents of Prop 187 were invited to take part and the measure was shelved. Antonio Villaraigosa publicly thanked the Mexican president for his help in killing Prop 187.
Many Mexican-American are patriotic. But many newcomers and their U.S.-born children can be mobilized by Mexico to vote according to Mexico’s interests. U.S.-born Juan Hernandez, then a member of current Mexico President Vicente Fox’s cabinet, has stated: “We are betting that the Mexican-American population in the United States…will think Mexico first.” Indeed, many American citizens of Mexican descent have run for political offices in Mexico: Manuel de la Cruz wanted to make the U.S. a Mexican electoral district when he ran for Mexico’s Congress.
Americans who doubt the U.S. Southwest might someday secede should heed Charles Truxillo, a Mexican-American professor at the University of New Mexico. Truxillo noted that the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia also seemed far-fetched 50 years ago. “Throughout history, nations and empires rise and fall,” Truxillo warned. “No nation’s borders have been permanent.”
Yeh Ling-Ling is executive director of Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America, a national non-profit organization based in Oakland, CA.