President Vicente Fox of Mexico goes to Baylor University in Texas tomorrow to meet George W. Bush, and then to the ranch, and he’s not likely to pass up the opportunity to demand again that the United States take down “No Dumping” signs on the border.
Human flesh has become Mexico’s No. 1 export. Mr. Fox wants an open border to enable desperate Mexicans, eager to pursue the dream of a better life and who have given up on their native land, to disappear into America. This is pretty much how it is already, but Mr. Fox wants to erase it officially.
Mr. Bush, who is fluent in the bordello Spanish popular in Texas, must be ready when he meets Mr. Fox and Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada to tell the Mexican president — politely, of course — where to get off. The subject of dumping Mexicans on the American doorstep to relieve pressure on the Mexican government is not on the agenda of the continental summit, but it’s always on Vicente Fox’s mind. Immigration will be the elephant in Laura’s parlor.
Mr. Fox has been busy lecturing America from a distance over the past several days, attempting to instruct gringos in law, procedure, extremism and even the architectural principles of concrete construction. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, which has yet to successfully tutor Mexico’s notoriously corrupt and brutal national police in how to behave, issued a warning in advance of the Texas summit that certain Americans who assist the U.S. Border Patrol in stemming the waves of illegals into Arizona are “extremists” who bear watching.
An Arizona group called the Minutemen has enlisted nearly a thousand men and women, including 30 pilots and their private planes, to look for illegals. The Minutemen insist that they will not confront lawbreakers, but will notify the Border Patrol. This citizen support for the law puzzles Mr. Fox.
Private security forces are common in Mexico, where the rich, who know better than to rely on the cops, often surround themselves with fences and armed guards. The poor are reduced to bribing cops and trying to stay out of their way.
“We totally reject the idea of these migrant-hunting groups,” Mr. Fox told his Mexico City press conference. “We will use the law, international law and even U.S. law to make sure these types of groups, which are a minority, will not have any opportunity to progress.” Mr. Fox clearly means business; he’s “even” willing to resort to U.S. law.
He sneers that the miles-long concrete fence the United States is building along the border near San Diego won’t work, and insists that “no country that is proud of itself should build walls.” He said nothing about what a country should think about itself if it can’t stop the headlong rush of its own to flee. Americans shouldn’t worry about terrorists slipping into the United States because “we have absolutely no evidence of that.” American authorities do, but that’s a risk Mr. Fox is willing to take on our behalf.
Chris Simcox, one of the organizers of the Minutemen, sizes up Mr. Fox’s instructions in law and procedure for what they’re worth. “Vicente Fox can rant and rave all he wants, but he obviously doesn’t understand what a democracy means. We’ve been working within the law.”
Insults from south of the border can be discounted to what they’re worth, but there’s a caution here for Mr. Bush as well. He stubbornly pushes an amnesty plan, a version of the old bracero program that decades ago imported thousands of Mexican temps to pick gringo cotton, though the latest scheme was dead on arrival in Congress. The administration is loath to call it either an amnesty or a bracero program, but it would “regularize” most of the millions of illegal aliens already here — nobody really knows how many — and enable Mexicans with promises of actual jobs to come across the border “temporarily.” The latest amnesty is favored not only by Mr. Bush and Mr. Fox, but by employers who relish the prospect of a large pool of cheap and easily exploited labor.
Citizen activism, inevitable, useful and fully within the law now, could become something more than that. But a government that can’t or won’t enforce the law invites vigilante “justice.” The Bush administration has refused to strengthen the Border Patrol, as it promised Congress last year that it would, and the natives, frustrated, threatened and angry, are restless. Sneering at them as lawless, as Vicente Fox does, or as nativist bigots, as certain polls and editorialists north of the border do, does nothing to quiet the ticking of the immigration bomb.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.