The Christmas (Navidad) season in Mexico is a special time, and a great time to visit relatives and friends.
Unlike in the United States, Christmas has not become the target of rabid secularists, despite the fact that in many ways the Mexican political world is much more secular than that of the United States. (See Even Mexican Anti-Clericals Leave Christmas Alone).
For Mexicans dwelling in the United States, it's a time when they want to visit Mexico. And if they are able to do so, they usually do.
That's why each Christmas season, there is a mass (temporary) migration of U.S.-dwelling Mexicans who drive south to Mexico, and then return to the U.S.
When I resided in Mexico, my family and I would go to the U.S. for Christmas vacation. As we drove north, we would encounter Mexicans headed south. They would often be driving vehicles laden down with luggage, presumably gifts for relatives in Mexico.
Since we moved to the U.S., we've begun traveling to Mexico for Christmas vacation. That means that now we are part of the long line of cars heading south in December and north in January.
So it now takes us hours to cross the border from Mexico back into the U.S. There are just so many vehicles (most of them pretty nice) belonging to U.S.-resident Mexicans headed back to the U.S.
Last year, I took a mental note of the U.S. license plates on northbound vehicles. I saw more Texas license plates than those belonging to any other U.S. state, But the Illinois plate contingent came in second place. And there were other states represented, from the east coast to the west coast. Today's Mexican Diaspora is no longer limited to the Southwest . The license plates verify that fact.
This annual influx affects the economy of the border region and of Mexico. In Mexico, they are glad to have the "paisanos"—the fellow Mexicans or countrymen—back for Christmas. For one thing, it pumps a lot of money into the Mexican economy.
This year, though, there may be fewer paisanos visiting. The reason: the continuing drug cartel war which continues to claim more lives and sow more fear.
And it's northern Mexico—the specific region through which the paisanos must pass—that is the region of the worst violence in Mexico.
The Mexican government has caught wind of this, and is worried. So it has some advice for the paisanos
The advice: form convoys. Yes, that's right, convoys. (Hmm, that reminds me of my tour of duty in Iraq).
Here's how the BBC describes it:
"The Mexican government has advised migrants driving home from the US for the winter holidays [sic] to form convoys for their own protection inside Mexico. They have also been asked to travel only during daylight hours. The interior ministry said the Mexican army could provide escorts to protect convoys from attack by criminal gangs."
Convoys and military escorts? That does sound like Iraq.
"Mexico's northern border states are experiencing high levels of drug-related violence, making it dangerous to travel on some major highways."
And there's another problem every year the paisanos encounter:
"Migrants returning from the US have in the past been targeted for robbery and extortion because they often bring back new cars, cash and other goods."
Yes, Mexicans in Mexico vociferously defend the faraway paisanos from the depredations of the cruel gringos. But when the paisanos actually visit Mexico, they are often the targets of robbery and extortion at the hands of their fellow Mexicans.
"The interior ministry [Segob)] said returning migrants should register with Programa Paisano, a government agency which protects the rights of Mexicans who travel in and out of the country...' The main recommendation to travelers is to drive by day and in groups, so we suggest they go to the offices of Programa Paisano to organize caravans to be escorted and monitored", the interior ministry said. "For its part, the Mexican army will mount an operation of intense vigilance to provide security to people travelling on the roads'."
[Mexico Migrants Told to Form Convoys BBC, Nov. 22nd, 2010]
The Los Angeles Times also ran a piece on the paisano's plight:
"It is an annual ritual, a pilgrimage that Mexicans living in the United States make to visit hometowns and families for the holidays [It's called Christmas, can't you mention it?]. But this year, the terrifying drug war violence sweeping parts of Mexico is taking its toll. The Mexican government is warning travelers driving into Mexico for the holiday season — many from Southern California — to move in convoys and only during daylight hours."
Now about those convoys…
"These convoys can be "escorted or monitored" if travelers check in with federal agents upon crossing the border, the government said. The Mexican army is also offering protection."
[Mexican Expats Warned about Holiday Travel Home, By Daniel Hernandez, LA Times, Nov. 24th, 2010]
Of course, we have to wait until the Christmas season is over to see how this all turns out.
As the LA Times has reported, "Mexican state governments have predicted that travel home this holiday season may be down as much as 50%."
This is a hit on the Mexican economy, which has grown to depend on Mexicans in the U.S. sending and bringing back money and consumer goods to Mexico.
But, paradoxically, the ongoing violence in Mexico is a problem for those of us who want to close the border and end the multi-decade massive migration of Mexicans to the U.S.
The problem: the worse the violence gets in Mexico, the harder it may be to get more Mexicans to return home.
Indeed, the violence and fear of violence may encourage some sort of amnesty for illegal alien Mexicans in the U.S.
Dave Gibson, immigration writer for Examiner.com, asks the question in his article Will Obama Grant Asylum to Illegal Aliens Due to Mexico's Violence? [December 10, 2010].
Gibson writes that
"Illegal alien lobby groups along with the Spanish-language press are now leading an effort to persuade the Obama administration to grant legal status to the millions of Mexican nationals living in the U.S. illegally, because they say the ongoing drug war in Mexico makes it too dangerous for them to return home. Petitions are now being circulated throughout Latino neighborhoods across the country asking the federal government to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Mexican illegal aliens."
See where this is going?
"Victor Ibarra, the president of Alianza Mexicana recently told the Houston Chronicle: 'There is a big chance of getting kidnapped and killed over there right now. It is extremely, extremely violent. That is why we're asking for temporary protection.' "
???? "Temporary protection "?
Ibarra and others are working on this project. Gibson continues:
"Ibarra says that since November 4, his group has collected more than 1,000 signatures in support of the measure, in Houston alone. He also claims that 15 advocacy organizations in Texas, including several in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, are planning their own petition drives. Ibarra is also helping to organize efforts in California, Arizona and Chicago as well. In addition to petition drives, support for TPS is being drummed-up by this country's Latino press. Gregory Tejeda recently wrote in the Latino newspaper, The South Chicagoan: "If Mexico truly is such a violent country as too many nativists are eager to believe, then it would be wrong to force anyone to return there."
So, as long as there's violence in Mexico, we can't deport any Mexicans? Gibson reports:
"These activists are plotting out an idea by which Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with approval from the Department of Homeland Security, could grant Temporary Protected Status to Mexican citizens in this country. Such status would say that despite the legal conditions that could result in their deportation, the situation in their home countries is too awful to send them back to."
There is even a precedent:
"That was the exact maneuver that federal officials took for Haitian citizens currently in the United States. With the devastation from the earthquake that hit Port au Prince remaining severe, it was figured that sending people back was just wrong. Those Haiti citizens remain in limbo. Technically, they could be deported if conditions 'back home' improve significantly. But no one anticipates that happening anytime soon."
On the Haiti question, Iowa Representative Steve King had another way of looking at it:
"Illegal immigrants from Haiti have no reason to fear deportation but if they are deported, Haiti is in great need of relief workers and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians."
As for TPS, it's been used to grant de facto amnesties to illegal aliens from El Salvador after earthquakes (2001) and Nicaraguans and Hondurans after hurricanes (1998) and Haiti after earthquakes (2010).
In fact, as long as there are problems in Latin America, we can expect such calls for TPS.
And Gibson sees the political temptation for our president: "…Obama may see granting a massive TPS as the only way to hold onto the Latino vote in 2012."
What can Americans do?
Why don't we concentrate on sealing off the U.S.-Mexican border, cutting off benefits for illegal aliens and cracking down on their employers?
Besides protecting our own people, it might actually help Mexico.
How? By letting Mexicans know that their future lies in Mexico—rather than in escaping to the United States.
It's in Mexico where their problems should be resolved.
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) recently moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.