The story's been everywhere the last couple of days: "President Bush's top immigration advisers" (Eric Schmitt reports in The New York Times) "are weighing plans to grant legal residency to more than 3 million Mexicans living illegally in the United States, say officials involved in the deliberations."
(Notice that word "residency"—substituted only a few days ago for "amnesty," which President Bush is on record as opposing.)
And suddenly the enthusiasm is rife (in the American media, that is), with Newsweek running an upbeat story on "The Colonization of California" and Peter Laufer in The San Francisco Chronicle proposing that the U.S.-Mexican border be "torn down." All of this coincides with Mexican President Vicente Fox's trip to the United States, where he is visiting the Mexican immigrant community in Chicago and planning to address La Raza's national meeting, while sending a delegation to Denver to argue that Mexico's 46,000 "undocumented" citizens in Colorado are shortchanged in being denied driver's licenses and the social services they (allegedly) help to support. And The Denver Post agrees:
Many U.S. corporations and businesses thrive and citizens enjoy comfortable lifestyles on the backs of undocumented workers…[who] perform services that most U.S. workers would not consider doing.
Yet, they do not share in the bounty of their labors. They are barred from the institutions they help build and socially alienated.
Since Mexican workers have built [!!!] and contribute to this society, they should be treated more fairly than they have been in the past.
After noting—with approval—that Fox is hoping to negotiate an amnesty and obtain entry for illegal aliens, at the American taxpayer's expense, to U.S. colleges and universities, the Post explains that what the Mexican president really hopes for is to win this underclass (what the paper calls the "cream of the crop population") back to Mexico. The editorial concludes,
Fox is smart as, well, a fox. The United States should take his lead and make services, life, and, yes, citizenship easier for Mexican immigrant workers. ("Fox on a Mission," 7/14/01)
What this argument suggests about the smarts of the Post's editors, who were hot last fall for the Smart Growth amendment to the Colorado State Constitution and remain in a condition of perpetual anxiety about population growth and environmental disaster, we may in charity overlook.
However, the approbation they express for a foreign head of state caught in the act of out-foxing their own government is a serious matter. It is form of soft treason - which, having become by now more or less endemic throughout American society, may not be overlooked.
All the more so since in this respect of soft treason, the Denver Post's editors are in good company - up to and including the President of the United States. George W. Bush is surely not ignorant of Fox's master plan as submitted recently to the Mexican Congress (see Howard Sutherland, "Mexico Has a Plan for the United States") whereby the U.S. will effectively meld with Mexico and assume social and financial responsibility for a significant portion of its overdeveloped and poverty-stricken population. What could he be thinking of in acquiescing in this attempted massive put-over, one of the biggest Trojan horses in modern history?
The probable answer is that Bush believes he is thinking like a fox in adopting what is really a harebrained scheme. John O'Sullivan, National Review's voice of reason, argues in a long essay ("Bush's Latin Beat", NR 7/23/01) that the President has a hemispheric vision that amounts to bringing the nations of North and South America together in a free-trade association that works also as a regional security alliance. Just why this vision is a faulty one Mr. O'Sullivan explains very persuasively, and I won't rehearse his argument here.
I will add, though, that George W. Bush's short-term goal is likely less vasty, but pregnant (as he thinks) with far more tangible, as well as more immediate, returns. As long as he is in the White House, Bush is positioned to outdo the Democratic Party in the national rush to co-opt the Hispanic vote (assuming, of course, he can persuade Congressional Republicans to go along with his scheme). And so the most charitable explanation for his behavior in respect of immigrants in general and Mexican immigrants in particular, is that his mind has been working as follows:
"The Republican Party—meaning, first of all, me—has four years to convince the Mexican-American population that the Republican Party is its true friend. (The Democrats have the blacks, and they can't satisfy two rival ethnic groups at once.) If we do not so convince them, Mexican Americans will vote Democratic in 2002 and help return Congress to the Democrats; in 2004, they will take back the presidency, thus preparing the way for the thousand-year Democratic Reich. That would mean not just that Republicans will become extinct, but that any political philosophy even remotely describable as conservative will be deader than Methuselah.
With the Mexicans safely within the fold, the Republican Party will have an electoral edge, at least for the time being, over the Democrats; without them, we could be history. Moreover, if we do not move to secure their loyalty now, we will lose them in 2004, without a prayer of ever winning them over in the future, since there's no way in Hell the GOP can outbribe or outpander a Democratic administration.
Therefore, the future of America—its return from ideological frenzy to normalcy and common sense—depends upon my giving my buddy, foxy ole Vicente, everything he asks for at our summit meeting this September fourth.
Thus pulling off a neat coup against the Democrats!"
Whether or not that's the direction W's mind is running in these days, it's the best-case scenario I can up with right now. Trouble is, best-case isn't good enough. For one thing, the Bush administration's immigration strategy—like that of the establishment generally—is predicated upon the notion that Mexicans are immigrating here for our institutions rather than for our money; that their intentions toward Americans are friendly and admiring, rather than aggressive and predatory. That this is the case has never been evident, while evidence to the contrary is piling up every day.
For another, in the long run the Republican Party can never outpander and outdemagogue Mexicans and other ethnic groups. (Tom Daschle is already saying amnesty, by aiming solely at Mexican illegal immigrants, doesn't go far enough. He wants it to include Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Eskimos, and Martians, too.)
Consider what pandering to Mexico and Mexicans has already cost the GOP: a former governor of the state which is home to the Alamo, and was once a part of Mexico, is today giving serious consideration to accepting a Mexican-imposed plan which could conceivably have the effect of returning Texas—and the rest of the American Southwest—to Mexican identity and sovereign control.
Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience and an editor and columnist for Chronicles Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.
July 17, 2001