There are a few things about this story that interest me even though I realize it is anecdotal. This 19-year-old young man was sent home to Mexico. He was convicted of some misdemeanor crime. The story doesn’t give many specifics on that other than to say it was, “…a drug-related minor charge…” and some second charge that information is not given on but which was also a misdemeanor.
He was convicted so his DACA status was revoked and he was sent back. “I was very happy in Iowa. It’s the only home I had ever known,” said the mother. “He loved school and football, and in his days without a school he worked as a mechanic.” He left voluntarily and was not deported. He was going to be deported but if he went willingly his chances of returning one day were better. But he would never return nor see his family again. Not his mom, not his brothers and sisters, not his one year old son.
He was back in Mexico for three weeks when he was murdered and buried in Mexico. His family was unable to attend the funeral. Since coming to America the family has never left it. If they did, they would not be allowed back in except the children that were born here.
Now, based on my previous posts you may think I’m talking about DACA again and making an emotional plea for people to support it. That isn’t actually what this post is about.
This post is about Mexico and why it’s such a terrible place.
That’s a hard statement to make because it is very hard to quantify. There are parts of Mexico that thrive, that are safe, that present to the mind and to the eye as beautiful both in scenery and in humanity. My experience with the people of Mexico has been overwhelmingly positive. Every place has its thugs and gangsters. Thugs and gangsters may be Mexicans but Mexicans are not thugs and gangsters. On the contrary they tend to be culturally humble people given to kindness and hospitality.
One day I was at an apartment complex doing my job and there was a group of Mexican men grilling up some fresh tortillas and carne asada. It smelled so good. The meat had been marinating in a bowl with fresh orange peel and various spices. I could see seeds from various peppers floating in it. I simply commented in passing that it smelled good, “¡huele bien!” and with that they invited me to try some. They didn’t know me, never met me, never even seen my face before. Yet there I was trying some of their food. That great bridge, food!
That experience is not singular either. It has been repeated in various ways time and time again.
So if Mexicans are such wonderful and kind people why is Mexico such a crap hole?
But it isn’t the just wonder of Mexico’s human resources that makes Mexico an incredible place. It also has natural resources too. Mexico has oil, gold, copper in vast quantities, farm land, cattle, sea food, beauty and history that attract tourism dollars by the millions, and Mexico’s GDP ranks around 14th in the world. Not great, but clearly not bad. So why are people leaving in droves? What is it that they get in American that they don’t get in Mexico?
According to a Pew Research Center poll 85% of those Mexicans surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with how their country was going. They have low consumer confidence. They feel crime is unchecked. They feel their political leaders are corrupt. Then of course there is the drug violence.
Why do Mexicans flee their home to come to America? The most common answer I get when I ask this question of immigrants is always the same, “for a better life”. You can find out what it is that isn’t good and what they hope will be better but they don’t really seem to know what causes it. They say “politicians” and very often they say “cartels”. Drugs and corruption seem to be what they hope to leave behind.
There are also those that believe that NAFTA destroyed Mexican farming as they could not compete with America on that front. Let’s face it, even without our government paying farmers not to farm no one in the world can compete with American in agriculture. While studying agriculture I had one of my instructors explain to me that the Vietnam War was, at the core of it, about farm land. If the Communists had been able to exploit the fertile country it would have given them an advantage over the US. Cheap food and cheap energy are the engines that propel American prosperity after all.
But none of that really digs down to why all this is happening in Mexico when based on their resources it should not be happening.
I think at this point it has become a self-perpetuating system.
Migrant workers were very common from the 1960’s through the mid 1980’s but at that point the workers came and went. But then the Mexican economy dropped and unemployment spiked. “…officials encouraged the departures of working-class men as a solution to high unemployment and population growth in the country. ” (Minian, 2018) By the time Washington reacted with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act it was too late and a cycle of immigration had begun. “The number of Mexican citizens apprehended in the U.S. – which is suggestive of the number of Mexican undocumented migrants – rose from about 55,000 in 1965 to about 1.5 million in 1986.” (Minian,2018)
Then there is the above mention of NAFTA. Free trade sounds good, and for some businesses and politicians it is. But it isn’t really free. It’s regulated trade designed to help some and not others. So even though unemployment got better in Mexico that wasn’t across sectors. Especially hard hit were farm workers and the poor. Though politicians could point to the shiny new American auto plant in Mexico they couldn’t say that plant helped everyone, but it sure looked good on their resume.
I’m just starting to explore this idea. I’ve always just accepted the “better life” plea as a valid reason. If my life isn’t grand and I think I can make it so elsewhere, then I am going to go. I’m reminded of King David from the bible. He was starving and the only bread was the shew bread, the consecrated bread that was unlawful for him and his men to eat. Sometimes, the law is overridden by starvation. Yet I still support building a wall and managing immigration carefully and giving time for assimilation.
What I hope is that Mexico can become a place that supports its people in such a way that they don’t leave. Many already don’t want to leave, but they must find the shew bread somewhere. Right now, the promised land is America. How would you “fix” Mexico?
Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco llegó a Estados Unidos siendo un niño y vivió toda su vida en Des Moines, Iowa. Había entrado en el programa DACA, asistió a la escuela y tenía un hijo de un año. Pero e…