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Mexico, the meddling neighbor

November 08, 2005|Heather Mac Donald | HEATHER MAC DONALD is a contributing editor for City Journal, from whose autumn issue this is adapted.

DIPLOMACY MAY BE the art of lying for one's country, but Mexican diplomacy requires taking that art to virtuosic heights. Sitting in his expansive office in Mexico's Los Angeles consulate, Deputy Consul General Mario Velazquez-Suarez insists that he and his peers do not interfere in U.S. internal affairs, including immigration matters. "Immigration is an internal discussion," he says.

But it's not quite true. Mexican officials here and abroad interfere almost daily in U.S. sovereignty.

The meddling starts with Mexico's comic book-style guide to breaching the border safely and evading detection once across. The Foreign Ministry distributes this "Guia del Migrante Mexicano" ("Guide for the Mexican Migrant") in Mexico; consulates along the border hand it out in the United States.

The guide does briefly remind readers that "mechanisms for legal entry" into the U.S. exist and are the surest way to get in. But the book primarily consists of "practical advice" for entering illegally: Cross when the heat is lowest; don't wear heavy clothing when fording a river; do keep your coyote in sight; don't send your children across the border with strangers.

The guide's recommendations on how to avoid detection once here are equally no-nonsense: Do keep your daily routines stable, to avoid calling attention to yourself; don't engage in domestic violence -- the Marvel comic-type illustration shows a macho man, biceps bulging, socking a woman in the jaw.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday November 15, 2005 Home Edition California Part B Page 11 Editorial Pages Desk 0 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Mexico: In a Nov. 8 Op-Ed article about Mexican interference in U.S. domestic affairs, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was misspelled as Guadeloupe-Hidalgo.

Consulates exist to promote the commercial interests of their nations abroad and to help nationals if they have lost passports, been robbed or fallen ill. They are not supposed to connive at breaking a host country's laws.

Assisted border-breaking is just the tip of the iceberg.

Mexican consulates, like those of other countries, have traditionally offered consular cards to their nationals for registration purposes. But after 9/11, consulates began to promote the card as a way for illegals to obtain privileges that the U.S. usually reserves for legal residents.

Consulates aggressively lobbied U.S. governmental officials and banks to accept the matriculas consular as valid IDs for driver's licenses, checking accounts and other privileges. Only illegals need this identification -- legal aliens already have sufficient documentation to get driver's licenses or bank accounts.

The matriculas flew off the shelf -- more than 4.7 million have been issued since 2000. Every day, illegals seeking matriculas swamp the consulates. Though a consulate's right to issue such a card is indisputable, Mexico is pushing the envelope when it lobbies governments to accept the card as an official ID.

Mexican consuls routinely denounce U.S. law enforcement efforts against illegal immigration as biased and inhumane. For instance, when the U.S. Border Patrol arrested a group of undocumented aliens near the San Diego consulate (en route, naturally, to pick up matriculas), the Mexican consul general objected. Mexico's Foreign Ministry said the arrests violated a "gentleman's agreement" that its consulates could carry out their duties without the presence of law enforcement -- in other words, outside the ambit of U.S. law.

Back in Mexico, politicians blast any hint that U.S. legislators might obstruct illegals' free pass. In May, the U.S. Congress passed the Real ID Act, which rendered driver's licenses issued to illegal aliens inadmissible for aircraft boarding and at other federal security checkpoints. Then-Mexican Interior Minister Santiago Creel lashed out. The law, he said, is "absurd; it is not understandable in light of any criteria."

In fact, the law was quite understandable. After 9/11, Congress wanted to make sure that federal authorities had properly vetted aliens given access to sensitive areas, such as airplanes.

The gall of Mexican officials goes further. After pressing us to educate Mexico's citizens, give them food stamps, deliver their babies, provide them with hospital beds and police their neighborhoods, the Mexican government also expects us to help preserve their loyalty -- to Mexico.

Each of Mexico's 47 consulates in the U.S. has a mandate to introduce Mexican textbooks into schools with significant Hispanic populations. The Mexican Consulate in L.A. showered nearly 100,000 textbooks on 1,500 schools in the L.A. Unified School District this year alone.

"If people are living in the U.S., of course they need to become excellent citizens of this place," said Mireya Magana Galvez, a press attache with the L.A. consulate. "If we can help in their education, they will understand better."

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