Cicero Lawmaker’s Hat in Mexico Race

Oscar Avila, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 22

If state Sen. Martin Sandoval succeeds in his next election Saturday, he will serve in Mexico City as well as Springfield.

Sandoval is running for a seat on an advisory council created by Mexico President Vicente Fox in 2002 to incorporate Mexicans living in the United States into his government’s policymaking.

Sandoval would be the first elected official in the U.S. to serve on the advisory council. That raises the peculiar prospect of the Cicero Democrat offering policy advice in an official capacity to Mexican Cabinet members while creating laws in Illinois.

The possibility has some observers praising his vision while others blast his judgment, calling the potential moonlighting arrangement a conflict of interest.

As it turns out, no law or rule prohibits it, in Mexico or in Illinois. Mexican officials call it an honorary position.

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“Like many other first generation Mexican-Americans, I want to be involved in shaping the future of America,” Sandoval said. “But I am also a product of two countries. I think I am a natural.”

Fox acknowledged those links when he campaigned here in 2000. As president, he formed an Institute for Mexicans Abroad to coordinate all Mexican Cabinet agencies that serve immigrants in the United States.

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The dual involvement is a trend that worries some critics. Groups such as the Lombard-based Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration see Mexico’s overtures as a backdoor maneuver to influence policy and a sign of disloyalty from Mexican-Americans.

Stanley Renshon, a political science professor at the City University of New York, said Sandoval’s two posts would be fundamentally incompatible. Renshon has worked with the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that wants to limit immigration.

“The idea that somebody can hold two responsible positions in two governments at the same time is a psychological and political absurdity,” said Renshon, who is scheduled to testify before Congress this fall about the dangers of dual citizenship. “It’s worse than a conflict of interest. It’s a conflict of community responsibility.”

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