Mexico’s Undiplomatic Diplomats

Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, Autumn 2005

It’s a strain being a Mexican diplomat in the United States these days, as the plaintive expression on Mario Velázquez-Suárez’s dignified features suggests. 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 Velázquez-Suárez gamely insists that he and his peers observe the diplomatic duty not to interfere in America’s internal affairs, including immigration matters. “Immigration is an internal discussion,” he says. “We have to respect that regardless of whether it pleases us.”

Well, at least one part of the deputy consul general’s statement is true: immigration is an “internal discussion.” The decision about who can enter and permanently reside in a country is central to its identity. The rest of his statement, though, is utterly false. Mexican officials here and abroad are involved in a massive and almost daily interference in American sovereignty. The dozens of illegals milling in the consulate’s courtyard as Velázquez-Suárez speaks, and the millions more radiating outward from Los Angeles across the country, are not a naturally occurring phenomenon, like the tides. They are there thanks in part to Mexico’s efforts to get them into the U.S. in violation of American law, and to normalize their status once here in violation of the popular will. Mexican consulates are engineering a backdoor amnesty for their illegal migrants and trying to discredit American immigration enforcement—activities clearly beyond diplomatic bounds.

Mexico’s governing class is not content simply to unload the victims of its failed policies on the U.S., however. It also tries to ensure that migrants retain allegiance to La Patria, so as to preserve the $16 billion in remittances that they send to Mexico each year. Mexican leaders have thus tasked their nation’s U.S. consulates with spreading Mexican culture into American schools and communities. Given the American public’s swelling anger about illegal immigration, it’s past time for Washington to tell Mexico to cease interfering and for the Bush administration to start enforcing the law.

Just how shameless is Mexico in promoting illegal entry into the U.S.? For starters, it publishes a comic book—style guide on breaching the border safely and evading detection once across. Mexico’s foreign ministry distributes the Guía del Migrante Mexicano (Guide for the Mexican Migrant) in Mexico; Mexican consulates along the border hand it out in the U.S. The pamphlet is also available on the website of the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, or IME (Institute for Mexicans Abroad), the cabinet-level agency that promotes Mexicanismo in the U.S.

Nodding to U.S. law, 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: do drink salt water and 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—a Mexican variation on the usual parental advice. And don’t “throw rocks or objects at officials or at patrols since this is considered a provocation by those officials.” (This last piece of advice clearly hasn’t taken hold: attacks on the border patrol have steadily increased in number and viciousness.)

The guide’s recommendations on how to avoid detection once in the U.S. 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 a big one in the jaw. Don’t drink and drive because it could result in deportation if you’re arrested.

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Mexican consulates, like those of other countries, have traditionally offered consular cards to their nationals abroad for registration purposes, in case they disappear. In practice, few Mexicans bothered to obtain them. After 9/11, though, officials at Los Pinos (the Mexican White House) ordered their consulates to promote the card as a way for illegals to obtain privileges that the U.S. usually reserves for legal residents. The consulates started aggressively lobbying American governmental officials and banks to accept matriculas as valid IDs for driver’s licenses, checking accounts, mortgage lending, and other benefits.

The only type of Mexican who would need such identification is an illegal one; legal aliens already have sufficient documentation to get driver’s licenses or bank accounts. Predictably, the IDs flew off the shelf—more than 4.7 million since 2000. Every day, illegals seeking matriculas swamp the consulates. Every seat and place to stand in the modest, white stucco Santa Ana, California, consulate was filled one morning this July, most of the people there seeking the 200 or so matriculas that the consulate issues per day.

The Mexican government knows just how subversive its matricula effort is. A consulate’s right to issue such a card to its nationals is indisputable; where the Mexican diplomats push the envelope is in lobbying governments to adopt it as an American ID. In announcing the normalization-through-the-matricula push, then-foreign minister Jorge Castañeda was characteristically blunt: “We are already giving instructions to our consulates that they begin propagating militant activities—if you will—in their communities.”

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Mexicans view migration to the U.S. as a fundamental human right, says Davidow; no laws should stop it, they believe. In addition, nearly 60 percent of Mexican respondents polled by Zogby in 2001 said that the southwestern U.S. really belongs to Mexico. Only 28 percent disagreed.

Mexican consuls denounce any U.S. law enforcement effort against illegal immigration as biased and inhumane. For the moment, they still tolerate deportations if officials pick up the illegal Mexican right at the border and promptly set him down on the other side—whence he can try again the next day. Once in the U.S., however, an illegal gains untouchable status, in the consuls’ view.

In 2002, the Denver consulate planted sympathetic stories in the Denver Post about an illegal Mexican high school student, Jesus Apodaca, who could not afford out-of-state tuition to Colorado colleges. Consulate spokesman Mario Hernandez lobbied Colorado legislators to award in-state tuition to Apodaca. When the stories ran, Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration, suggested that Apodaca might more properly be deported. Such impertinence was more than Hernandez could bear. “This is an arrogant use of power,” he declared. “I don’t think Mr. Tancredo realizes what he is doing to this family, which is already vulnerable.” The family’s “vulnerability,” of course, was wholly of its own making.

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Mexico’s consuls go even further in undermining U.S. border law. They’re evolving a “disparate impact” theory that holds that any police action is invalid if it falls upon illegal Mexicans, even if that action has nothing to do with immigration. In July, the Mexican consul general in New York City, Arturo Sarukhan, lambasted Suffolk County, Long Island, officials for evicting over a hundred illegal aliens whose dangerously overcrowded housing violated fire and safety codes. The code enforcement constituted a “vilif[ication]” of the Mexicans, Sarukhan said, and inflamed community “tensions.” Policing fire and safety codes is a core function of local government—unless it interferes with an illegal Mexican, in the New York consul general’s view. He might note that the “tensions” in Long Island aren’t due to the Suffolk County government but to the continuing influx of Latin Americans flouting American law.

Quick to defend individual illegals, the consuls just as energetically fight legislative measures to reclaim the border. Voters nationwide have lost patience with the federal government’s indifference to illegal immigration, which imposes crippling costs on local schools, hospitals, and jails that must serve or incarcerate thousands of illegal students, patients, and gangbangers. Californians in 1994 launched the first protest against this unjustifiable tax burden by passing Proposition 187, banning illegals from collecting welfare. Mexico’s Los Angeles consulate swiftly joined forces with southern-California open-borders groups to invalidate the law, even giving the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles a computer and database to help build a case against the proposition. Mexican action against 187 apparently extended to Mexico as well. After a federal judge struck the initiative down in 1998, then—Los Angeles councilman, now mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa credited Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo with helping to undermine it.

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The current launching pad for these educational sallies is the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior. The IME directs several programs aimed at American schools. Each of Mexico’s 47 consulates in the U.S. (a number that expands nearly every year) has a mandate to introduce Mexican textbooks into schools with significant Hispanic populations. The Mexican consulate in Los Angeles showered nearly 100,000 textbooks on 1,500 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District this year alone. Hundreds of thousands more have gone to school districts across the country, which pay only shipping charges. Showing admirable follow-up skills, the consulates try to ensure that students actually read the books. L.A. consulate reps, for instance, return to schools that have the books and ask questions. “We test the students,” explains Mireya Magaña Gálvez, a consul press attaché. “We ask the students: what are you reading about now? We try to repeat and repeat.”

Like most explanations given for Mexican involvement in American cultural matters, the justification for the textbook initiative is tortured. “If people are living in the U.S., of course they need to become excellent citizens of this place,” says Magaña Gálvez. “If we can help in their education, they will understand better.” But if the goal is American assimilation, why take a detour through Mexican history? “We must talk about Mexican history,” she explains. “Our history is very rich, very intensive. It’s important to know that history. The students will feel proud to become Americans if they feel proud of their country.”

Immigrants have often tried to hold on to their native traditions, but not until recently did anyone expect American schools to help them do so. And it is hard to see how studying Mexican history from a Mexican perspective helps forge an American identity. The Mexican sixth-grade history book, for example, celebrates the “heroism and sacrifice” of the Mexican troops who fought the Americans during the Mexican-American war. But “all the sacrifices and heroism of the Mexican people were useless,” recounts the chronicle. The “Mexican people saw the enemy flag wave at the National Palace.” The war’s consequences were “disastrous,” notes the primer: “To end the occupation, Mexico was obligated to sign the treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo,” by which the country lost half its territory.

This narrative is accurate and rather tame by Mexico’s usual anti-American standards. But a student in the U.S. could easily find himself confused about his allegiances. Is his country Mexico or the U.S.? Study exercises that include discovering “what happened to your territory when the U.S. invaded” don’t clarify things. The textbook concludes by celebrating Mexican patriotic symbols: the flag, the currency, and the national anthem. “We love our country because it is ours,” the primer says.

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