Our President visited Mexico this past week and gave an optimistic, sunny speech in which he said, “I have come to Mexico because it is time to put old mindsets aside. It’s time to recognize new realities, including the impressive progress in today’s Mexico. For even as Mexicans continue to make courageous sacrifices for the security of your country; even as Mexicans in the countryside and in neighborhoods not far from here struggle to give their children a better life” it’s also clear that a new Mexico is emerging.”
He continued, “I see a Mexico that is deepening your democracy. Citizens who are standing up and saying that violence and impunity is not acceptable. A courageous press working to hold leaders accountable. A robust civil society, including brave defenders of human rights who demand dignity and rule of law. Political parties that compete vigorously, transfer power peacefully, and forge the compromise on which progress depends. And even as the work of perfecting democracy is never done, as we know in both our countries, you go forward knowing the truth that Benito Juarez once spoke: ‘democracy is the destiny of humanity.'”
Yet, Obama provided absolutely no specifics, no agenda for advancing trade, no investment in border security, no assistance in developing a rule of law in a country crying out for Justice. Platitudes are what he gave us.
Young Mexican citizens were disheartened by the speech, “How nice that he came to give inspiring speeches, but what’s happening in Mexico is far from what he talked about today,” said Jose Carlos Cruz, a 24-year-old graduate student in international relations who attended the speech, “A really good speech by President Obama, but what Mexico was he talking about?”
The Mexican economy has begun to slow, and the decrease in illegal immigration is more likely a result of demographic changes, the sluggish U.S. economy, and the severe dangers of crossing Mexico than of any improvements inside Mexico itself.
In his speech, Obama praised a growing middle class to which the majority of Mexicans belong. Although it is true that Mexico has a strong manufacturing base that has allowed many Mexicans to prosper, economists say the middle class has been stagnant for years. The World Bank says 49% of the Mexican population lives in poverty.
Stateside, this President continues to offer style over substance on comprehensive border security and immigration reform as well. It is time for him to leave the public speeches behind and learn face to face from this country’s elected legislators what it will take for them to vote yes for border security and immigration reform.
It’s time for the President to meet individually, by telephone and in small groups with Senators and Representatives who will actually vote on the legislation bringing this reform. Arizona’s Senators are leading on this issue and they need his help in meeting with those who actually vote to make public policy in our representational democracy. These 535 voters need personal attention from the President, not more sunny speeches.
Border security and immigration reform is paramount in Arizona because we need to protect our citizens who live and work in Southern Arizona – where illegal aliens (politely called migrant or undocumented workers) and criminal smugglers of narcotics and currency trespass on their property each day. Saying nice things in Mexico and refusing to visit Arizona will not fix this problem.
There are ample opportunities for the President to lead. He could fight for the rule of law and a real middle class in Mexico. He could fight to mandate E-Verify and real employer sanctions nationwide (they have worked here in Arizona). He could reform the immigration system to supply the temporary workers from Latin America needed in our booming agricultural industry, and the foreign-born engineers, doctors and scientists educated here in the United States to fuel our growing knowledge-based economy.
All of these are accomplished with actions, not more words. President Obama cherishes President Lincoln’s legacy. Lincoln worked with some of the worst representatives our county has ever offered; surely the President can work with our 21st Century Legislature.