I recently spent a week in central Mexico. Even though I was far removed from the United States/Mexico border, I clearly saw how important the United States is to Mexico. The U.S. elections almost overshadowed the deaths of several high-ranking Mexican federal officials in a plane crash. But, conversations with everyday Mexicans revealed how much they envy life in the United States.
Jorge was an affable young man. He preferred we speak in English because he doesn't get much chance to practice his English (which is quite good). Jorge had previously lived in Chicago and married a Mexican-American woman with whom he has a daughter. He left Chicago almost 9 months ago and returned to central Mexico because his mother was dying. However, when he attempted to return to the U.S., he was unsuccessful. He said, "President Bush doesn't want us in America and he has certainly made it very hard for us." Meanwhile, Jorge works as a valet parking attendant at an upscale hotel. He earns about 4,000 pesos a month (about US$360.00). Jorge said that he wants to stay in Mexico but the Mexican government won't allow his family to emigrate and he cannot return.
Rico is a gas station attendant at a Pemex station along the autopisto. Despite my best Spanish, he recognized the American accent and asked where I was from. After some small talk, Rico told me that he lived in San Diego for many years. He had been deported more than 6 times (he thinks) and now cannot return because he is "in the migra computer." Unlike Jorge, I did not have a good feeling about Rico. But, he went on to say, "The Americans and President Bush have made it very hard to cross. The coyotes (human traffickers) will charge you US$1,000 to take you across. But, they will leave you in the mountains in the desert without food or water. It is very dangerous." He went on to say that he had to wait 10 years before he could cross again (there is a rumor in Mexico that U.S. ICE files are purged of names after 10 years--not sure whether that is true or not).
But, I can say, after several conversations with Mexicans of different social groups, the Bush policies on immigration are working. They may not be perfect and people still cross, but the numbers are down and the word is out that America is very difficult to now enter. Also, the lack of jobs for Mexicans in the United States are down due to the economic downturn and that is widely known. Thus, like him or hate him, Bush has made a difference in immigration and that relates directly to our national security. For that, I am thankful.