Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Saga of America's border with Mexico - Part I

This is Part I of a two part post that discusses the American - Mexican border and the controversies that have surrounded it.

I have posted two different times concerning 'contemporary' issues concerning America's border with Mexico - A bad answer to a big problem and Mexico's Self Help Guide.

The problem with America's border to Mexico is now reaching critical mass. Millions of illegal immimgrants are crossing our borders each year. Though it is clear most are just looking for opportunity to put in an honest days work and earn an income that will provide for their families, more sinister infractions ( a rise in crime and drug traffic) is now becoming a alarming biproduct of having such loose borders.

Now I do not want to address the 'current' issue as it is being written about and addressed by media outlets and individuals fairly extensively. Rather, I want to expand the current 'border problem' by looking at the history of the border and why it has been so kinetic for over 150 years. At different times a place of opportunity, oppression, violence and cultural mixing.

A History:

Historians may dispute what the cause of the Mexican War was. Some blame it on Mexico's intention to stop secession of the Republic of Texas while others believe it was pure 'land grab' by the United States.

President Polk in his diary confides this (referring to the intent of the war):

"to acquire for the United States — California, New Mexico and perhaps some other of the northern provinces of Mexico."

and later when it was won...

"There will be added to the United States an immense empire, the value of which 20 years hence it would be difficult to calculate."

Nine days later prospectors struck gold in California. ∑

The Mexican and U.S. governments agreed upon the exact location of the border with the signing of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. Prior to any 'border' there had been Native American communities established in the same areas between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. The eastern region of the border, the Rio Grande, was regarded as more hospitable and became a focus of development as many towns grew in this area. Often times these 'towns folk' had a stronger Mexican identity then an American one. The Rio Grande, which constitutes more then half of the border, is in effect its own symbol of separation. It was the capital and mercantile enriched U.S. cattle barons from the East and Midwest that came to dominate the landscape after the Mexican-American war. U.S. - Mexican trade was dominated by these barons, the spoils being that they began to acquire large tracts of land in Texas. By default, the earlier Mexican and Spanish settlers were put in a position of being oppressed (more or less) and large cultural and economic divides began to form.

With the Mexican Revolution of 1910, brought an increase in the border population as many moved their to seek refuge. American economic recession brought a wave of violence with it as efforts were made to push immigrants back to Mexico. Between 1914-1915 a "winter of violence" was exprienced as Texas border patrol agents hunted down and murdered Mexicans crossing the border at this time. †

The Great Depression of the 1930's served as another example of worsened economic conditions leading to the deportation of thousands of immigrants.

The inconsistent policy and enforcement of the borders continued through the latter half of the 20th century. As it directly pertained to the United States, the 1965 INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) laid early groundwork for the mass immigration (legal and otherwise) that we are seeing today. This was done because the INA created a 7-category preference system for relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident alients and for those with special occupational skills needed in America. It also established a category of immigrants not limited in to numerical restrictions (parents spouses and children of U.S. citizens). This is the core portion of the law that ultimately led to more immigration from Meixico and its southern neighbors. The decade between 1980 and 1990 became the second-highest in terms of immigration, some 8 millions most coming from Latin America and Asia.π

In 1986 Congress passed the Reagan Immigration Reform and Control Act, on one hand making it a crime for an employer to hire anyone 'knowingly' in the United States illegally, but it also granted amnesty to all existing illegal aliens within the country. This created more problems, rather then solving them, as former illegal workers left their lower paying jobs they had previously filled, which created new gaps in employment, and further a new need for cheap labor (from illegal immigrants) would need to be satisfied (one way or the other).

After signing the law, President Reagen would go on to say:

"This country has lost control of its borders. No country can do that and survive."

End of Part I

As demonstrated, America's border with Mexico has been far from 'settled' throughout its history. Though the concerns and controversies have varied throughout the years, one things is certain, the issue at hand today is a biproduct from the history.

In Part II I look to review the more positive aspects of the American-Mexico border and the contributions made by the settlers on both sides.


Posted by mightymerk, 4:18 AM


By Blogger Vector

Nice post.

I can imagine that a leaking border is truly a problem over there. Of course if Mexico would be economicly at about the same level with the US, there probably wouldn't be situation like this. With Canada, I understand, things are just fine.

My own experience with a border which is there, but isn't really, is the one between Finland and Sweden. Long time before EU, our border was already really transparent. No passport controls, you didn't even need one to enter one country or the other. Also people living on that area had been traditionally marrying over the border so that made the whole area like a big village. A lot of people had relatives on the other side and so on.
What makes this all so easy and convenient is the fact that both countries are about the same (size, economy) and have the same methods for tracking down people if necessary (personal ID-number).

I'm waiting for the next part :)

@ 11:16 AM  

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