Stephanie's Political Arena

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Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy

Putting Arizona’s New Immigration Reform Law into Context

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Amid the ever-growing furor over Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s move to sign immigration reform legislation into law nearly two weeks ago, two of my favorite columnists recently offered their perspectives on the broader significance of this hyper-controversial topic…

I’ll start with Thomas Friedman’s column Narcos, No’s and Nafta, which appeared in the New York Times.  With nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and China taking up most of the space on the U.S. foreign policy agenda, Friedman points out that we’ve taken the U.S.-Mexican relationship for granted.  Now, with increasingly violent drug wars expanding along the southern border (and prompting Arizona to pass a law to address this problem), Friedman writes that “Mexico has become much more critical to American foreign policy and merits more of our attention.” 

The immigration issue aside, Friedman’s column focuses primarily on the current economic condition of Mexico and the impact it has had on the country.  Though 75 percent of the population identifies itself as “middle class,” about 40 percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line.  They have little chance of ever climbing above that threshold as union control has resulted in Mexico having one of the worst public education systems in the world…despite being an oil-rich nation.  Thus, until Mexicans ever see “real political/economic reform” in their country, what other options are available to them other than to pack their bags and head north?  Or worse, join the local gang or drug trafficking operation?

Meanwhile, in her Wall Street Journal column The Big Alienation, Peggy Noonan cites immigration reform as the latest contributing factor to the ever-expanding fault line between the American people and their government in Washington.  On the one hand, Washington says, “We control everything;” but in the same breath declares, “You’re on your own,” explains Noonan.  Add to this sentiment the toxic combination of debt crises and bankruptcy fears shared by states and you have “the makings of the big alienation…followed by full-blown antagonism, and antagonism by breakage,” which, in a way, symbolizes Arizona at this time.

Noonan acknowledges that immigration reform has been a hot-button issue through two administrations now, yet “Washington deliberately did nothing” because of the political costs.  With the Hispanic vote growing rapidly through each election cycle, neither party wants to take the calculated risk of upsetting and ultimately losing a critical voting bloc.  Thus, party interests have been put ahead of the interests of Americans on this issue (as with most issues), forcing states like Arizona to say “enough is enough” and proceed on their own with immigration reform.

Putting Friedman and Noonan’s analyses into context, perhaps it’s time for Washington to take a good look at the primary source of illegal immigration and start there in discovering a path toward meaningful reform.  Who knows?  Perhaps Washington will notice just how much it has in common with Mexico City in terms of putting politics above the people and consequently be driven to take action on immigration reform…but when?


Written by Stephanie

May 6, 2010 at 5:02 am