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Mexico, U.S. Ignore Illegal Immigration By: Jill Stewart
Los Angeles Daily News | Thursday, December 02, 2004


Forgive me if I missed the media coverage of the international dustup between Democratic state Sen. Gloria Romero of Los Angeles and the Mexican government the other day. The media downplay stories they perceive as "blaming the victim," particularly on the hands-off topic of illegal immigration.

Romero has gone against the tide before. Now she's rattling cages over the 28,672 foreigners in California prisons who cost taxpayers a staggering sum to feed and house, one-half of whom are illegal aliens from Mexico.

It's rare to hear the term "illegal aliens" in the bustling Sacramento Capitol. In an example of what George Orwell called newspeak, California politicians believe that if they don't publicly name this contributing cause of our ongoing fiscal crisis, it will vanish.

It's not just silly pols who keep mum. The widely respected Chief Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill rarely explains these costs. It's too difficult, too politically hot.

So while these largely non-taxpaying residents heavily use taxpayer-financed services and infrastructure, from our jammed roads to our overwhelmed courts, hardly anyone says anything.

Chuckles John Stoos, aide to Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, the fiscal watchdog from Thousand Oaks, "Oh yes, it will definitely go away if we don't study it. Works for me!"

This avoidance behavior got a workout at Romero's prison system hearing in Los Angeles on Dec. 16. Diplomats from the consulates of Canada, Germany and Sweden testified about fixing a flawed country-to-country prisoner transfer program the Schwarzenegger administration hopes can someday send up to 6,400 eligible prisoners home -- mostly to Mexico. The behavior of the Canadians, Swedes and Germans stood in stark contrast to that of the Mexicans. In a bizarre bit of public theater that reminded me of my year in Czechoslovakia in 1991, where I observed bumbling ex-Communist officials firsthand, the Mexican government boycotted Romero's hearing, offering one of the lamest official fibs I've ever heard.

First, Mexican officials failed to respond to Romero's invitation to testify -- pretty odd in itself. So that morning, Romero's aide telephoned the Mexican consulate, down the road in L.A., to find out when they would arrive. According to Sen. Romero, noting it for the official record, Mexico claimed that "because of budgetary concerns, they could not fly the appropriate consulate (official)" from Mexico. Said Romero: "I am very disappointed at their failure to participate ... to first of all give me even the courtesy of a phone call that they were not showing up."

And, the peeved senator added, "We stressed that a local consulate official was sufficient."

I'll admit, I audibly guffawed over the bit about how Mexico, the nation, can't afford an airline ticket. Mexican diplomats live well, and the Mexican consulate in L.A. is impressive. Let's just say they can afford the trip. Not that Romero needed a diplomat from Mexico City anyway.

But the Mexicans do nothing but double talk on illegal immigration. On the prisoner issue, Mexico strictly limits the number of prisoners it takes back -- yet comically insists it has no limits. Pathetic. According to the California Board of Prison Terms, "all other nations accept all of their prisoners for transfer." Except Mexico.

In 2003, Mexico took back only 109 prisoners from the U.S., even though in California alone, 17,500 prisoners are Mexican nationals -- including more than 14,000 illegal aliens. And get this: Mexico won't take back those who've been here longer than five years. Just because.

Our biased media hate placing even a smidgen of blame on Mexico for illegal immigration. But in fact, most solutions won't be found in Sacramento or Washington. The lasting fixes must come from Mexico's legislature, courts and President Vicente Fox -- or more likely, his successor.

People come here illegally because Mexico's elected leaders and rich ruling families cling to quasi-socialism, circa 1930. Moreover, the rule of law is so weak that lenders are afraid to risk money on Mexican entrepreneurs -- a terrible obstacle to building a middle class. Mexico will remain Third World while China surges forward, as long as mafia types and corrupt judges run Mexico's legal system.

Yet Fox, an indecisive and disastrous president, does little. Why do I never, ever, read about this in California media? Oh, that's right: It's blaming the victim.

As long as Mexico's ruling class ducks the responsibilities of the modern world -- even shirking such simple if unpleasant tasks as attending a hearing into how to fix prison transfer policies -- Mexico will remain its own tragic victim.

But apparently nobody told Romero that silence is the rule among elected Sacramento politicians regarding the costs of illegal immigration. That day in L.A., she publicly criticized the Mexican government, presented data on the staggering $500 million to $800 million a year paid by California taxpayers to house foreign prisoners, and basically opened a can of worms. Somebody, please give this woman an award.

Jill Stewart is a print, radio and television commentator on California politics. She can be reached via her Web site, www.jillstewart.net.




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