Friday, January 13, 2006
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)
The unasked question about Mexican expatriates
Lurking among the many fears of anti-immigration advocates -- and Sam Huntington -- is the fear that the large influx of Mexican immigrants into this country will have divided loyalties -- or worse, develop no sense of American identity. Another fear is that this is a conscious policy of the Mexican government in order to wield influence in the United States.
This brings me to a story by Oscar Avila and Hugh Dellios in the Chicago Tribune about Mexican government efforts to get expats to vote in Mexican elections. Apparently it's not going so well:
At a registration drive in Pilsen, radio host Javier Salas tried to energize his countrymen about their historic opportunity to vote in Chicago for their homeland's next president. "Let's hear it!" he shouted into his microphone Thursday. "Viva Mexico!"The story blames cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for the low turnout, but I have to wonder -- how much of this is due to the fact that Mexicans coming to the United States don't really care about Mexican politics any more?
posted by Dan on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM
We can't answer Dan's question without an idea of how much Mexican expats cared about Mexican elections when they lived in Mexico.
Honest elections, conducted with the outcome unknown beforehand, are relatively new to Mexico, and the idea that the results of a Mexican election could prompt major improvements in government operations or policy may still not be widely accepted. It may well be that "cumbersome bureaucratic procedures" deterred some expats from voting, but that might have happened because they were weakly motivated to vote in the first place -- not necessarily because they are in this country, but instead because their experience teaches them that a Mexican election is unlikely to impact their lives.posted by: Zathras on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
Lurking among the many fears of anti-immigration advocates -- and Sam Huntington -- is the fear that the large influx of Mexican immigrants into this country will have divided loyalties -- or worse, develop no sense of American identity.
As the FAIR people always say -- not anti-immigration, but pro orderly, legal, and low (compared to current) levels of immigration that benefit Americans, kind of like we had before 1965.
Another fear is that this is a conscious policy of the Mexican government in order to wield influence in the United States.
This is not a 'fear' this is a fact. At least as far as immigration policy goes, the Mexican government has been using their people in the US to influence policy.
Second, how does non-participation in *Mexican* politics, specifically a Mexcian election, negate the idea that Mexican migrants are being used to influence *US politics*. It simply shows that migrants are not participating in Mexican politics, exactly what the Mexican regime wants.
However, as plenty of evidence shows (think back to the battles over Prop 187), Mexicans have been used to influence US politics.
how much of this is due to the fact that Mexicans coming to the United States don't really care about Mexican politics any more,
Dr. Drezner has a fundamental misunderstanding of Mexican politics. Zathras has it right -- elections are not all that important. Movement politics is what matters -- from the Zapatistas to the general and student strikes of 1968. And we have had plenty of Mexican movement politics here.
This is not a "fear" -- this is a fact.posted by: Mitchell Young on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
As a Mexican abroad, and as someone who is writing a dissertation about the political economy of Mexico-U.S. migration (with an eye to its consequences upon the sending regions), I have a few comments:
1. In order to be able to register to vote from abroad, a Mexican needs:
i) To have registered to vote while still in Mexico (so you are doomed if you left Mexico before you were 18);
ii) To have in his/her posession his/her voter registration card.
iii) To have proof that he/she lives in the U.S. (i.e. utilities/phone bill, driver's license, etc)
iv) To make photocopies of his/her voting registration card (which presumably he/she brought from Mexico, and still has with him/herself)
v) To download (or go to the appropriate Mexican consulate and get in hard copy) a form he/she needs to fill and mail (please see vi below), along with copies of iii) and iv) to Mexico.
vi) The Mexican in question needs to mail his/her documents VIA PRIORITY MAIL (over 10 USD). If he/she uses regular mail, her documentation will be (not so promptly) returned (I know this well).
vii) To use myself (surely not the typical Mexican in the US along several dimensions, i.e. in terms of income or formal schooling... well at least formal schooling) as an example, registering to vote from abroad cost me around 15 USD (4 bucks the first time I sent my documentation via regular mail, 11 bucks the second time, when I used priority mail). Hopefully priority mail will work this time (Mexican forms state that one should use 'certified' mail, whatever that is).
In the light of the above, it's probably not that surprising that the numbers are low... If anything, the puzzle is why so many people have already registered!
Having said this, I couldn't agree more with Dan Drezner's closing lines. Surely, most Mexicans in the US are not dying to participate in Mexican politics - at least not anymore. They are too busy (many of them with two jobs), and more concerned with either making sure the money the send back home to their relatives indeed reaches their relatives in a timely manner (N.B. Remittances are the second largest source of foreign exchange in MX, larger than tourism or agricultural exports, and smaller only than oil revenue), or trying to bring their relatives who are in Mexico to the U.S.
At the same time, though, out-migration from Mexico to the U.S. has important consequences on the politics of Mexico. Bear in mind that those Mexicans to come to the U.S. are not a random sample of the Mexican population, but differ from their co-nationals who stay put along a number of dimensions: most are male, most are young adults, most come from around the middle of the income distribution IN MEXICO, most come from around the middle of the education distribution IN MEXICO, and most are risk-taking individuals (and, arguably, are self-selected on a variety of desirable unobservables, i.t. tenacity).
Interestingly, every single one of the dimensions I listed is a powerful predictor of a host of political behaviors - including vote choice.posted by: Jorge Bravo on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
Given that a lot of remittance money is used to pay for services, infrastructure etc. that the Mexican central govt. can't or won't take care of in the burgs of Michoacan, etc. Why should the average Mexican in the U.S. care to get involved in the Politics of the D.F. In fact, the last thing they probably want is for the federal govt. to start poking around the home puebla. The current anarchy serves them fine.
Then again, I'm just a small town boy in a big city also, so I relate.posted by: ElamBend on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
The voter registration procedures for expat Mexicans (elsewhere in Latin America, not just in the USA) were unbelievably clumsy and confusing, failing to reach the lion's share of eligible voters while cluttered with bureaucratic twists for those who could vote. La Opinion or one of the other Latino newspapers in Cali did a poll which showed massive interest among the expat community, but a good deal of frustration with the awkward way in which the registration and balloting were actually carried out for people. No question though, there's definitely a good deal of interest among the expats in participating in the Mexico elections once a workable system is implemented-- the process is in its early stages, and frankly, even in Mexico proper the voter registration process is riddled with inefficiency and corruption.
Vis-a-vis Arianna Huffington's larger anxiety on this issue, the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. I've spent years in Arizona and Texas (as well as a shorter stretch in California), and for the most part, I haven't met Mexican-Americans stockpiling munitions for the upcoming Aztlan Civil War (TM). Chicanos by and large don't really have secessionist plans in the works, they're too busy earning a living. OTOH, Chicanos and Latinos in general in the region do have a very strong ethnic consciousness beyond what we see with most other ethnic groups, and a really unique sense of not really being immigrants at all on the territory, which was part of Mexico. In fact, due to the really nasty and unpleasant history of the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848, which snatched away half of Mexico's territory (with the lion's share of its natural resources, to boot), those historical questions are very concrete. This was on top of the fact that there had been, more or less, free movement of the Mestizo peoples across the region that became the US-Mexican border in 1848, along with the inevitable expulsions and broken promises that always follow such a war (although the US did pay Mexico a nice chunk of change for the territory, it was a pittance compared to the wealth of the land for farming and natural resources).
I guess the upshot is that Huff's secessionist, recidivist fears really are overblown, the immigrants really don't care much for that. OTOH there's a unique ethnic and cultural cohesion in the Chicano/Latino community there that isn't simply going to disappear. The Latino culture, language, and of course political strength in the SW is going to be a permanent fixture of the region. Of course, the Latino culture is pretty strong all over the place these days, in Chicago and New York and even in places like Baltimore and cities in the Carolinas. So there's a special concentration of this culture in the SW, but it has some reinforcement elsewhere in the country as well. An example of the effects? A number of big employers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot are placing such a big premium on Spanish-language skills that monolingual English-speakers are basically relegated to a separate pile for "secondary consideration" for employment at many sites. Likewise, quite a few law, business and other professional schools give big-time bonus points for admission to applicants who are at least conversational in Spanish, since the Latino buying power is so high now and firms without Spanish-speakers lose out big in the market-- and have to bear high costs for interpreters. So Spanish fluency even among Anglos means big bucks and hiring opportunities, can even be the decisive factor in getting a decent job.posted by: Tex Smithers on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
"Chicanos and Latinos in general in the region do have a very strong ethnic consciousness beyond what we see with most other ethnic groups"
"OTOH there's a unique ethnic and cultural cohesion in the Chicano/Latino community there that isn't simply going to disappear."
It's obvious you aren't Irish if you think there is anything unique about "Latino" cohesion. As for the cohesivensss of Latino cohesion, Mexico itself is not ethnically monlithic by any stretch of the imagination. In the US Southwest it is true that Mexicans coming out of the ethnic and cultural gemish-mash that is Northern Mexico have developed a common culture. That model does not apply on the West Coast. In the Yakima and Columbia Valleys, where 70-80% of the buying power is "Hispanic", ESL teachers are frequently confronted with Mexican kids who speak no Spanish. At all. Neither do their mothers, and their fathers have about one coat of paint on the language. As for cohesion, the Michoacanos prey on the Oaxacans in a variety of ways, and the Mixtecs and the Zapotecs, who might be expected to show a little Oaxacan solidarity, have been despising each other for a very long time. As for California, the Zapotec have a whole network of safe houses to move young men from job to job, and there are Zapotec-speaking apartment complexes supposedly, transplanted villages. These people certainy see themselves as Mexican, but they are hardly going to buy inot some Aztaln vision of the Nahau supremacy they fought to a standstill back in Mexico, and they are hardly going to identify with Sapnish mestizo culture either.
What they are going to do is send back money and maybe retirees, and in time this may translate to pavement and public utilities and perhaps their own schools that they control. What is certain to happen is that English will replace Spanish as the second language of choice in their areas of Mexico for the simple reason that it offers them a future that knowledge of Spanish never, ever has. And more than that, they will take back with them an experience of a different social and governmental model. Revolutionary.
"In fact, due to the really nasty and unpleasant history of the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848, which snatched away half of Mexico's territory "
The myth that will not die. Mexico never had Arizona to lose; Spain lost it decisively to the Hopi and Zuni and others during the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 and never regained it. The end state was little entrenched shtetls of Spanish settlement. Mexico lost California not because of any defeat in a war, which they could have reversed later when an opportunity arose, but through sudden and overwhelming mass migration and settlement. The womb is the ultimate weapon when it comes to land grabs.
Padre no es quien engendra sino el que cria.
Mexico is no longer our patria. Our patria is the USA. The day the gringos realize this fact, they will respect us a little bit more.posted by: Salvador Becerra on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
"Our patria is the USA. The day the gringos realize this fact, they will respect us a little bit more."
The day gringos start enlisting in the armed forces at the same rate as you, it will start being our patria as much as it is yours.posted by: Jim on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
Researchers from Berkeley and West Point studying the demographic make up of casualties in Iraq have found that for the most part they generally reflect the ethnic composition of the military population, with one exception: Hispanics. Particularly in the earliest phases of the war and later when the insurgency intensified, Hispanics were over- represented in the casualty toll. The figures are likely linked to the fact that Hispanics typically serve in the Marines and other frontline infantry units that are involved in the most dangerous fighting, the researchers reported. Hispanics are over-represented in these units.
To clarify the whole issue of Hispanic enlistment and casualty levels:
Other studies show that in some Marine units involved in the heaviest fighting before the occupation, Hispanic casualties were as high as 19 percent of all deaths.
Hispanic casualty rates dramatically declined, however, as soon as the occupation began and there were less-frequent, less-intensive battle conditions. For this period, Hispanic deaths represented less than 12 percent of all deaths, roughly proportional to the group’s numbers within the active military.
“If any group of minority service members faces an elevated risk of casualties, it is Hispanics under high-intensity combat conditions,” Gifford wrote in his study. “When U.S. tactics dictate a more active, aggressive role in finding and attacking enemy targets, Hispanics incur casualties in excess of their participation in ground combat units. In less intense environments, the Hispanic casualty rate more closely resembles their presence in the military as a whole.”
Most experts agree on the explanation for these unexpectedly high Hispanic casualty rates. The majority of Hispanic recruits are either first- or second-generation Americans with relatively low rates of educational achievement. Their test scores simply don’t justify placing them in relatively select—and safer—occupations behind the front lines.
JUST LIKE THE PEOPLE IN THE U.S. ....WHO HAVE THEY GOT TO VOTE FOR?? NOT MUCH OF A CHOICE ON EITHER SIDE. DRUNKEN COWBOYS AND INEPT DUCK HUNTERS, CORRUPT POLITICIANS AND OIL CRAZED BUREAUCRATS.posted by: BOB COX on 01.13.06 at 08:41 AM [permalink]
Post a Comment: