Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Race and Immigration

Mexican President Vicente Fox said last Friday during a public appearance in Puerto Vallarta [in Spanish]:

There is no doubt that Mexican men and women – full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work – are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do in the United States.

Fox is absolutely correct. A large number of Mexican immigrants come to the United States to find work in jobs that Americans are unwilling to fill. Those immigrants (legal and illegal) work hard and are a vital cog in the American economy.

However, Fox should have chosen his words more carefully. Mexican immigrants are filling jobs that no Americans want to do. He should have kept race out of the equation.

Fox has called Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson to apologize and asked the two civil rights leaders to work with Mexico for immigration rights and civil rights for immigrants in the United States. This is a good step forward.

TYL does not believe that President Fox is a racist. However, his remarks show how easy it is to bring race into any debate.

ALAN DISSENTS: We don't diagree often here at TYL. But we aren't affraid of debate. My feelings are this:

Illegal immigrants have driven the wages down in certain industries to the point that Americans CAN'T work them, even if they wanted to. You can't support an American family on $2.50 an hour. You can, however, support a family back in Mexico on those wages.

I think it's a fallacy to say illegal immigrants are working jobs Americans don't want. What's really going on is that illegal workers help keep prices on American goods down. Personally, I'd rather pay a few extra bucks for strawberries and ensure more Americans have a chance at a living wage.

This in no way is meant to disparage the immigrants who I believe are hardworking and are just doing their best to make it in this world. But President Fox should be criticized for spreading the myth of American laziness rather than addressing his own nation's lack of opportunities.

I was commenting on the racist undertones of Presidente Fox's statements- not on the economic forces at play here. I continue to believe that Presidente Fox is not a racist. His remarks -- he was speaking to a group of Texan business owners -- were intended to show that Mexicans were hard working and industrious. However, in making his point Presidente Fox did, unfortunately, play the race card. This one act alone does not make him a racist.

If we want to fully discuss the economics behind the remark, Alan has a point.... The difference in living standards between the US and Mexico has created an environment where immigrants (primarily from Mexico but also from many other countries) are willing to work for wages and benefits (or lack thereof) that an American worker would not.

The solution to this is two-fold. First, we must ensure that we enforce minimum wage laws and that all workers in the US are paid the minimum wage (TYL supports an increase in the US minimum wage.... but that's another debate). Second,, we must create opportunities in the home country of immigrants by removing trade barriers, reducing the incentive to travel to the US and fill jobs "Americans currently are unwilling to fill.


At 1:44 PM, Blogger Rob Jackson said...

The third choice, Alan, is for companies to make less profit to keep the strawberries the same price for consumers but I assume you're more willing to absorb a price increase than a company is willing to absorb a loss in profit. What is the minimum wage debate about? Are we arguing about the minimum amount of money it takes to reasonably provide for a reasonable family? Or is the debate about whether an individual's viability is more important than a company's viability? Whom should we ask to sacrifice more? Is it the chicken or the egg? Will the Phillies ever make it back to the World Series or the playoffs and does anyone care??

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Dang it, Rob, we said minimum wage was a debate for another day!

As for companies choosing lower profits...exactly what country do you think this is? But, seriously, I have no idea what the profit margin on strawberries is. I do know that I was accidentally swept up in a strawberry pickers protest march heading down Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan one fine summer afternoon. I was unaware they grew strawberries in Manhattan. And the I remembered strawberry fields (of John Lennon fame). When I asked one of the protestors how many pickers actually work strawberry fields, I was asked to leave the protest. Which was fine with me, since I was just trying to get to Barnes and Noble anyway.

Now what was that about the Phillies?

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Sean said...

what is funny, is that youa re so willing to declare thet Fox is not a racist. How do you know? why so quick to assume he isnt? has he given evidence that clearly shows he is not?

That comes across as dismissive of the racial issue.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger manoymano said...

Pres. Fox sees race issues coming from a unilateral perspective, where in Mexico, all people are the same race. I don't think he fully understands the integration of the many different races and nationalities here in the USA. What he said was correct because he thought unilaterally and not multi-nationally (correct for Mexican standards and not American standards.)

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Rob Jackson said...

Why do you think everyone in Mexico is the same race? Off the top of my head, I can think of two obvious ones: Spanish Mexicans (European ancestory) and Native American Mexicans (Aztecs and Incas, etc).

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Evan Jones said...

I think there are 2 things getting lost in this debate.
1) There is slavery still lingering in the US. Instead of "owning people", middle man companies bring poor people who are are promised "streets of gold" in the US and make them work long days, under slave conditions (guns and everything), and pay them virtually nothing. The middle man companies then turn around and sell their products to huge companies. Come on children of hippies, it is time to unite like our parents did and do the fun thing....BOYCOTT!!! I known my generation has gotten pretty cynical about the good that we are able to do, but check out
Lets end slavery conditions for immigrants, including an honest days pay ...I like strawberries as much as the next guy, but if I know they are picked by hands that fear for their lives if they do not pick ENOUGH strawberries, I have to do more than pay a few extra bucks, I have to fight with all the resources that I have (most importantly in America, my wallet) to make the US, and the world, a better place for everyone....
2) Rob likes the Phillies? we have MUCH bigger issues... like will the ASTROS every make it back to the playoffs?

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Joe Weedon said...

Fox was educated in America (Harvard, I believe) and worked for many years as an executive for Coca-Cola.

There is nothing in his past that shows he is a racist – either as President, in prior political offices or as a business executive – that I could find. His educational and professional background make this comment even more alarming because he should be aware of the racial attitudes his comment elicits. But one comment – meant to show that Mexicans are hard workers – does not make a man a racist.

Race in Mexico isn't an issue on the scale it is in America, but it is an issue. Divisions have formed more along economic lines than along racial lines in the country -- with a few exceptions in the South where native Indian populations have a strong racial identity.

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Sean said...

how do you know there is nothing in Fox's past that would show racism.
sorry, but the very fact that he made the comment, shows there is a lack of understanding. This lack of understanding just suddenly appeared???
Please. again, so quickly willing to declare he is not a racist. You dont know him well enough to declare that.

At 12:09 AM, Blogger Sean said...

as far as race being different in Mexico, it is also different in China and a homogenous society like Japan. Does not stop them all from seeing blackface as an acceptable way of entertainment. They get their views from the American press and the American culture.


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