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California State Government November 7, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

Mexico and U.S.

By Kent P. Mesplay, Ph.D.

Candidate for United States Senator

This information is provided by the candidate
Only by focusing on the root causes of immigration can we protect ourselves and help remove the pushes and pulls of immigration. We need to work to improve the security of both Mexican and U.S. citizens.
A friend of mine is one event away from grabbing his guns and joining the last-Minute Men ostensibly defending our porous border with Mexico. Terrified by terrorists, frustrated and angry at feeling ineffective he says, "What's the first thing you do to improve security at home? Lock your doors and windows, right?" Sure, I can't argue with THAT. Missing is another approach: get to know your neighbors. That way, if someone sees someone outside your window they can be of help. Mexico is a friend and an important trading partner and cultural relative. If terrorists such as Al-Qaeda have infiltrated Mexico then Mexico deserves our help, government-to-government. This would be cheaper in the long run than to build a wall or to ban ladders.

Another friend of mine (let's call him Manny since that's his name) stopped by on Halloween to say that he was a featured, often-interrupted speaker at an anti-immigration rally. As they left, his acquaintance commented that it had been like being at a Klan meeting. The term "illegal alien" is a pejorative, a put-down. Although technically correct the preferred expression is "undocumented immigrant:" undocumented because the person lacked the money or political clout to go through official, expensive, slow government channels; immigrant because living beings tend to migrate toward more favorable conditions. Many of the people who come here to work would rather stay in Mexico with their families. Oh, some joker in the audience angrily asked Manny if he had a Green Card. When he replied, "no" he was told, "then you are an illegal alien," to which Mr. Aguilar replied, "I am a U.S. Citizen!"

From an environmental standpoint, both unchecked foot-traffic and enforcement procedures place a strain on ecosystems along the border. A grossly expensive, multi-billion dollar triple fence is not the solution to border issues. We need leaders who, like the recent winner of the Nobel Peace prize, recognize the power of micro-lending and community-based economics, which are Green values. Sadly, the contractors who will make the money on the fence will "win," the politicians who scramble to "out-tough-guy" each other will think they are winning and we taxpayers and citizens on both sides of the border will lose. Mark my words: if we had an impenetrable border all the way around this country we would not be safe from terrorists or from natural disasters. Moreover, there is a pattern here. If we had such a wall (I don't believe I am writing this. It is 2006 in the United States of America and our "solution" is to build walls!!!???) those who zealously look for enemies would focus within our borders and we would have neighbors turning in neighbors. Indeed, this is already happening. The sector I inspect as an air quality inspector includes Escondido, which is one of the most conservative regions in the country (it must be true; I heard it on NPR). Now, landlords and ladies are responsible for checking that their serfs have the appropriate sheepskin documents and tenants are scared. God bless America.

Bad government is elected by non-voters. MAPA, the Mexican American Political Association, is supportive of the Green Party and its candidates. Do you vote? The only right "side" on this immigration issue is to get to the heart of the problem and to work toward improving lives on both sides of the border. Some of the fence money could go toward schools for teaching appropriate skills for our time, such as L.E.E.D. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or "Green Building" design). Finding scapegoats for poor planning is never a good idea. I have little to no faith in our government. Back to the micro-lending idea: A better solution toward border enforcement would be to use the billion-plus dollars as small business loans to all communities on both sides of the border. A condition of such favorable economic benefit would be self-regulation backed by random inspection and non-invasive inspection techniques controlled by and transparent to citizens and organizations on both sides of our mutual border. There would be negative consequences tied to economic and political status for communities adjacent to apprehended illegal border crossers. Moreover, by creating jobs and sustainable living in a border zone a buffer would develop to counter the current economic imbalance drawing people across the border. This would work and it would go a long way toward solving the root problem behind immigration: documented and undocumented. We need positive solutions, not negative fear-mongering and misplaced energies.

The hatred expressed toward undocumented immigrants arises from the us-versus-them mentality accompanying and predicting times of war. It is best to address problems at their base. It is costly, ineffective and damaging to not address underlying issues such as centuries of abuse and misuse of land. People who remain are affected by conditions of prior abuse. NAFTA and other trade agreements have caused much damage. People flee because their communities cannot support them. Helping to create livable communities on both sides of the border is the answer. Immigrant labor is a vital part of our agricultural and construction industries. It is a misrepresentation to say that immigrants "take jobs away from others." Both from the political right and the left the situation is not being dealt with appropriately. Amnesty encourages people to risk their lives in the desert.

We need to learn to work with Mexico to ensure that re-development on both sides of the border addresses locally controlled solutions respectful of diversity and cognizant of the security implications of living in a sustainable manner. International companies rarely have the best interests of local people at heart. When I was president of Turtle Island Institute, in San Diego, our co-founders Marguerite Hampton and Manny Aguilar researched, wrote and presented "Hands Across the Border: Operation Life-Save" to a high-ranking Mexican official. The plan addresses immigration issues from a ground level and was warmly received but not funded. Sustainable development, with an emphasis on self-reliance as a basis for market development, removes many of the pushes-and-pulls of immigration: legal and illegal. Blaming people who are trying to survive is not the right answer, no matter how politically expedient it may appear to the ruling party or how much mileage inflammatory talk-show hosts can wring from the issue.

Bush has not come down hard on "illegals" because he and his homies know that, on balance, the 12 million or so documented undocumented immigrants are being exploited to the benefit of U.S. businesses and consumers. See, for example, "Harvest of Shame" and "Legacy of Shame" regarding where our low food prices come from. Treating economic refugees as criminals is a mistake, even if it were practical and inexpensive to fully implement such treatment.

Most Mexicans and Central Americans considering coming here illegally to work would probably prefer to immigrate legally if it were affordable and timely. We need a fair and workable process, especially in the agricultural industry, to match up willing workers with employers with as little bureaucratic red-tape as possible. Once here, our guest workers should be treated with respect, a living wage, methods of legal transportation and housing and "natural consequences" for violators (like a buddy system: your buddy disappears so you get sent back South). Current "illegals" could become identified and registered through an audited system, counterfeit-proof I.D.s could be issued to guest workers, to those already here and to new ones taking part in the program, and U.S. citizenship could be expedited for those now waiting and be made available to those willing to wait their turn. Workers would have ready access to communication methods so that they could share information. As employers need additional workers there could be a process wherein an order is placed with the immigration service allowing admission of the requested number. By having an above-board process lives would be saved, natural border environments could be preserved and the real draws behind immigration would be addressed. Mechanisms of transparency would have to be in place so that workers are not cheated out of their pay.

As a U.S. Senator I will work to improve relations with Mexico by addressing the root causes of immigration. Growing labor-intensive green businesses on both sides of the border will create jobs for citizens of both of our countries as we adapt our cities and towns to be able to withstand stressors brought by natural and man-made disasters. We can prepare to meet the terror that may lie ahead, whether that terror be by earthquake, physical attack or reduced crop yields attributable to unpredictable and extreme weather. Adjusting toward being a solar-powered state will advance our level of basic security, improve our ability to respond and to survive, will be good for the air that we breathe and will keep California as one of the top world economies. The right step is to help Mexico address border-crossing matters that concern us both, whether the issue is air pollution, sewage flow or unregulated human movement.

More Debate, Less Rhetoric. Write in Kent P. Mesplay for U.S. Senate

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