A how-to guide for illegal immigrants published by the Mexican government has raised the ire of Americans who are increasingly concerned about the porous border.
Mexican officials defend the booklet, formatted like a comic book, as intended to save lives with safety tips for people intent on crossing the border illegally; and it does note that the safest way to cross the border is by getting a visa.
But the mass printing of 1.5 million copies of the pocket-size booklet and its widespread distribution bolster suspicions even among Americans who favor a more realistic and humane U.S. immigration policy that Mexico’s upper crust at least tacitly condones and even favors the emigration of poorer countrymen. It’s a safety valve for Mexico’s leaders, who otherwise might be pressured into adopting political and economic reforms needed for broad-based prosperity.
Mexico doesn’t need a revolution. The 2005 edition of the Index of Economic Freedom compiled annually by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation ranks Mexico as "mostly free." Inflation is low, there are few restrictions on banking, and little intervention in wages and prices. But Mexico badly needs reforms. The country recently tightened trade restrictions, business is burdened with high taxes, the government owns too many enterprises that should be in private hands, capital flow is too restricted and property rights only moderately protected. As the Wall Street Journal states, "the country still lacks a credible rule of law."
President Vicente Fox was elected four years ago on a promise of bringing much-needed reforms, but his Congress hasn’t obliged. The wealthy upper crust, which feels no need for inconvenient change, apparently would rather hold the door open for those who look northward for a better life — while wishing them a safe journey, of course.
The Tribune long has supported a guest-worker program that would meet the demand on this side of the border for entry-level workers in abundance on the other side. But the real, long-term solution to our border woes resides with the Mexican government’s adoption of free-market reforms. Perhaps the flap over this little booklet will nudge it in that direction.