The New York Times has a poignant piece about Cecilia, a young Guatemalan girl who sought a better life in the U.S. and was unfortunately caught up in the machinations of human smuggling. The smugglers were bold, advertising on the radio with promises of a better life. They required a $7,000 loan, with her family’s home as collateral. Her trip ended in a gas station parking lot in Florida, with Cecilia being robbed of another $1,000. Then there is this:
Behind the surge of young migrants showing up for a shot at the American dream is a system of cruel and unregulated capitalism with a proven ability to adapt. The human export industry in the region is now worth billions of dollars, experts say, and it has become more ruthless and sophisticated than ever, employing a growing array of opportunists who trap, rape and rob from the point of departure to the end of the road. [emphasis added]
Here is what appears to be happening: a parent pays a “coyote” or smuggler in Mexico to bring the parent’s child from Mexico to the United States, illegally. Typically, these coyotes are smuggling drugs as well. When DHS captures the coyotes, they will then often “deliver” the smuggled child to the parent, despite the illegality of the situation. However, many children are held held for ransom by coyotes that are not arrested by DHS, or are subjected to sex trafficking.
Megyn Kelly of Fox News, discusses the situation with documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch.
(March is Women’s History Month. Acton will be highlighting a number of women who have contributed significantly to the issue of liberty during this month.)
According to the religious liberties established under article 24, educational services shall be secular and, therefore, free of any religious orientation.
The educational services shall be based on scientific progress and shall fight against ignorance, ignorance’s effects, servitudes, fanaticism and prejudice.
All religious associations organized according to article 130 and its derived legislation, shall be authorized to acquire, possess or manage just the necessary assets to achieve their objectives.
The rules established at this article are guided by the historical principle according to which the State and the churches are separated entities from each other. Churches and religious congregations shall be organized under the law.
Mexico, 1917. The government under Benito Juarez constitutionalized an increasingly secular way of life, in order to “reform” Mexico and create a more modern state. A largely Catholic country, Mexico’s population found itself officially devoid of religion. The new constitution was used to criminalize religious gatherings, close churches and religious schools, arrest priests and religious for performing their duties, and essentially drove religion underground. Undeniably, the government set out to destroy the Catholic Church. (more…)
A few days prior to Benedict’s XVI’s apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba, producers of the epic film Cristiada (For Greater Glory in English) arranged a private screening in the Vatican City State. I was among the many avid defenders of religious liberty who scurried over to the Augustinianum venue next to St. Peter’s Square at last-minute notice.
No doubt the film’s all-star Hollywood cast (Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole, Eva Longoria and Eduardo Verastegui) was enough to draw us away from other competing events that evening (including dinner!).
Truth be told, many of us had not heard much about the Cristeros War, the civil rebellion led by priests and laity to resist the total elimination of religious liberty in Mexico in the 1920s under marxist President Plutarco Calles.
Our small sacrifice to come over to the Vatican that night in support of a little known war in defense of religious freedom was embarassingly miniscule compared to the super heroic sacrifices the film’s protagonists made to keep the Christian faith alive in their country.
In a Zenit interview, the film’s producer Pablo Barroso said that the planning for the $20 million production had been going on for three years and the timing for its early April release in Mexico was providentially perfect. “Who would have thought back then that the pope would be going to Mexico, much less to Cubilete (home to the national Cristo Rey monument and patron of the Cristero War heroes) to say his first Mass there. This (timing) really came from heaven”.
Cristiada was directed by the Titanic and Lord of the Rings special effects genius, Dean Wright. The film, therefore, has no shortage of spectacular action and breathtaking scenery. But it is the story of heroic martyrdom that will draw crowds to theaters.
The film begins in 1926 when Mexican Catholic rebels spontaneously organize bloody standoffs to President Plutarco Calles’s federales who ruthlessly and systematically shutdown all forms of Catholic worship in the state of Jalisco. At the time Mass, preaching the Gospel, catechesis, and administering the sacraments were all made illegal throughout Mexico.
President Calles’s plan to completely secularize Mexico had no patience for Church resistance and echoed what had happened in Bolshevik Russia following the October Revolution of 1917.
Calles, therefore, wasted no time in eliminating religious leadership that spoke out against loyalty to his government’s commands and in defense of God’s. Moreover, Calles was deeply weary of Rome’s indirect influence over the populace’s thirst for fervent religious expression, while Pope Pius XI continued to forcefully denounce the secularization of education in Europe and the Americas.
In 3 years of Calles’s presidency the total priestly population was reduced to some 350 among Mexico’s 15 million Catholics. Several hundred priests were brought to the federales’s firing squad, hung from their church towers and thousands of religious leaders were expelled from Mexico to the United States and abroad.
Calles’s anticlerical regime was so cruel that is “simply amazing not even many Mexicans know about the Cristeros rebellion”, Barroso told to the screening’s attendees and remarked on how the revolt is not mentioned in Mexican school curricula.
Not a few martyrs lost their lives to keep the Church alive, including Mexico’s most famous twentieth century general, Enrique Gorostieta (Andy Garcia) who, despite his atheism, eventually values religious freedom higher than state-enforced secularism. Gorostieta, inspired by a tortured little boy’s unbending faith and martyrdom, undergoes a conversion of heart and charismatically leads the rag-tag Cristeros soldiers to impassioned underdog victories.
When the film hits US theaters this June, I highly recommend seeing it, especially those Catholics who see their liberty under carefully organized attack by the Obama administration and other forms of hostile government. What happened in Mexico nearly 100 years ago is an extreme example of what governments can do, yet should serve as a powerful reminder of their dangerous potential to wipe out liberty altogether.
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement began to be implemented in 1994, the United States has raised farm subsidies by 300 percent and Mexican corn growers complain that they have little hope of competing in this protected market. In this week’s Acton Commentary (published Feb. 29) Anthony Bradley writes that, “U.S. government farm subsidies create the conditions for the oppression and poor health care of Mexican migrant workers in ways that make those subsidies nothing less than immoral.” The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
New President of Mexico Calderon spent yesterday at the US Mexican border greeting Mexicans returning home for Christmas. His message was two-fold. First, a pledge to create jobs in Mexico:
“The generation of well-paid jobs is the only long-lasting solution to the migration problem,” Calderón said before greeting immigrants in cars packed with Christmas gifts.
Calderón, who took office Dec. 1, pledged to fight corruption to make Mexico more attractive to foreign investors.
“We need to ensure that more investment crosses the border into Mexico rather than Mexican labor heading to the United States,” the new president said.
This has been my message about the immigration issue, too. I said it at an Acton conference for Mexican bishops, and I’ve said it in print many times.
The other interesting fact in this article is the scale of the Christmas migration: an estimated 1.2 million people will return to Mexico for Christmas from the US this year. I have been aware of this phenomenon since we lived in Santa Rosa CA, north of San Francisco. Santa Rosa has a substantial agricultural community, part of the Wine Country. My daughter’s elementary school was probably 75% Mexican. The place cleared out at Christmas time. The school simply accepted as a fact of life that most of the kids would be gone for a month around Christmas time. Bear in mind, that many of them were making a 12 hour drive to their homelands in Mexico. This is part of the phenomenon I addressed in my National Catholic Register article, Give Us Your Heart. Many, many Mexicans keep their bodies in America but their hearts in Mexico. It would be better for all of us for them to be able to be integrated: let one place or the other be truly home.
By the way, Calderon’s second message was: Merry Christmas! (They’re allowed to say that in Mexico!)
This article, by California Western School of Law Professor James Cooper concerns me quite a bit. A legal specialist in Rule of Law, Cooper has been trying to establish legal reforms in Mexico that would make its judicial system more transparent. He isn’t getting anywhere:
By implementing more transparent, efficient and participatory criminal judicial procedures, there may exist a better sense of fair play in judicial proceedings, and a reduction of instability and unpredictability. But that would require some action on the Mexican government’s part. Last year, I constantly heard the mantra that “It’s an election year,” code for “Don’t hold your breath for change.” Reforming Mexico’s justice system, with both high-and low-level corruption, according to Transparency International, coupled with a complete mistrust of law enforcement officials and the judiciary, would have to wait. So would any sense of closure concerning the more than 300 murders of women, many of them working in the maquilas that dot the border town of Ciudad Juarez. So would the endless numbers of defendants languishing in Mexican jails, without charge or even evidence of crimes for which they had been detained. So would charges against the rich and powerful elite who enjoy an impunity seen in places such as Colombia and elsewhere throughout the region.
Once again, virtue, or lack thereof, is the determining factor in a country’s economic success. His indictment of the country’s elites is particularly damning:
Mexico’s upper class has demonstrated little interest in making things better even though its members are the ones getting kidnapped, forcing them to send their children to school with armed guards. Instead, they are making the move stateside, buying up homes in La Jolla, condominiums in Coronado and frequenting Fashion Valley. … In the meantime, the country only a few miles away with its hard-working people, will continue to languish in a society riddled with public insecurity, public distrust and private enrichment. Mexico and Mexicans deserve better.
As part of their “Heroes Among Us” series, based on profiles published in People magazine, CBS described Decker’s work in helping the poorest of the poor in Mexico. During a trip to Mexico, Decker accidentally traveled down some back roads and saw people living in flimsy and ramshackle homes.
Moved by what he saw, “Decker began working overtime on weekends, taking that extra income to an orphanage just across the border from Del Rio, Texas, in Acuna, Mexico. It’s a 350-mile commute.”
“The fact that one guy just working part-time jobs could feed and pay for the shelter and clothing of 24 children just stunned me,” Decker said. “And I thought about the money I had thrown away in a lifetime. And I thought, ‘Man, if can do this much with just that, think what I could do if I got a couple more families involved.'”
That started Paper Homes Across the Border, Decker’s charity that provides all manner of charitable services to the residents of the so-called “colonias”.
There’s nothing on the moral or religious foundations for Decker’s loving work in the CBS piece (Update: I just checked the issue of People, nothing in there either), but here’s the ghost in the story: “I was lost when I came to the colonias but boy, I got found here,” he said. (more…)
As the immigration debate continues, commentators dig deeper in the search for the “sources of the problem.” Many have rightly pointed out that a healthier Mexican economy would alleviate the need that spurs many Mexicans to seek financial recourse across the border. Whatever one’s views on the current debate, we ought to be able to agree that a more prosperous Mexico would be beneficial for everyone. But then others have correctly noted that talk about the Mexican economy is really a diversion from the US immigration reform issue: We need to figure out what to do about the large number of illegal immigrants currently here regardless of what happens in the Mexican economy.
Nonetheless, for anyone concerned about Mexicans, Americans, and Mexican-Americans, the issue of the Mexican economy is an important one. And on that issue, William P. Kucewicz offers a helpful analysis at NRO. I wanted to focus on one extraordinary line at the end of the piece:
Another analysis found Mexico’s level of government corruption has the same negative effect on inward foreign direct investment as raising the marginal tax rate by 42 percentage points.
Sam Gregg and Osvaldo Schenone wrote a while back about the pernicious effects of corruption in their contribution to Acton’s Christian Social Thought Series. Kucewicz’s citation above dramatically illustrates the impact that moral turpitude can have on economic wellbeing. No single magic bullet can bring prosperity to Mexico or anywhere else, of course. But any progress down that road will have to involve coming to terms with corruption, the long arm of which erodes the common good in diverse and significant ways—among them compelling migrants to leave their homelands.
Large numbers of migrant populations going out of a particular area or nation should be viewed in large part as a signal of something. There are reasons for people to pick up and move, and policy and governing bodies would do well to examine these reasons.
When business close facilities and open elsewhere, it is usually because the destination location has a better economic and business-friendly environment. So the natural course of action when examining this phenomena is to ask what is it about the place that these businesses are leaving that makes it inhospitable? Michigan’s single-business tax is a great example of a contributing factor on a statewide scale.
Similar analytical methods should be applied to the question of individual or personal immigration. There is a reason that so many residents of the country of Mexico want to leave: there is better opportunity for flourishing in the United States. In particular, the primary motivation for many immigrants is economic opportunity, but the yearning for other sorts of freedoms (religious, political) can be the motivation for immigration as well.
In an article on NRO today, “The Economics of Immigration,” Larry Kudlow makes this same point regarding economic opportunity. He writes, “As long as the American boom beckons, Mexicans in search of prosperity will continue to stream to this country.” The movement of people from Mexico to the United States says a lot about immigrants’ opinions regarding the comparative advantage of living in the US.
A long term answer to immigration reform must include the economic reform of Mexico. Mass immigration out of a country is a symptom of poor economic conditions in the originating nation (other freedoms being equal).
Kudlow writes, “Instead of an Asian or Irish Tiger, Mexico has become a poodle-like Chihuahua, with economic growth of less than 2 percent a year and per-capita growth at less than 1 percent. That’s pathetic. In an age when free-market reforms are sweeping emerging economies worldwide, Mexico should be growing at 8 to 10 percent each year.”
If immigration is a symptom of economic disease, the cure is development, prosperity, and stability in Mexico. And on that score, investment in the manufacturing sector in Mexico, as in the case of outsourcing, is a good thing.