Viewpoints

Mexico should focus on cleaning up its own house

As a Mexican American who often identifies more with the “American” side, sanctimonious attempts by Mexican officials to lecture Americans about how to stop illegal immigration over our southern border always grate on me.

The latest example comes from former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who seems to have an uncontrollable impulse to join President Donald Trump in the mud-wrestling pit of social media. On Twitter, he’s been giving his two centavos about Trump’s attempts to stop American companies from moving operations to Mexico and build a wall along the border. Perhaps Fox should acquaint himself with the Spanish word “silencio.”

That is, on this matter, the former Mexican president has no room to talk and should remain silent.

I say this at the risk of burning a bridge to my grandfather’s homeland, and even though Fox has been kind to me. In 2014, we spent two days at Midland College in West Texas when we did a program together with me interviewing him about U.S.-Mexico relations.

And yet, the mere thought of Trump seems to make him loco.

On Dec. 6, Fox tweeted: “In this era, IT has become a crucial thing in practically everything, but dictating political agenda through Twitter is nonsense.”

Ironically, since then, our neighbor to the south has spent a lot of time dictating his own political agenda through Twitter. Over the last several weeks, he has sent out no fewer than 30 tweets bashing Trump over two issues in particular: trade and immigration.

Fox has called the new president a “bully” and a “baby.” And he’s right on both counts. He has also labeled Trump’s bullish approach to trade – and his apparent eagerness to spark a trade war with Mexico – foolish and shortsighted. Right again.

But where Fox goes wrong is when he stampedes into the immigration debate. It’s just not helpful when he talks about Trump’s “stupid” wall or calls the proposed barrier a “racist monument.” Nor should he continue taunting Americans by insisting that, no matter what Trump promises, Mexico won’t pay for “that (expletive) wall.”

It’s not that the wall shouldn’t be subject to debate. It should. We should be asking whether it can actually be built, whether it will do any good, and whether its real job isn’t to magically reverse what many Americans are most worried about: changing demographics. But that’s a debate for Americans to have, and our neighbors aren’t invited to participate.

Illegal immigration into the United States is a complicated and explosive topic that should be off-limits to any Mexican leader, past or current.

Why? Because if the presidents of Mexico had the integrity and courage to tackle corruption, modernize government, create jobs, improve their economy, and reform their legal system, there is a good chance that fewer of their countrymen would leave their families, abandon their communities and risk their lives to cross the border into the United States. Once here, they are at the tender mercies of politicians – in both parties – who too often cynically use the immigration issue for their own benefit.

And, if Fox wants to talk about “racist” monuments, let’s have at it. The former Mexican president, who happens to have a light complexion, can start by addressing the racism in Mexico against dark-skinned Mexicans with an abundance of Indian blood. He could also atone for his own clumsy comments in 2005 about how Mexican immigrants in the United States do the kinds of hard and dirty jobs that “even blacks won’t do.”

As for monuments, that’s exactly what those Mexican immigrants represent – monuments to an ineffective government south of the border that often seems at war with its own people and usually does them more harm than good.

Fox should stop trying to compete with Trump by fighting tweets with tweets, and instead turn his attention to making Mexico great again. He could even hand out baseball caps.

Lastly, Fox is also wrong about one more thing – his dire prediction, contained in a Jan. 17 tweet, that if Trump “continues on this path of self-centered and self-indulgent policies, the US will crumble from the inside.”

You would think the grandson of an Ohio businessman who left this country in 1895 for Mexico would know better. Americans aren’t perfect but we don’t fold easily. And this remarkable country will never crumble – no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

Ruben Navarrette can be contacted at ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

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