Maintaining a voice in Mexico
[Editor’s note: All quotes were translated from Spanish to English by the reporter.]
They’re a group of people caught between countries.
Living in the United States, but with strong cultural and familial ties to Mexico Ð immigrant Mexicans often find themselves in the nebulous space between two worlds.
Arnoldo Torres, Northern California’s member of the Institute of Mexico Outside of Mexico, addressed 35 immigrant Mexicans Wednesday, who gathered at Truckee Town Hall to express their particular struggles in the Tahoe region.
Torres, as part of a 100-person advisory commission, will later meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox to relay Northern Californian immigrants’ hardships.
The effort is part of Fox’s overall outreach to the Mexican community that resides in the United States. By being advised of the hurdles that immigrants face in the United States, Fox can better act as an advocate for them in negotiations with the United States. The $4.5 billion sent back home to Mexico by these workers tops oil revenue as Mexico’s single, highest source of income, Torres said.
This economic power gives them clout in Mexico, and their role filling vital positions in the U.S. economy makes them equally indispensable to America, Torres said. However, this group often feels disempowered politically. Many don’t vote in Mexico, and few feel they make a difference in U.S. politics.
Torres, citing a move to enable Mexican citizens living outside of the country to vote for the Mexican president and senate, encouraged the group to stay involved politically.
“It’s more important that you don’t lose faith that Mexico can change,” Torres said.
“Your life is here, fortunately and unfortunately,” he said. “… What you have here is incredible economic power.”
He encouraged those in attendance to learn English, present a good image of Mexico in everything they do, but also to be involved in political and social issues.
Torres detailed the many sides of an immigration issue that President Bush and Mexican President Fox agreed to work on collaboratively at the beginning of their terms.
But many of the promises of collaboration disintegrated in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Only recently, and, as many skeptics have pointed out, in an election year, has Bush returned to talk about a legalization for immigrants and a guest worker program.
“On one side, this country has always sought the manpower of Mexico,” said Torres. “At the same time, does this country have the responsibility to take care of every Mexican because their country has failed them? No, the United States does not have that responsibility.”
Torres said that while the United States has a responsibility to provide services to taxpaying immigrant workers, Mexico must resolve its economic situation to provide opportunities for its own citizens.
“Mexico needs to make going to the United States to work an option, not a necessity,” Torres said.
The priorities that the audience said Torres should relay to President Fox were a voting system for Mexican citizens living outside of Mexico, a crackdown on bribery and robberies by Mexican border officials, and continued health services for the Hispanic community.
Citing a push to cut county health services, the audience and Torres vowed to make an appearance at the Nevada County Board of Supervisors’ meeting when that issue comes before the supervisors.
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