Mexico's American Diaspora
The phenomenal growth of the Mexican-American population presents a number of challenges for policymakers. In 2014, more than 35 million people of Mexican origin were living in the United States, including 11.7 million who were born in Mexico, accounting for 27.6% of all immigrants living in the U.S. All told, the share of the total population made up of immigrants is 13.3%, approaching levels not seen since the turn of the last century.
But immigration has changed dramatically since the huddled masses of Europe landed in New York in the 19th and early-20th centuries, and in ways that should worry those concerned about preserving the American project for future generations. Whereas in previous migrations newcomers were encouraged by authorities to adopt American mores and habits, for more recent waves, assimilation is no longer the official goal. The transnational multicultural movement has succeeded at replacing established norms of citizenship, social cohesion, and national interests with new doctrines that are recasting, not preserving, the American experiment.
This change has been well documented, but other developments have gone undetected. Some American leaders, for instance, have accepted, if not promoted, the novel idea that immigrants should reject assimilation, retain loyalty to their country of birth, and become active participants in the American political process.
This transnationalist view of "civic engagement" or "integration" encompasses voting, throwing oneself with zest into protest politics, and joining unions. The view expressly rejects, however, anything remotely connected to the patriotic assimilation of America's first 200 years, in which the immigrant (or his descendant) comes to think of himself as American only — notwithstanding how much they cherish the traditions, language, religion, or cuisine of their ancestral lands. Excluded is the old-fashioned Americanization process through which, in George Washington's hopes, "by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws: in a word, soon become one people."
This new trend upends the centuries-old rule that, as Louis Brandeis put it, immigrants must first attain "complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment," and then acquire political power. In the new social model, immigrants and their descendants are suborned with benefits to demand society's accommodation of a separate status. Instead of encouraging adaptation among immigrants, in the words of political scientist Peter Skerry, "activists insist that the mainstream adapt itself to them. In essence, they argue that barrio values be brought into the public sphere unmediated."
Conservatives who want to return to the assimilationist model must also contend with something else. An often-missing piece is the Mexican government's own contribution to American multiculturalism, given that it now plays community organizer for millions of Mexican-Americans.
Mexican leaders have worked for more than a century to exert influence over immigrants and their descendants living north of the border. Their efforts offer just one example of how the ethnic-identity movement has taken root in this country since the 1960s. In this case, the Chicano construct can be used by third-party forces to generate conflicted loyalties. Mexico and its transnational supporters of course insist that there is no contradiction in having people remain loyal to Mexico while simultaneously engaging in the political and civic life of the United States. This is a claim we should examine.
What is unquestionable is that, for good or for ill, as the population of Mexican-Americans has grown over the past quarter-century, the Mexican government has created and nurtured a powerful web that seeks to exert influence over America's increasingly dominant minority politics. For Mexican-Americans, the vibrant and distinct culture that lies just across the long and porous southern border is constantly reinforced through a vast, influential network of consulates and interest groups across the United States, including the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). As two leading (and sympathetic) Mexican-American scholars put it, "No other country has this diplomatic infrastructure within the borders of the most powerful nation in the world."
As they respond to these challenges, conservatives must be careful neither to under- nor overreact. Mexico's influence on U.S. policy is different in nature from the lobbying of other nations and must be addressed differently. It is important to recognize that these interest groups, though routinely accepted by the media as legitimate representatives of Mexican-Americans, do not rely for their support or funding on rank-and-file Mexican-Americans. On the contrary, surveys show that immigrants and their children want to embrace a meritocratic and assimilationist view of America, and have historically been ambivalent at best about the Mexican government. Furthermore, even if the transnational school is correct and dual loyalty and civic engagement can coexist, conservatives must raise the alarm that the combination is ruinous to national sovereignty, accountability, and ultimately democracy.
A FRAUGHT HISTORY
Mexico has had an ambiguous relationship with Mexican-Americans since that population first came into being in the 19th century, when Mexico lost what it considered half its territory to the U.S. The hemorrhage began when Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, becoming a republic briefly before joining the United States in 1845. The Mexican government saw the Texas annexation as a casus belli, leading to the Mexican-American War and Mexico's eventual defeat. In the concluding Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, Mexico ceded land that is today California, New Mexico, and Arizona and parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
The estimated 100,000 or so tejanos, californios, and hispanos in the territories were ambivalent about Mexico City from the start. In fact, they may not have felt mexicano at all. "Mexico really was not even a nation at this early time but rather a collection of nations," writes David Weber, the eminent borderland historian at Southern Methodist University. "New Mexico, California, Yucatán, Zacatecas, Oaxaca — these distant areas from the core of the nation were loyal to their own regional governments." The newly created Republic of Mexico "was an abstraction." No surprise then that, after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the Spanish-speaking people north of the new border the option of returning to Mexico, 75% of them stayed put.
Thus began the Mexican government's century-and-a-half attempt to exert influence over this population. Its interest in Mexicans living north of the border only increased when immigration spiked in the 1890s during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
During the turbulent 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution, a secessionist conspiracy based in Texas known as the Plan de San Diego sought to unleash a vast race war and form an independent republic carved out of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California, "of which States the Republic of Mexico was robbed in a most perfidious manner by North American imperialism." The plan resulted in raids from across the Mexican border into Texas starting in summer 1915, and by the next year President Woodrow Wilson began to quietly prepare a declaration of war on Mexico. General John Pershing was sent to quell the rebellion, and his soldiers kept law and order and protected the tejanos.
So tejanos, disenchanted with Mexico City, instinctively threw their lot in with the American government. Thus, ironically, the Plan de San Diego "turned Mexicans into Americans," according to historian Benjamin Heber Johnson. Marxist intellectuals such as professor Armando Navarro at the University of California, Riverside, still refer to the plan as a precursor to the dream of setting up an independent "Aztlan" — the mythical term separatists use to describe the territories Mexico lost to the United States in 1848.
After the Revolution, the corporatist Partido Revolucionario Institucional eventually emerged and, through rigged elections, held the presidency uninterruptedly between 1928 and 2000 (it is also the party of the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto). The PRI soon took up the cause of strengthening links with Mexican-Americans, especially as an estimated 1 million more immigrated northward between 1900 and 1930. But its influence was limited for a reason: The Mexican-American organizations in the U.S. encouraged assimilation and drummed up American patriotism among immigrants.
One of the most important of these organizations, the Orden Hijos de America (The Order of the Sons of America, or OSA), founded in San Antonio in 1921, was open to American citizens only. Its constitution, written in English and Spanish, stated that the group's goal was to use its "influence in all fields of social, economic, and political action in order to realize the greatest enjoyment possible of all the rights and privileges and prerogatives extended by the American Constitution." The OSA was moreover clearly patriotic and religious in nature. Its official hymn was "America the Beautiful," and its motto "For Our Country." It was also an effective defender of the civil rights of Mexican-Americans, and helped to desegregate several public places. In time, the OSA joined other organizations to form the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which continued the push to assimilate and Americanize Mexicans.
As with many things, all this ended in the 1960s. The group-identity movement dovetailed well with Mexico's yearning to see Americans of Mexican origin retain their culture. As organizations like LULAC veered left and militant ones emerged, they looked south for validation.
The identity movement grew out of the Civil Rights Era, which sought to improve the condition of African-Americans but brought other groups along in its wake. Top among these was the Chicano Movement, which rose to demand separateness. "Towards the end of the decade, these groups made great efforts to strengthen ties with the Mexican government and academic institutions through the Chicano Student Movement," write Gustavo Cano and Alexandra Delano. Cross-border activities "influenced the creation of 22 of the currently 40 most important non-profit organizations concerned with support of Mexican-Americans or other Hispanic origin populations in the US."
Mexican domestic politics also played a role. In 1968, the Mexican government had massacred hundreds of students protesting at the Plaza Tlatelolco. In the aftermath, wrote professor Gilbert Gonzalez, the regime sought
to offset its tarnished image with a public relations coup. The struggling Chicano Movement, which welcomed support, was perfect for this purpose. Mexico could present its benevolent face to the world by declaring itself the natural ally of Chicanos seeking to return to the culture of la patria. Chicano yearnings to return to Mexican roots and their demands for cultural democracy were eminently exploitable.
The interior minister who had ordered troops to kill students, Luis Echeverria, became president in 1970. Echevarria, according to Gonzalez, was "well versed in the revolutionary mythology that fitted the nationalistic fervor of the Chicano generation, and he now stepped forward with gestures of support for the cause of the Chicano Movement." At Echevarria's urgings, according to Gonzalez, "[I]nvitations went out to Chicano organizations and their leaders, who descended upon Mexico City for meetings with ranking officials and cabinet members." A member of the radical La Raza Unida Party put the general attitude best, stating that "Chicanos should not look to Wall Street or Washington to find their identity. Our destiny is to the south with a people like us."
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a growing network being formed by the Mexican government and the Chicano groups. At the time, Chicano groups such as NCLR and LULAC were changing their missions so they could claim to represent the American bureaucracy's new ethnic group: Hispanics (and later, Latinos). One of the first acts of President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, in 1982, was to call a meeting in Mexico City with leading Mexican-American groups, including NCLR, MALDEF, and LULAC. Reaffirming "cultural identity and solidarity," de la Madrid said, would give both Mexico City and Chicanos "more leverage in the process of social and political negotiation with the United States." The objective was "to exert influence in American ethnic politics," according to academics Cano and Delano.
Mexico City had long viewed the Mexican-American population more as a "shared" community than one over which it had fully lost control. But, until the 1980s, the Mexican government had curbed its ambitions, lest it be accused of interference in the internal affairs of the United States by American leaders with hard-nosed ideas about what constituted the national interest. Events on both sides of the border in the 1980s, however, changed that.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to some 2.7 million (mostly Mexican) illegal immigrants under the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Around that time, leftist members of the PRI splintered off into the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica. The PRD's leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, began crisscrossing the border to campaign among the new legal residents now participating in American public life. This convinced the mainstream PRI candidate who "won" in 1988, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, that the PRI, too, must appeal to this large group living north of the border. In 1989, he met in Washington with NCLR, MALDEF, and others, which led to the creation of the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad (PCME) — a Mexican federal office devoted to relations with Mexican-Americans.
One of the PCME's first steps was to strengthen the consulates. The Brookings Institution's Robert Leiken quotes Carlos González Gutiérrez, a Foreign Ministry veteran, as saying that the consuls abandoned the policy of non-intervention because it had "failed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the American political process." The massive Mexican presence in the United States was becoming permanent, and Salinas wanted to take advantage of it.
Globalization also played an important part in the decision to change tactics. A state policy of acercamiento (or "coming closer") was established, aiming to create closer ties with Mexican communities abroad. A key catalyst for Salinas's acercamiento policy was the fact that, after decades of the PRI's inward-looking corporatism, Mexico was starting to open up. Salinas thought a Mexican-American lobby would help him sell the North American Free Trade Agreement. Leiken quotes Andrés Rozental, undersecretary for North America at the Mexican Foreign Ministry, as admitting that the aim of the "great project of acercamiento" was to forge "a nonpartisan instrument of Mexican foreign policy."
According to González Gutiérrez, who was one of the acercamiento's architects, in creating the PCME Salinas had actually "acquiesced to a longstanding demand of Latino leaders" to have a direct channel to the Mexican presidency. And sure enough, the PCME was soon holding annual meetings in Mexico City with board members of NCLR, LULAC, MALDEF, and other Latino organizations based in the U.S.
The groups courted by the PCME went to bat for the passage of NAFTA. According to Leiken, "the NCLR frequently brokered relations between the Mexican government's lobbying campaign and Mexican-American and Hispanic organizations." Leiken quotes former NCLR president Raul Yzaguirre as saying that La Raza "took delegations of Chicano /Latino business, community and media representatives to meet with their counterparts in Mexico City" to win support for the agreement. Mexican-Americans, Yzaguirre said, "must be players. Hispanics must learn how to make our presence felt." NAFTA — a mutually beneficial treaty in this author's opinion — went into effect on January 1, 1994.
Flushed with victory, the PCME launched into even more blatant meddling into internal U.S. politics by coordinating opposition to California's Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that sought to deny public services to illegal immigrants. (Voters passed the law, though much of it was later declared unconstitutional.)
Salinas's successor, Ernesto Zedillo, was, if anything, more audacious. In 1997, he told the annual NCLR convention in Chicago, "I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders and that Mexican migrants are an important, a very important part of it." Then he amended the Mexican constitution to let Mexicans who become American citizens retain their Mexican nationality.
Though often seen as a move to increase immigrants' participation in Mexican elections, there is evidence that it was engagement in the U.S. political process that Mexico sought with the amendment. Fear of losing Mexican nationality had always deterred Mexicans from becoming U.S. citizens. According to the Dallas Morning News, Zedillo was clear at a private meeting with Latino leaders that the goal of dual nationality was "to develop a close relationship between his government and Mexican Americans, one in which they could be called upon to lobby US Policy makers on economic and political issues involving the United States and Mexico."
Mexico's next president, Vicente Fox, pushed matters still further. Fox created the Presidential Office for Mexicans Abroad (OPME) shortly after taking office in 2000, putting at its head a Texas-born Mexican-American, Juan Hernandez. Fox later folded the OPME and the PCME into a new office, the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME).
Fox was occasionally explicit about his intentions. The presidential website in 2002 announced that Hernandez had
been commissioned to bring a strong and clear message from the President to Mexicans abroad — Mexico is one nation of 123 million citizens — 100 million who live in Mexico and 23 million who live in the United States — and most importantly to say that although far, they are not alone.
Most infelicitously, Hernandez went on ABC News's "Nightline" in 2001 with a message for Mexican-Americans: "I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think 'Mexico First.'"
The IME is the structure Mexico has in place to this day. Both of Fox's successors, Felipe Calderón and current president Peña Nieto, have kept the network more or less intact. The IME's architecture allows the Foreign Ministry to be both lobbyist and community organizer — and fly mostly under the radar.
González Gutiérrez, who became executive director of the IME in 2003, was unusually explicit about the political goals of the IME when he admitted recently that it had been set up to "empower the Mexican diaspora abroad." It adopts a definition that is "more political than legal of the links that united Americans of Mexican origins with their ancestors....Why treat these citizens in the same way foreigners are treated?"
The IME comes equipped with an advisory council, the Consejo Consultivo del IME, or CCIME, which includes Mexican-Americans among its members and has seats reserved for Latino groups. The IME holds regular "Informative Conferences," which bring together members of U.S. Latino groups and U.S. federal and state government officials who the Foreign Ministry hopes will become "spokespersons for, and goodwill activists toward Mexico."
When Calderón addressed the opening of the CCIME's session in 2010, President Barack Obama's second year of office, he doubled down. Insisting that he saw Mexican-Americans here for generations as his countrymen, he vowed to "fight for Mexicans wherever they may be....My personal conviction is that where there is a Mexican, there should be the government to support him in all his demands and needs."
Calderón also went to war against efforts to crack down on illegal immigration — specifically against Arizona's 2010 SB 1070 law, which requires police to determine an individual's immigration status if he is arrested or detained and if there is reason to suspect he is in the country illegally — with a somewhat contradictory message. "Mexico knows well that it is the sovereign right of all nations to decide the policies that will apply to its territory," he said. But, "we will act, are acting, and will continue to act, because nobody can remain with arms crossed before decisions that affect our countrymen, who for generations have contributed to [Arizona's] growth."
Furthermore, he thought Arizona's SB 1070 should spur Mexicans north of the Rio Grande to act as one with those to the south: "Such an adverse circumstance should be a catalyst, an additional motivation to strengthen and increment the unity and the organization of Mexicans in the United States, and of Mexicans in the United States with the Mexican government. It is our duty to act, to act together and to act now; to act in a coordinated manner."
To handle such coordinated action, Calderon enlisted the consulates.
THE "NETWORK OF NETWORKS"
Over the past several decades, Mexico has not just increased the number of its consulates in the United States — 25% growth in just the past 15 years — but also the nature of their work and their coordination with the IME. As Cano and Delano put it, "The extended network of 45 Mexican consulates throughout the United States gives Mexico a unique opportunity to disseminate IME's projects and programs. No other country has this diplomatic infrastructure within the borders of the most powerful nation in the world."
And the consulate network does not hesitate to take sides. It played key supporting roles in both of President Obama's most controversial domestic policies. With Obamacare, health navigators enrolled people inside Mexican consulates — technically foreign soil — and according to one official, it isn't clear whether illegal immigrants may have actually been enrolled. The consulates also provided field muscle in the two key immigration policies of the Obama administration — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) of 2012, which gave temporary deportation relief to hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally as children; and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) of 2014, announced by Obama in November of that year.
The consulates have paid DACA processing fees for those who cannot pay, and went even further with DAPA. Within days, the Mexican consul in Sacramento — none other than González Gutiérrez — announced a raft of helpful measures: free workshops on applying, one-on-one legal advice, and, again, financial support for fees. President Peña Nieto was at the White House within weeks to praise DAPA as "very intelligent and audacious," and to announce, with Obama by his side, that Mexicans would henceforth be able to obtain birth certificates at the consulates, instead of having to travel to Mexico. This April, Peña Nieto replaced his ambassador to the U.S. with a veteran diplomat, Carlos Manuel Sada Solana, whose main mission is to lobby against presidential candidate Donald Trump's rhetoric. Ambassador Sada Solana, who has headed consulates from New York to Los Angeles, told Bloomberg that he aimed to use the network to this end.
As eyebrow raising as it may be to have another country's consulate network play such an active partisan role in divisive domestic politics, however, it is their role in creating a cadre of Mexican-American leaders that could have the more lasting impact. The IME has personnel embedded in the 50 consulates throughout the United States. They hold local elections so Mexican-Americans can select who will participate in the IME informative conferences. These Jornadas Informativas are a key way that the IME builds and nurtures a force of Mexican-American leaders. The consulates, the CCIME, and the conferences nurture leadership capital on the American side of the border by honing activists' political skills. Former council members and conference attendees are encouraged to remain in contact, and indeed almost one-third of council members are conference alumni.
Fortifying bonds with Mexico — even for people naturalized or born in the United States — is always a priority. Last year the Los Angeles consulate, the biggest in this country, announced that Mexican-Americans would be able to reclaim land they or their ancestors had left. According to Consul Sada Solana, "This is important, given that we have 35 million Mexicans in the United States, of whom no fewer than 30% have some land issue in Mexico" (emphasis added).
But do ethnic organizations actually represent the Mexican-American grassroots? Political scientist Peter Skerry describes groups like NCLR and MALDEF as participating in "elite network politics." The network has "weak community ties" but wins policy fights because it partakes in "a process of specialization and professionalization by which politics become more and more an insiders' game...a politics increasingly turned in upon itself and insulated from the surrounding social flux." Skerry singles out MALDEF as a group that "has no members whatsoever in the communities it represents, and therefore no real bonds of accountability to those communities. The organization gets most of its funding from a few corporations and large foundations — in particular the Ford Foundation."
What these organizations lack in community accountability, they make up for in influence. MALDEF in particular has been highly influential for decades. In the 1970s, it played a crucial role in extending the Voting Rights Act to Hispanics on the spurious notion that English-language ballots were akin to poll taxes used in the Jim Crow South. More recently, one of President Obama's first appointments in 2009 was that of MALDEF president John Trasviña to be assistant secretary at HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
La Raza is similarly disconnected from the community it purports to serve. Though NCLR has more than 260 affiliates nationwide, the affiliates do not vote for the board that runs NCLR. Nor does NCLR rely on members for funding. Charitable groups like the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supply about one-third of its funding; another third comes from Fortune 500 corporations; and most of the rest comes from U.S. government grants. Instead, NCLR affiliates contribute to the cause in other, politically convenient ways. They are overwhelmingly devoted to training committed activists that will mobilize for open immigration, for the environment, for the "Black Lives Matter" movement, against inequality, and to get out the vote against candidates like Cory Gardner in Colorado and Rick Scott in Florida.
THE TRANSNATIONAL AGENDA
Helpful though they are, elite connections and funding alone cannot explain the success of Mexico's efforts; for that, it is necessary to look to America's leadership. In today's American progressive globalists, Mexico has encountered strategic allies who have transcended hard-nosed, nationalist views about loyalty and patriotism and have no qualms about seeing the immigrant population as being shared. The transnational school of thought believes that borders are eroding — both because the information age frees people to contact cousins in remote villages from their basements in Queens or Leeds, and because supposed problems like climate change require global governance.
American champions of transnationalism cheer the IME's advisory council as "a unique model of binational civic engagement," as the left-leaning Migration Policy Institute put it in 2010. Adherents of transnationalism posit that having a political foot on each side of the border actually helps immigrants integrate further into the American political system. Professor Peter Schuck has proposed that by allowing immigrants to maintain dual loyalty, the U.S. government creates a welcoming environment that legitimizes its own authority. Likewise, a 2010 MPI paper praises the IME for taking on a "task traditionally reserved for receiving-country institutions....Grounded in the belief that a better integrated immigrant benefits the individual migrant, the sending country, and the receiving country, IME's integration work represents one of the most significant, if overlooked, factors in US immigrant integration policy."
The apparent contradiction is explained away by transnationalism's tenet that borders will become less meaningful over time. According to a 2001 binational panel organized by the Carnegie Endowment and supported by the Ford and MacArthur Foundations, "[O]ver the long term, it is possible to conceive of a North America with gradually disappearing border controls — in which each country takes responsibility for its people and their actions and is actively sensitive to the concerns of each partner on issues of national and economic security — and with permanent migration remaining at moderate levels." The model is the European Union, said the panel, "particularly for the long term."
The Obama administration fully subscribes to transnationalism, which may explain why Mexico has been so cooperative about the president's most controversial policies. Obama's "New Americans" initiatives — which started rolling out days after the November 2014 executive action on immigration — all rely heavily on the integrationist model.
The Strategic Action Plan released in April 2015 by President Obama's "Task Force on New Americans" relies heavily on transnational thinking. It was co-authored by Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and former NCLR senior vice president, and does not mention assimilation, patriotism, or Americanization in 54 pages. Instead, it puts the onus on how "welcoming communities" must accommodate immigrants, calling for greater sanction of "diverse cultural practices" and maintaining "native language proficiency to preserve culture." And, of course, it recommends greater political engagement for "New Americans."
Another transnational gambit is the "Stand Stronger" Citizenship Awareness Campaign launched in September 2015. It urges streamlining the naturalization process for "eligible immigrants," which would presumably include the millions to whom Obama wants to grant amnesty.
The Obama administration's success in advancing the cause of transnationalism can also be measured in funding to favored groups and causes. A 2012 Judicial Watch investigation uncovered that, from her perch at the Domestic Policy Council, Muñoz had dispensed considerable largesse. NCLR "has benefitted handsomely from Muñoz's quick rise in the Obama Administration." Its funding "more than doubled the year Muñoz joined the White House, from $4.1 million to $11 million." Most of the money (60%) came from the Department of Labor (then headed by Hilda Solis, a winner of the IME's Ohtli Prize, who also has close ties to La Raza). NCLR affiliates also saw their haul of federal money skyrocket after Muñoz's appointment. An NCLR offshoot, Chicanos Por La Causa, "saw its federal funding nearly double to $18.3 million following Muñoz' [sic] appointment," said Judicial Watch.
NATURAL REACTIONS AND CONSERVATIVE RESPONSES
To the extent to which they know about it, many Americans are uneasy about the depth of influence and coordination of the Mexican network and the American government. Though this discomfort can sometimes lead to ugly xenophobia, a certain level of skepticism is warranted. Societies are living organisms, and like all living organisms they instinctively commit to self-preservation, an urge that goes into overdrive when they feel threatened by outside forces.
What makes many Americans uncomfortable with transnationalism is their intuition that the United States has a unique culture, including traits such as an inordinate attachment to (many foreigners say obsession with) the Constitution, a culture of volunteerism, and a widespread derivation of satisfaction from a hard day's work — something not found everywhere. They sense that America's ahistorical degree of freedom and prosperity is somehow connected to these virtues.
No laws have likely been broken by Mexico's consulates or the Latino organizations. Columbia University professor Rodolfo de la Garza has remarked, however, that it is instructive that Mexican leaders always deny that they seek to create a Mexican-American pressure group "when they address non-Hispanic American audiences, but indicate that they seek such a relationship in meetings limited to or dominated by Mexican-Americans." As the Hudson Institute's John Fonte reminds us, we should remember that the last foreign leader to insist that immigrants and their children "to the seventh generation" retain loyalty to their ancestral land was Benito Mussolini.
While it may seem obvious, the argument against Mexico's agenda and America's complicity should start with the recognition that different nations will have different valid interests, and those interests may conflict. More specifically, for all the superficial appeal of transnationalism and global governance, they are the enemies of democracy and local accountability. Laws should reflect a country's culture and character, and those who enact them should be answerable to an electorate small enough to agree on the important issues. As we have seen with the European Union, all too often transnational governance ends up in the hands of technocrats with no need to periodically seek the consent of those who pay their salaries and bear the brunt of their actions. Transnationalism becomes, in everything but name, a cover for an oligarchy unmoored from the electorate.
A conservative response must start with understanding that the multicultural, transnational social model, which they have allowed to grow unchecked, poses a real danger. González Gutiérrez describes clearly how it happened: "It is important to mention the recognition that the United States gives ethnicity as a basis for political organization. This legitimizes the ethnic mobilization of Mexican communities." By enticing people to separate into groups with racial preferences, the American government has only begotten a nation of racial and ethnic interest groups. This approach has encouraged Mexican-Americans to see themselves as a single group, despite the fact that, as Skerry reminds us in his 1993 book, Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority, "it is certainly not self-evident what interests recently arrived illegal Mexican immigrants share with third-generation Mexican-American college graduates."
The group identity construct also encourages all Latinos to adopt the idea that "like blacks, Mexican-Americans comprise a racial minority group." Skerry continues: "This abstraction poses no problems for the ideologically oriented Chicano activists who see the world in such terms....Yet this race idea is somewhat at odds with the experience of Mexican-Americans, over half of whom designate themselves racially as white." As Harvard's Alberto Alesina and Arnaud Devleeschauwer put it in their 2003 paper on ethnic fractionalization — considered the gold standard in the subject — when people are made to "persistently identify with a particular group, they form potential interest groups that can be manipulated by political leaders."
The fact that the American government "designed policies granting explicit preference to members of diverse social groups" also did something else, as González Gutiérrez himself explained — it gave "people of Mexican descent the necessary motivation to mobilize politically toward a common ethnic identity, which in a broad sense is defined as 'Hispanic' or 'Latino.'" Why conservatives have blithely gone along with this reprogramming of America is baffling.
But conservatives must remember that the enemy is not Mexican-Americans; the enemy is the ethnic-identity movement. Discrimination against Mexican-Americans abets that enemy. Proposition 187, for example, which denied public services to people in the U.S. illegally, initially had strong support from Mexican-Americans. According to data from the Latino National Political Survey, 75.2% of Mexican-Americans even agreed with the statement "there are too many immigrants." That was 1.4 percentage points higher than Anglos. And yet, when it came time to vote, a majority of Mexican-Americans voted against Proposition 187. The reason? "[H]ad it not been for the discriminatory fervor of the initiative's sympathizers, Mexican-American voters would have approved Proposition 187 by an ample margin," remembers González Gutiérrez. Conservatives must also be wary of autarkical temptations, and the purveyors of such enticements. They have always understood that only a sovereign nation whose citizens adhere to national civic virtues can be a confident international actor.
The adversaries to wage ideological war against are instead those in our society who preach multiculturalism: the professors who pine for Aztlan; the philanthropists who seek global governance; the groups that purport to represent Latinos but only seed activism and discourage patriotism.
As for the Mexican government, conservatives should point to Donald Trump as they explain how counterproductive it can be to insert meddling ambassadors into American politics. Mexico City should understand that much of the anxiety that so roils our national debates on immigration have to do with fear by a significant portion of Americans that today's immigrants, the majority of whom are Hispanics (the majority of whom are of Mexican origin), are not assimilating as immigrants once did. By striving to ensure that Mexican-Americans do not assimilate culturally and patriotically, Mexico is not doing Mexican-Americans, or our domestic politics, any favors.