Thursday, October 11, 2007

Valley ‘best proof’ of life on the border done right. Castañeda said.

History, economics, stubbornness and “lousy” policies are mucking up already complicated relations between the United States and Mexico, Jorge Castañeda said Wednesday. But it’s nothing new.

“The relationship between the two countries had never been devoid of frictions,” said Castañeda, a Latin American studies pro-fessor, author and former foreign affairs minister of Mexico.

Drugs and immigration are the central dilemmas facing the two nations that share an unarmed border but are not without strong conflicts.

We’ve actually made a lot of progress over the last 10 or 15 years,” he said, addressing hundreds of high school and college stu-dents from Brownsville and Matamoros, who assembled at the Jacob Brown Auditorium Wednesday morning to hear him speak.

It’s not perfect,” he added later. “But we can manage this relationship and are managing it better today than ever before.

Castañeda was the keynote speaker in the university’s distinguished lecture series, its ninth since the series began. He made a second presentation in the evening for about 150 that attended a scholarship fundraiser at the university.

Interrupted by applause and laughter for his observations on U.S.-Mexico relations, Castañeda spoke against plans to build a bor-der fence between the two countries and predicted the imminent legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The proposed border fence is “a lousy idea,” he said to cheers from the evening lecture audience that included students, local dignitaries, and the academic and legal community. “It is unfriendly, hostile, aggressive.”

No one disputed a country’s rights to secure the border,” he said. “This is a hateful way. It’s not what friends do.”

And, “it doesn’t work.”

Plans to begin construction on a fence along the Texas border include 17 miles in Brownsville. Its purpose is to curb illegal immi-gration and safeguard U.S. ports of entry.

There are about 13 million Mexicans that reside in the United States, Castañeda said, “some with papers, some without.

What the United States must decide, he said, “is whether you want them here legally or illegally … because they are going to come anyway.”

Aside from the drug trade that links the two nations in the grip of supply and demand, immigration is “the central issue in U.S.-Mexico relations today.”

Castañeda believes legalization for undocumented immigrants living in the United States is imminent because deportation, “at $20,000 a pop,” is cost prohibitive and will be rejected by the U.S. taxpayers.

It’s “simply not going to happen,” he said. “It will cost too much … They have to be legalized, there is no other solution.”

Immigration policy struggles between the two nations, as in more than 100 nations, he said, “has been with us for a long, long, long time.”

What makes us unique is that “this is the only place in the world where you have a rich country and a poor country sharing a bor-der.” And the draw of the U.S. economy will always prove too strong to keep Mexican residents and others from seeking entry to this country.

We can’t get another neighbor … though there are some in Mexico that would like to try,” he said to laughter from the crowd.

But we can “fix the problems in relationships that don’t work,” Castañeda said. We can have peace of mind, and peaceful “circu-larity” of people, goods and services.
The best proof of this is life in the Rio Grande Valley,” he said and ended his speech to standing ovation, “the best proof is life on the border.”

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