May 31, 2001

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if the U.S. government spent tax dollars on providing body armor, faster get-away cars, fake passports and the works to make life safer for bank robbers? Sure, it seems a bit odd to be promoting criminal activity. Yet that seems to be the mindset of the Mexican government which recently announced it would be paying for more than 200,000 "survival kits" to be distributed to illegal immigrants along the Mexican border with the United States.

Apparently the Mexican government is alarmed by the more than 300 deaths that occur each year along the border as its citizens attempt to sneak into the United States. But instead of funding law enforcement along the border or promoting education regarding the dangers of attempting to illegally enter the U.S. the Mexican government will hand out kits to help its people flee the economic woes of Mexico so they may try to find the elusive American dream. So thanks to their efforts it will now be a bit easier for illegal immigrants to enter this country.

The kit will include snake-bite antidotes, rehydration pills, dehydrated food and other first aid and survival items to preserve the health of the illegal immigrants in case the border crossing turns into a prolonged jail break. Sure it is a tragedy that 300 people a year die from snake bites, drowning, starvation, exposure or dehydration as they attempt to illegally enter the United States. One can not fault a government for trying to preserve the lives of its citizens. Yet the danger of the crossing was likely the lone deterrent keeping many immigrants from attempting to sneak across the border.

I also can not look past the message this sends to the citizens of Mexico. How would you feel if the U.S. government was paying out money to get you to leave the country? Even worse is the image of paying money to help the lowest social classes to leave. Of course the survival kit probably is a lot cheaper than doling out welfare and social services to the poor, whom the Mexican government obviously would prefer to pass on to the United States.

The Mexican government did reveal one motive behind the move that makes sense. It doesn't want these illegal immigrants to die crossing the border, especially when they are returning to Mexico with the money they have made in the United States. Let's face it, while this project is being funded by the Mexican social services, it likely is being underwritten by the country's economic development people. The illegal immigration not only helps Mexico with unemployment and welfare issues, but it turns around and boosts the economy with an influx of cash being brought home by the traveling workers. Shoot his survival kit is like that funny duck AFLAC, it's supplemental insurance to make sure these illegal immigrants not only make it into the U.S., but that they also return home safely.

The U.S. has expressed its displeasure with the new policy but it doesn't appear our scorn will stop Mexico from beginning to hand out the survival kits in the middle of June. For some reason it brings to mind the picture of the great land races held in Oklahoma during the pioneer days. Apparently that terminology isn't too far off, as the head of the Mexican program has gone as far as to describe the illegal immigrants as "the new pioneers of America". Maybe I am taking this a little too seriously. I mean what country wouldn't encourage its citizens to commute to a better paying job, even if it meant breaking a few laws here or there?

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