From Migrants to Immigrants – Jorge Castañeda on the Immigration debate

Jorge Casteneda author of Ex Mex The ever-raging national immigration debate may draw opinions from myriad corners of U.S. society, but it continues to lack a perspective from south of the border, a Mexican scholar and author said Tuesday. Jorge Castañeda, former foreign minister under President Vicente Fox, wrote a book, “Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants,” for those interested in the Mexican perspective, and he spoke at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus to a packed auditorium of more than 300.

U.S.-Mexico cross-border relations have ebbed and flowed for decades, so placing the discussion in its historical context was another reason behind his latest work.

“Many people think it all began when Lou Dobbs’ nightly show shifted from 6 to 7 in the evening, but it’s been around for over a century,” Castañeda said in English, drawing numerous chuckles about the popular CNN commentator.

Though a bi-national immigration accord has been languishing since 9-11, Castañeda, who currently teaches political science and Latin American studies at New York University, reiterated that “the whole enchilada” must include four elements:

Mass amnesty for undocumented immigrants already here.

A temporary worker program for future newcomers.

Providing economic muscle to areas from which most Mexicans emigrate.

Enacting a sensible border security program that benefits both countries.

Even if current immigration policy is not dramatically overhauled and the one-sided border clampdown continues, Castañeda warned that nothing will keep migrants out as long as they’ve got jobs waiting up north.

“All sorts of things have happened, but no matter what, immigration has never stopped,” he said.

His 10-minute talk was followed by comments from three panelists: Raúl Rodríguez, former president of the San Antonio-based North American Development Bank; Lionel Sosa, director of Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, a local think tank; and Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News.

The discussion was jointly sponsored by UTSA’s Mexico Center and the World Affairs Council.

Hernan Rozemberg