News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Geo-Political View of The Immigration Controversy

Geo-political strategist George Friedman offers an incisive non-partisan geo-political view of the immigration controversy in an article titled "Arizona, Borderlands and U.S.-Mexican Relations." Some excerpts:

"Immigration in any country is destabilizing. Immigrants have destabilized the United States ever since the Scots-Irish changed American culture, taking political power and frightening prior settlers. The same immigrants were indispensible to economic growth. Social and cultural instability proved a low price to pay for the acquisition of new labor."

“The Mexican-American War established the political boundary between the two countries. Economic forces on both sides of the border have encouraged both legal and illegal immigration north into the borderland — the area occupied by the United States. The cultural character of the borderland is shifting as the economic and demographic process accelerates. The political border stays where it is while the cultural border moves northward.”
“Three fault lines emerged in United States on the topic. One was between the business classes, which benefited directly from the flow of immigrants and could shift the cost of immigration to other social sectors, and those who did not enjoy those benefits. The second lay between the federal government, which saw the costs as trivial, and the states, which saw them as intensifying over time. And third, there were tensions between Mexican-American citizens and other American citizens over the question of illegal migrants. This inherently divisive, potentially explosive mix intensified as the process continued.”

My only point of difference with Mr. Friedman is that he thinks of the immigration controversy solely in the context of nation-states. What I believe he fails to grasp is the pan-national power of the Hispanic identity in the United States. The Hispanic identity is essentially an artificial group that exists only within the borders of the United States composed of people from any Spanish-speaking nation. In reality, this group is as diverse as people from all English-speaking nations. Yet a sense of unity is being forged among those labeled Hispanic by a reaction to a variety of external forces: misunderstanding, prejudice and even well-meaning members of academia and the media who lump these disparate people into a monolithic group. In effect, U.S. Hispanics are uniting in response to ignorance in a variety of forms, both bigoted and benign. 

One example of this pan-ethnic solidarity is evident in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Despite long-standing local differences, Arabs in a number of nation-states united against Israel. Another supra-national group is Al-Qaeda --and that is a very sobering thought. 

I agree with Mr. Friedman that we could be on the path to a conflict -- a conflict which I believe is avoidable, by the way. Where I think his assessment falls short is in realizing how wide that potential conflict may spread. Because of the rise of the Hispanic identity, an ethnic conflagration in the U.S. could involve many more nations than Mexico.

But we are not doomed to conflict. The path to a solution begins with an understanding of our mutual humanity. We need to see ourselves as we really are. Not as political demagogues want us to see each other. As Mr. Friedman wisely points out, "demonizing those we disagree with is neither new nor promising."

Raul Ramos y Sanchez