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Commentary: Root for Tijuana to curb immigration

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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TIJUANA, Mexico (CNN) -- I have taken my readers' advice. They're always suggesting interesting locales from which to report on the immigration issue. Like this: "Go back to Mexico!"

Not to quibble but I was born in the United States, as were my parents and three of my four grandparents. The fourth came to the United States legally about the time of the Mexican Revolution.

I'm a Mexican-American. In fact, I never feel more American than when I am in Mexico -- a country with rich and poor and little in between, with too much corruption and too little opportunity.

Tijuana is an exception. It's buzzing. According to Baja Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther, the unemployment rate is a measly 0.8 percent. Moreover, he said, the city retains as much as 70 percent of the people who migrate here from other parts of Mexico with the intent of crossing the border.

Did you catch that? To curb illegal immigration into the United States, root for the economies of Mexican border cities. If more people stayed there, fewer would come here.

Don't expect the dim bulbs in Congress to figure this out. The only thing members could agree to do last year was approve a fraction of the funding to build 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border state governors were disgusted. Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called the fence "ridiculous" and provocative toward Mexico. And yet, there are Americans who love the idea of a fence along the border. For them, such a barrier must seem impassable and impenetrable.

Funny. From down here, it seems quite passable and penetrable. There isn't a fence high enough, long enough or deep enough that the desperate won't go over, around, or under if it means feeding their families. In fact, an adviser to Gov. Elorduy looked like she wanted to bust out laughing when I asked her if she thought los Americanos could stop illegal immigration by simply building more fences.

I get the joke. A fence won't keep out people who make $5 a day and who risk their lives to make 20 times that en el otro lado (on the other side).

We might as well be honest about that, especially if we're going to have what President Bush called for last week in the State of the Union Address: "a serious, civil and conclusive debate" over immigration.

I'd settle for an honest one. Recently, after a speech in San Diego, a woman presented me with her own solution: A high-speed rail connecting Tijuana with Southern California. That way, she said, people could work in the United States during the day and be home in Mexico before sunset.

I love the idea. Not because it's any good but because it illustrates better than 1,000 columns the schizophrenic way in which many Americans complain about illegal immigrants even as we feed our addiction to illegal immigrant labor.

It also shows why Americans will never be able to find the solution -- because we're the problem.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. You can read his column here.external link

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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Ruben Navarrette Jr: Healthy Mexican economies near the U.S border curb illegal immigration.



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