I’ve been following the immigration policy debate with interest, especially the emphasis on “border security” — which is itself a code for rather unpleasant conversations about Mexicans.
It’s code because here in the world governed by facts, a little place that I like to call “reality,” we actually don’t have a problem with our border. Net migration from Mexico is zero — perhaps even reversed, meaning that at least as many Mexicans are crossing the border in a southerly direction as are coming north.
Still, the idea endures that we, the people of the United States, are under some sort of attack by hordes of brown skinned people who are determined to turn this into a Spanish-speaking country and destroy our American way of life. They will do this because they want what we have, and their covetous desire will necessarily destroy all that we have because these invaders are essentially uneducated, unsophisticated, untrustworthy children.
These ugly ideas are nothing new, and are in themselves distinctly American. Throughout U.S. history, anti-immigrant sentiment has accompanied each successive wave of migration. And these are not especially enlightened times: since the 1990s, anti-immigrant xenophobia has climbed to levels not seen since the 1920s, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In Perceptive Travel this week, I posit that current concerns over traveling in Mexico are are related to these old stereotypes.