This article is from the March 1998 The Mexico File newsletter.
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The Immigration Issue

The San Diego Tijuana region became a major gateway for the bracero program that ran from 1942 to the early sixties, which allowed Mexican farm workers to cross the border to work the fields. And although the laws have changed, and the bracero program was discontinued thirty years ago, thousands of Mexicans from throughout the country enter the U.S. every month searching for ways to earn money to send home to their families. This illegal immigration has become a hot political issue, not just in Califomia, but for the entire country. Living in San Diego, I have an opportunity to live in the midst of the controversy. And if I had to comprise a list of issues that should be of concern to our nation, this wouldn't make the top 100.

Yes, there probably is a social cost to consider. There is evidence that taxpayers are marginally subsidizing some 'illegals" with health benefits and education. And it can't be denied that some of the crossers are thugs and criminals - every society has them. But in my experience, the vast majority are good, hardworking folk with nothing more on their mind than to make a better life for themselves. 'They're taking jobs away from Americans," I hear some say. Well, the last statistics I saw has our unemployment rate at its lowest in decades. Inflation has all but disappeared. The fact is, we like cheap produce, paint jobs and burgers. Many of the Mexicans filling those jobs that keep our prices low would rather be home in Oaxaca and Tabasco, but this is where the work is and they are here by choice. Many have traveled overland for hundreds if not thousands of miles for the chance to make more than the three dollars a day that they were lucky to get back home. Some die on the way. But still, they come. You may call this exploitation, but I don't see it that way. I have talked with these people, and believe me, they don't think they are being exploited. They are sending money home to their families and are grateful for the opportunity.