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IPFS News Link • General Opinion

What American Culture Are Immigration-Control Advocates Trying to Protect?


Supporters of America's system of immigration controls often say that a system of open borders, which we libertarians favor, would destroy America's culture. We've got to build a wall around America, they say, to keep out foreigners in order to protect our culture.

But what culture exactly are they trying to protect?

Maybe they are trying to protect the culture in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, which is located on the U.S.-Mexico border. I'd estimate that around 95 percent of Laredoans have Hispanic surnames. When I practiced law there in the late 1970s and early 1980s, around 20 percent of people who were summoned for jury duty could not read or write English. Several years ago, when I was visiting Laredo, I did an informal survey in a McDonalds by walking around the tables and listening to people converse. Almost all of the conversations were in Spanish.

Many street signs in Laredo are named after Mexican or Spanish heroes. Malinche Avenue is named after La Malinche, a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast who helped Spain defeat the Aztecs. Zaragoza Street is named after the Mexican general who led the Mexican army in the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on the Cinco de Mayo, 1862. Hidalgo is named after Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the man who initiated Mexico's war of independence against Spain. Matamoros Street is named after a priest who was active in the Mexican war of independence.

The signs in many retail stores are both in English and Spanish, a phenomenon that seems perfectly normal to Laredoans. A few years ago, I walked into Walmart, where there was a person in front of the store greeting people. She would quickly size up customers by looking at their faces and decide instantaneously whether to say "Good Morning" or "Buenos Dias." I doubt whether anyone got upset if she made a mistake.

Some people in Laredo keep up more with what is going on with Mexican politics and sports than they do with American politics and sports. Many Laredoans read the Mexican press more than they do the American press.

When I was growing up, there was no drinking age in Nuevo Laredo, which was right across the river from Laredo. Therefore, date night for us teenagers oftentimes consisted of driving across the river, having some great Mexican food and then going to a nightclub for a floor show, dancing, and beer or mixed drinks. (No, we didn't always have our parents' consent but what they didn't know didn't hurt them.) Of course, today that no longer happens owing to the fact that the U.S.-Mexico drug war has made Mexico's border towns too violent and unsafe for American tourists.

Should Laredoans be considered unpatriotic for having this type of unusual culture? Well, perhaps I should point out that Laredo is the only city in the United States that has a big annual celebration that commemorates George Washington's birthday, a multi-day event that includes a debutant's ball, a downtown parade with big floats led by Pocahontas on horseback, and even a Jalapeño Festival.

Is the culture in Laredo the culture that immigration-control advocates want to preserve with their wall around America? Something tells me that it's not. What then do the immigration-control advocates say should be done with Laredo? Give it back to Mexico?