David Montejano: Immigration issue is complex and requires bilateral solutions





When David Montejano discusses United States-Mexico issues, the historian's analyses are often punctuated with chuckles.

The San Antonio native and prize-winning author of "Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas" teaches at UC-Berkeley and is chairman of its Center for Latino Policy Research.
Recent immigrant-rights marches "are giving immigrants voices," he says, and 500,000 people marching through Dallas must have been particularly disturbing to anti-immigrant leaders.

He also dismisses some of the changes anti-immigration groups want as simplistic and ill-informed.

"We already have (employer sanctions) laws but we don't enforce them, except for the showcase raids last week on a pallet maker," he says, while major U.S. corporations were given a bye.

Montejano also dismisses guest-worker proposals as unrealistic.

"A guest-worker program that is anything like the bracero program — even with better protections — is not a solution to the structural problem," he says. "It will actually create even greater immigration."

And while most have forgotten about them, fervent anti-Mexican sentiments are hardly the first registered in the United States.

"In the 1920s there was a whole 'Mexican problem' that newspaper editorials and politicians — including those from Texas — were ranting and raving about," he says.

"And did that generation lead to the undoing of America?" the professors asks. "No, that generation's sons fought World War II, and their daughters served in the factories."

And their grandchildren were the first who attended universities in significant numbers.

"You also had Operation Wetback in the 1950s, and there were protests, but they didn't get the attention these latest protests have commanded," he continues. "The major difference (between the two waves of protests) is that now you have leading elected officials who can present the case, and that represents an advance." ...



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