Mexico has everything it takes to become a successful economy in her own right. She has natural resources, including oil and gas. She has natural beauty and a storied history to which tourists flock. And, above all, she has a hard-working people with strong family values.
So what’s keeping Mexico, and other Central American countries with similar economic conditions, from reaching their full potential? For one, crony capitalism: a few tycoons, through well-placed connections in governments, become fabulously rich. Artificial barriers of entry, enacted by the same governments, keep competition away from the aspiring entrepreneurs and create lucrative monopolies in vital industries.
Broken education systems don’t help either. For example, the state of Oaxaca, with a population of 3.8 million, spends a billion-plus a year on teacher payroll. On top of that, wasteful spending abounds, including one office building with a pool that cost $3.2 million. What do the students get? From 1998 to 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal, students in Oaxaca missed 172 days because of strikes, equal to one full school year. The dominant and politically connected union, CNTE, works very hard to protect their political turf. If only they work as hard at teaching.
Reforms are long overdue. But the United States, by being the safety valve for the most desperate and enterprising, makes it difficult to build up, within these nations, the critical mass necessary for such reforms. Worse still, remittance from the United States had become a major source of income for these countries. In a way, we are rewarding those states or provinces most “effective” in squeezing people out.
Our failure to enforce our immigration laws also contributes to the crime wave currently sweeping Central America. With fathers and mothers away, leaving only the young and the old, communities lost the most stabilizing and cohesive force. Gangs reign.
But worst is the example we set. We pride ourselves as a nation of law. Now we pick and choose which laws to enforce and give exemptions to politically influential groups. The so-called sanctuary cities are prime examples. To illustrate how ridiculous these sanctuary policies are, for the benefit of our friends on the left, let’s imagine a city, say, Bakersfield, declaring herself a sanctuary for gun owners and refusing to enforce state or federal gun registration laws within their city limits.
Now the White House is planning to spend additional hundreds of millions in Central America to fight the crime wave. It is a temporary fix at best. Our southern neighbors need to build stable and sustainable economies and communities by structural reforms through the efforts of local civil societies. We can help. We should fix our policies on substance abuse; we should crack down on international criminal organizations; and above all, to enable needed reforms and to set a better example, America should enforce our existing immigration laws, such as E-Verify.
George Yang is the vice chair of the South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition and was 2012 Republican National Convention delegate for congressional district 14.