Foreign presence impacts more than United States
With President Bush's announcement of a sweeping new immigration program, a lot of attention has been focused on the impact of foreign workers on our economy.
This is especially true of workers from Mexico who have spread out across our nation to fill low-paying unskilled jobs that few Americans want to take. Border areas like ours feel the impact of this flow of workers into the United States, many of them entering illegally.
There will undoubtedly be a major debate on the wisdom of the new temporary work programs, especially if illegal workers already here are given legal status. Such a debate will be healthy because it hopefully will focus attention on the need for the workers and how we must realistically deal with the issue.
The debate will undoubtedly go beyond the issue of work, however, and into the area of culture. While they may deny it, the truth is that many of those who seek to clamp down our borders and keep Mexican workers out are really more concerned about the impact on our culture and values rather than just the jobs issue.
There is an undercurrent of fear that workers from Mexico will bring different values and a different language to our nation. There is a fear that there won't be an appreciation for the essentially European values that are ingrained in American culture. Some are also concerned there will not be an appreciation for the democratic traditions of the United States.
These fears are unfounded, of course. Many waves of immigrants have flowed into our nation, each bringing their own languages, values and traditions. These immigrants have kept what they valued most from their cultures and shared them with other Americans, while accepting the best of American values and culture. That is, after all, what draws them to the United States.
The result has been a dynamic nation with a healthy and diverse culture. No country that hopes to grow and prosper can have a static culture because that leads to isolation and backwardness.
Ironically, while some Americans are concerned about the impact of Mexican workers here, there are some Mexicans who are equally concerned about the impact of American businesses on their nation.
A major example is American retail giant Wal-Mart. The highly-competitive company has changed the face of retailing in the United States, some feel negatively. And now it is doing the same thing in Mexico, putting tremendous pressure on traditional Mexican markets and retail practices.
And for those concerned about Mexican workers driving down wages in the United States, it is notable that Wal-Mart's Mexico stores have actually driven wages down in Mexico, a nation not noted for high wages in the first place.
Here are some surprising (at least to me) facts, as reported by the New York Times, about Wal-Mart's impact on Mexico:
--It is now the largest private employer in Mexico, creating nearly half the new jobs there last year.
--It sells more food than any other company in Mexico, totally dominating the supermarket arena.
--Wal-Mart's low prices have actually driven the rate of inflation down there.
--It generates more business than the entire Mexican tourism industry.
--Its sales represent 2 percent of Mexico's gross national product, about the same as in America.
This has happened in only 12 years that is when Wal-Mart opened its first store in Mexico. It now has 633 in operation.
Dianna Farrell, director of a global marketing research group, told The Times that Wal-Mart's methods of doing business are creating a "radical change" in business practices there.
Increasingly, all nations are part of a global marketplace and what America does or Japan or Mexico or any of a number of other nations will impact everyone else. Economic isolation for America, or any other nation, is unrealistic and we have to adapt to that fact.
Terry Ross is editor of The Sun.