Mexican President's Pro-Illegals 'Campaign Tour' in U.S.

Mexican President Vicente Fox swung through the American Midwest June 16 to 18, giving Spanish-language speeches, in what one U.S. House member described as a “campaign tour” on U.S. territory. The tour kicked off with what the Mexican embassy called a speech before “the Mexican community . . . living in the United States” in Chicago on June 16. Chicago has the largest Mexican population in the nation after Los Angeles. Fox, who was elected in 2000, is barred from running for reelection, But his wife, Marta Sahagún de Fox, is widely regarded as a leading PAN party candidate to replace him. She accompanied him on his trip. Fox did not meet with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or other Cabinet members, but did meet with the mayor of Chicago, the governor of Minnesota, Sen. Norm Coleman (R.-Minn.), and other state and local officials during his three-day swing through the United States. Several of Fox’s appearances, however, seemed blatantly political, and were partly aimed at Mexican nationals living illegally in the United States who he hopes will be able to vote–from U.S. territory–in future Mexican elections. First and foremost, Fox discussed his new proposal–sent to the Mexican Congress the day before his trip began–allowing Mexicans living in the United States to vote as absentees in Mexico’s next presidential election in 2006. By his own reckoning, that would mean that Mexicans living here would make up 15% of the Mexican electorate. Fox also condemned new U.S. efforts to step up interior enforcement (as opposed to border enforcement) of immigration law, saying, “We will stand beside every Mexican woman and man in this country, we will defend them against the raids being carried out in the state of California.” He called for the “legalization of Mexican workers” and highlighted his efforts to get the matricula consular card–issued indiscriminately by Mexican consulates to Mexicans living legally or illegally in the U.S.–accepted as a legitimate ID card by more U.S. state governments and private institutions. With his wife at his side, Fox spoke to many audiences of Mexican aliens at community centers and schools in Chicago, the Twin Cities area, and Michigan–all three areas with rapidly growing Mexican populations–as well as to more elite groups, such as the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Local news reports say the crowds at the various events ranged in size from 500 to 3,000. Speaking in Spanish at the Academia Cesar Chavez school in St. Paul, Fox said, “We came here to support your everyday work. We came here to speak about your values. We came here to make sure that all of your rights are guaranteed and protected–human rights, labor rights.” Oscar Chacon, director of the influential Chicago-based pro-immigration group Enlaces America, said that activist groups within the United States provided the impetus for absentee voting in order to secure more rights for Mexicans living here. But, he said, “From a more cynical point of view, we are already entering the preliminary phase of the next Mexican presidential election.” Chacon did not call Fox’s visit a campaign trip–neither Fox nor his wife openly asked for votes–but predicted that if Fox’s proposal passes, Mexican politicians could step up campaigning and fundraising in the United States–political activities that he said have been conducted for years in the U.S. by politicians from many foreign countries. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, called Fox’s trip a “campaign tour.” “This is another example of how important it is to Mexican politicians that Mexican nationals here do not assimilate into American culture. Will this become routine?” he asked. The Mexican embassy did not respond to calls. In 1996, the Mexican Congress enacted a law allowing Mexicans living abroad to vote in Mexican elections. But Mexican nationals had to travel to polling places within Mexico’s borders to do so. (Even most areas in Mexico do not have absentee balloting.) Fox’s plan would make it possible for Mexicans to vote from their host countries, and Mexican-Americans with dual nationality or dual citizenship would be able to vote, though no one knows how many such people there are, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “All Mexican-born people can get their citizenship back from Mexico,” he said. “The State Department says we don’t recognize dual citizenship, but there is no enforcement.” Calls to the State Department seeking information about this and rules governing foreign politicians’ campaign trips to the United States went unreturned, but Krikorian said that foreign politicians have been coming here to campaign for years. Already, two U.S. residents have been elected to Mexico’s Camera of Deputies, analogous to our House of Representatives. Eddie Varon Levy, a Mexican citizen living in West Los Angeles at the time, was elected to an at-large seat in 2000, and Manuel de la Cruz, a U.S. citizen with dual nationality living in Norwalk, Calif., at the time, was elected in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times