Back in 2007, Al Ries and I wrote a column, "Why not merge with Mexico rather than fight immigration?"
Frankly, we wrote it in a lighthearted way, not really believing that anyone would take us too seriously.
But now, more than five years later, it has become obvious that Congress is not going to do anything about our country's biggest problem: how to deal with our 12 million or so undocumented workers. Unless we want to watch the problem get worse every year, is there any other practical solution than a merger?
Sure, there are millions of people on both sides of the border who would scream to high heaven. And it might take decades to work out all the issues involved. But why not start by setting up a commission of Mexican and American leaders to discuss the possibility?
There is precedent here: As a result of the 1846 war with Mexico, the United States acquired a vast portion of the northern half of the country, including what are now the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. (It's no coincidence that many streets and cities in these states have Spanish names, like Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Fe.)
We did not get these territories for nothing. It cost us 13,780 American lives. The whole thing started when the Texans (Texas was not yet a part of the U.S.) tried to secede from Mexico, provoking Mexican general Santa Anna to attack the Alamo, winning the battle but losing the PR war. As students of history will know, the Mexicans had thousands of troops marshaled against some 200 Texans, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, and the Texans fought to the last man.
Texas won its independence and eventually joined the U.S., but the Alamo so enraged the country that U.S. politicians were able to use it as an excuse to start a war with Mexico. After an amphibious invasion at Vera Cruz and the subsequent occupation of Mexico City, the Mexicans decided to settle, giving up almost half of their country for the paltry sum of $15 million.
The dustup with Mexico was not the only time we acquired territory to the south. "Remember the Maine" served the same PR function as "Remember the Alamo" in the Spanish-American War of 1898, a conflict that gave us Puerto Rico and the Philippines (until 1946).
That brings us to today. The hard facts are that the American public will never agree to amnesty for the 12 million undocumented workers now living in the U.S. On the other hand, it's physically impossible for the U.S. government to deport them. Even if we succeeded in carting all of the undocumented back across the Rio Grande, what's to stop them from returning?
Latino culture is deeply ingrained in U.S. culture. As a matter of fact, we've already merged our two cultures. Mexican food and drink are among the most popular choices here. (Corona is the No. 1 imported beer in America, and the margarita is our most-popular mixed drink.) Mexican and Mexican-American entertainers -- including directors Guillermo del Toro and Robert Rodriguez, actors Eva Longoria and Salma Hayek and singer Selena Gomez -- are part of our mainstream culture. And almost every city in America receives the Spanish-language TV networks Telemundo and Univision.
What's more, Mexicans culturally embody the very characteristics that Americans purportedly cherish -- close-knit families and deeply ingrained religious beliefs, values that we seem to have forgotten or ignored lately.
It's just not right to construct what is in essence a Berlin Wall to separate our countries. We've taken a number of steps to assimilate our cultures, and building a fence along 1,969 miles of our border will create a breach that will be hard to overcome.A merger would result in millions of people becoming productive members of one unified society and be a tremendous boost to one economy. Immigrants often take jobs the rest of us don't want to do. And similar to European countries, America's population is aging rapidly, and younger immigrants would fill a big hole in our demographics.
In a unified country, U.S. labor laws would likely drive even low-end salaries up across the board. That might not be optimal for U.S. businesses that seek lower costs by opening factories in Mexico, but higher salaries -- and perhaps safer conditions -- would benefit Mexican factory workers. (And there would be nothing to stop Mexican states from offering the sort of tax incentives and deals to businesses that U.S. states currently offer.)
For those people who worry that the merger would cause an even greater migration to the "upper states," the opposite might also be true.
Many Mexicans might like to go home, since it would now be part of the United States of America & Mexico (the USAM). Or the more mellifluous MUSA (Mexico & United States of America), which means muse in Spanish.
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