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Let’s nurture Mexico

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On Sept. 16, 1810, Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo launched a war for Mexican independence from Spain. Eleven years later Mexico won its freedom. On the eve of Mexican Independence Day President Vicente Fox appealed to a joint session of the U.S. Congress to free Mexican workers in the United States from discrimination by granting them legal status and open border crossing. A three-minute standing ovation followed Fox's call for "legalization" of more than 3.5 million Mexican workers.

A priority of President Bush's foreign policy is to assist Mexico in attaining economic stability so it can support its citizens and develop into a hemispheric partner. Bush understands the key to a Mexican partnership is education of its citizens working in the United States. Mexico's priority is to protect its citizens living in the United States by removing the stigma of illegality. Bush and Fox agree that granting citizenship to Mexicans here illegally is a divisive issue and is not presently anticipated.

Fox is the first president in 71 years to govern Mexico who is not tied to the corrupt PRI party. His election signals a determination by the populace to purge Mexico of institutionalized corruption and to institute measures to correct a cyclically weak economy. Fox speaks of a partnership of equals that will bring Mexico investment, credibility and true respect.

When Fox talks equality between our countries he reminds me of my son. AJ, 18, attends the University of Utah full time, works nearly full time and lives at home. Although legally independent, he is reliant on the love, care and money of his family to help him mature into a self-sufficient, productive member of our society. AJ occasionally flexes his independence, but, truth is, he is very dependent.

This past summer AJ informed me he and some friends were taking a trip. He asked if I could arrange accommodations, which meant would I pay for them. I was glad to and told him I had paid his auto insurance premium, as I had paid for the car he drives. He reassured me he would be careful, as we calculated his school costs, which I pay.

During our talks I sometimes give him advice he doesn't want to hear but accepts graciously because he sees I support his efforts. AJ will make some mistakes while maturing into adulthood, and learn from those experiences, as he works at developing trust, respect and self-sufficiency.

Mexico, like AJ, is legally independent but in need of being weaned of its American dependence. Like AJ, Mexico fantasizes on being an equal, but truth is, it ain't and won't be anytime soon. Yet, with care, patience and economic assistance, Mexico, like AJ, can realize economic independence. Unfortunately, American patience and vision are stunted when it comes to economic issues. Pocketbook issues demand immediate resolutions, unlike our attitude toward our children, which command patience, care and love.

Bush wants to take advantage of the Mexican necessity to change and not penalize it for immature past mistakes. Initially, he will recognize all employees, even non-citizens, have a right to be free of discrimination, which is hardly a novel concept. Likewise, allowing immigrants the right to seek employment is no big deal; studies inform us the marketplace controls employee demand, whether legal or not.

Encouraging Mexico's good-faith efforts toward independence means we must take must take responsibility for our malfunctions and stop blaming immigrants and their children for the inability of our educational and health systems to adjust to changing demographics. These problems existed long before the Mexican immigration wave; just like AJ didn't cause high insurance premiums for teenagers.

Recent catastrophic events momentarily shook our self-image of invincibility, but American resolve is unflinching. Concurrently, Mexicans abandon everything and courageously adapt to humiliating and discriminatory circumstances perpetrated by the self-absorbed who wonder why the Third World doesn't adore us.

American resolve spiced by Mexican courage is exactly what America needs in a dangerously intimate world. For our own protection we must build reliable partnerships in our neighborhood, and that will take boldness, intelligence and patience.

When AJ is truly independent I will miss his dependence. I will miss my boy, our talks, giving him advice. But, he will be strong, independent and resourceful, an equal who may not need me as much as I will always need him. So, too, with understanding, patience and encouragement shall Mexico be a true partner, able to sustain its citizens, and aid its neighbor, as we are weaned from our dependency on Mexican labor, which we take for granted.

Utah native Mike Martinez, an attorney in private practice, is active in Hispanic affairs. He has previously worked in the Utah Attorney General's Office, the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office and for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington D.C. E-mail: mmartinez@inquo.net