Prof. Emma Sepulveda, the Reno Gazette-Journal's resident Hispanic "expert," proved once again last Sunday that she doesn't understand the role of American embassies and diplomats in the ongoing immigration policy debate.
Writing about the new U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, second generation Mexican-American Tony Garza, she said he would be judged by his ability to resolve "the problems of border crossings and Mexican workers who are fulfilling the labor demand in the United States." No way!
Apparently, the Chilean-born columnist/educator believes that American diplomats are supposed to represent the countries to which they are assigned. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's get it straight: Ambassador Garza is the personal representative of the president of the United States to the government of Mexico, and not the other way around. And the fact that he's Mexican-American doesn't change his mission; he is charged with representing the best interests of all of the people of the U.S., not just a Latino minority.
When I served in Venezuela during the period 1986-90, the American ambassador was Otto J. Reich, a Cuban-American who is now assistant secretary of state for Latin America. At first, Ambassador Reich was inclined to pay too much attention to Cuba and Cubans, but he soon realized that his mandate was much broader than that. Wisely, he delegated Cuba issues to another high-ranking American diplomat, who ran interference for the ambassador on those politically charged issues.
"What can Ambassador Garza accomplish for the benefit of President Bush, for President Fox or for his own people (the Latinos)?" Ms. Sepulveda asked in last Sunday's RG-J. She wrote that "his own people" expect the new ambassador "to be the man who will finally answer some of the questions raised in the debate on immigration reform."
Sorry professor, but that's not the way it works in this country. Ambassador Garza's "people" are the American people and his boss is his fellow Texan and personal friend, President Bush, and not Mexican President Vicente Fox, who is pushing for "open borders" and the legalization of illegal Mexican workers in the U.S. Largely due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, none of that is going to happen on Ambassador Garza's watch.
That's because the new ambassador won't be formulating U.S. immigration policy. Rather, he'll carry out U.S. foreign policy in Mexico as did his predecessor Jeffrey Davidow, a career diplomat who was widely respected by our friendly neighbors to the south. At no point during his distinguished five-year assignment to Mexico did the straight-talking former ambassador advocate open borders or legalization of "undocumented" workers in violation of U.S. immigration laws and policies.
Nevertheless, he was one of the most popular and effective American ambassadors to Mexico in recent history. Just last month, Davidow warned that Mexico's insistence on the "whole enchilada" -- legalizing the illegals -- risks causing lasting damage to the U.S.DMexico bilateral relationship. I agree.
Congress and the White House will answer questions about immigration reform, and Ambassador Garza will be their spokesman in Mexico regardless of whether or not he personally agrees with Bush administration policies. As an American embassy spokesman in Latin America for nearly 20 years, I defended many policies that I disagreed with, beginning with the Vietnam War.
That's the job of a diplomat -- not to catch "clientitis" and start representing the country you're assigned to at any given moment. American diplomats represent the United States. Mas nada! (and that's that).
According to Ms. Sepulveda, Ambassador Garza is a "common sense conservative" who will champion "earned amnesty" for undocumented (illegal) Mexican workers in the U.S. In an interview with the influential Mexico City daily, Reforma, Garza said such an amnesty should be based "on the length of their time in the U.S., their employment record, if they have children in school (and) if they have a real commitment to the community." His criteria might apply to as many as 15 percent of the estimated 8 to 10 million illegal immigrants currently living and working in the U.S.
So how does all of this affect Nevada, which has had the fastest-growing immigrant population in the nation since 1990, a 268 percent increase? Nevada employers should watch for something called a "matricula consular," which is a document issued to illegal immigrants by Mexican consulates throughout the U.S., including the new one in Las Vegas.
Some critics have (accurately, in my opinion) described this document as "a subversive new gambit" by the Mexican government designed to "legitimize" the presence of illegal aliens in the U.S., representing "a new blight on an immigration policy as tattered as a used pinata."
And that's putting it mildly since the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service is simply unable and/or unwilling to enforce our immigration laws.
In summary, Hispanic advocate Emma Sepulveda should "get real" and face the fact that our new ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, won't be legalizing any "undocumented" workers even though he's the grandson of Mexican immigrants. After all, his loyalty is to President Bush and the United States, and not to President Fox and Mexico -- and that's as it should be in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.