Friday, March 23 , 2018, 9:45 am | Fair 55º


Mark Cromer: The Golden State of Denial

Immigration reform as Mexico implodes will be catastrophic for California

It’s hard to imagine that things could get worse.

Mark Cromer
Mark Cromer

California, this land that once dripped with milk and honey and was so pregnant with the promise of laidback living, today looks more like a late-stage cancer patient whose lifelong party has finally caught up with it.

With annual budget deficits edging ever closer to $30 billion, real unemployment hovering around 20 percent, a public school system that has dissolved into state-run day care, and facing a terminal shortage of water to sustain its runaway development, California is a very sick state.

In Sacramento, a bureaucratic end-of-life anxiety has taken hold as the coffers bleed out. The professional politicians who have run California for a generation have become manic — veering between declarations of some new cure for the state’s ailments to settling into a bitter funk that betrays their hope for a brighter tomorrow.

But chances are the worst is yet to come.

Washington is poised to again attempt what will be the largest mass amnesty in the history of nation-states — “comprehensive immigration reform” — a legislative clarion call that will resonate across the desperate shantytowns of Mexico. Just as the attempted amnesties of 2006 and 2007 triggered tremendous spikes in illegal immigration across the southern border, this next attempt will spark another Biblical-scale exodus from Mexico.

And this flight of humanity is not about jobs. No, it is driven by a corruption-riddled, violence-wracked Mexico and its final chaotic collapse into a loose confederation of narco-fiefdoms.

The staggering body counts piling up in Mexico’s major cities, the medieval brutality of the drug slayings, the brazen confidence of the narco-warlords and the cancer of systemic corruption — and a cultural malaise of acceptance that underpins all of it — has made comparisons of Mexico to the lawless tribal lands of Somalia and Afghanistan not only appropriate but long overdue.

There’s perhaps no better testament to this than Mexicans themselves, who vote on Mexico’s future every day with their own feet, with their own lives, with their own children’s lives. And over the last decade, millions of Mexicans have cast a decisive no-confidence vote in any hope for a future in their native homeland.

They would rather risk arrest, humiliation, separation from loved ones and even death than stay another day.

The reality is that more Mexicans have fled their country in the past 20 years than the Russians who sought to escape the grim clutches of the Soviet Union during a half-century long Cold War.

California has been buffeted by these successive waves of refugees from the failed nation to its south, and another amnesty now will have catastrophic results for the struggling state.

Washington blusters on that the border will soon at last be secured and that the 15 million illegal immigrants already here (and some detailed projections indicate a population twice that size) will face a variety of legal clearances and sanctions if they wish to stay.

But legalizing every illegal immigrant who is already here is counter-intuitive to securing the border and enforcing immigration law. It is the legislative equivalent of declaring victory as we surrender.

And it will be seen as such in every corner of Mexico.

That’s precisely why declaring a general amnesty just as Mexico slides into chaos will explode the crisis in California.

Such an abrogation of federal responsibility would ironically bring California closer than ever to resembling Mexico’s dysfunctional sociopolitical landscape: a financially anemic state lorded over by a wealthy elite that rules by crass patronage and is riddled with mediocrity and corruption.

California stands precariously closer to that day of reckoning than it may care to think.

But if that day arrives, perhaps the richest irony of all will be for the Mexican immigrants who risked all to come here, as they look around and realize for all those hard miles, they didn’t run far enough.

— Southern California journalist Mark Cromer writes frequently about immigration.

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