April 19, 2005
The mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was stripped of his immunity from criminal prosecution. He is the leader of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and is expected to be a candidate for president next year, with a very good chance of winning. This move against him smells suspiciously political, which would be a retreat from the gradual progress towards true liberal democracy that Mexico has made over the past two decades. It may herald a tacit alliance between the old guard Institutional Revolutionary Party and the conservative National Action Party of President Fox. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine that the government would allow the judicial branch to undertake such an action.
On the U.S. border, a group of American volunteers calling themselves the "Minuteman Project" has begun patrolling the wide-open border. Already they have claimed success in apprehending people sneaking across the border, showing what a rampant problem illegal immigration has become. See Washington Times. It also demonstrates the enduring virtue of the American tradition of voluntarism, but there are dangers that if strict protocols and standards are not maintained, the guards could become a vigilante mob. In the Age of Terror, there are practical limits on how much of an "open society" we can afford to be. Another lesson is that the habit of acquiescing in illegral immigration because of the benefit in terms of cheap labor is hard to break. There is very little political will in Washington to do much to change the status quo. Wisconsin Senator James Sensenbrenner has taken a high-profile anti-immigration position, and so far President Bush has demurred. He wants to build the Republican base, fearing the loss of critical states such as Florida and Texas. Until last year, he hoped to repair relations with Mexico, but President Fox is in such a political box at home that improved relations with Mexico would probably not achieve much.