A Modest Proposal: “Give Arizona Back to Mexico”

arizona lawTo resolve the economic woes and tensions between the Irish and the English, writer Jonathan Swift, in his timeless 1729 classic, “A Modest Proposal,” suggested that the Irish poor sell their children as food for the rich. However, as I waited in the returns line at Costco, I hit upon a solution to our difficult times that is less shocking than Swift’s proposal and very much within the all-American tradition – “Return Arizona to Mexico and get our money back.”

Almost every major immigrant rights organization has set its crosshairs on Arizona. With a simple signature, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer enacted into law SB1070, which opponents claim would promote racial profiling, and HB2281, which would ban ethnic studies. A number of cities, organizations, and high-profile individuals have lined up to condemn and boycott the state for its racism. Most recently, the City of Los Angeles has joined the growing crowd with their own formal boycott resolution.

On the opposite side of the aisle, supporters of Arizona shake their heads in disagreement and decry the decline of civilization and opportunity within their own backyards. They argue that SB1070 is about the irresponsibility of the federal government and HB2281 is about schools teaching students to value each other as individuals, rather than inculcate them in divisive “ethnic solidarity.”

In the backdrop, despite our nation recovering from near financial collapse and a rising GDP, wealth remains largely in a few hands and have not reached hardworking patriots through higher pay and better benefits or simply more jobs. Major deficits still plague many states. During tight economic periods, especially whenever the election cycle begins its next revolution, elected leaders and large segments of US working families have historically and divisively fingered the blame on immigrants. Currently, Arizona has become ground zero for this type of fight. Do we really need these tensions now?

Back in the 1800s, when Mexico had to cede two-fifths of its land to the US after losing a war to them, the entrepreneurial US Minister to Mexico James Gadsen and his allies saw an opportunity and wanted more. James, who was also president of the Southern Carolina Railroad Company, had long dreamt of tying together all the Southern railroads into one Southern transcontinental railroad to the Pacific thus rendering the West economically dependent on the South, not the North (Coincidently, Jefferson Davis, who would become president of the Confederate states during the Civil War, helped James obtain this governmental position). He needed land for a railroad route and so the US purchased for $15 million, which is the equivalent to $376 million today, nearly 30 million acres of land, which is now a portion of New Mexico and largely Arizona (In 1854, when the residents of Arizona sought to form a territorial government, they considered naming their state Gadsonia, a Latin adaptation of Gadsden).

Well, it is no longer the 1800s. Does Arizona add anything to our national purse today?

According to the Northeast Midwest Institute, Arizona received more federal funds than its state taxpayers put in (Arizona received $1.19 in federal funds for every dollar spent by a taxpayer in 2005 whereas California only got $.80 for every dollar spent). They were rewarded over a $139 million in stimulus funds from the Federal Government in 2009. After the recent passage of 2010 Healthcare Reform, Arizona did refuse federal funds to administer the temporary high-risk insurance pool, which would have extended health care insurance to those who were rejected from a health care insurance plan due to pre-existing medical conditions (However, Arizona will not create or run it so the responsibility will fall onto the Federal Government). For a state with a long history in the “State Rights versus Federal Rights” battle beginning with the Civil War, they sure take in more than a pretty penny from the Federal Government.

With Governor Brewer signing SB1070, Arizona has made clear its desire for autonomy from the Federal Government. This new law directly challenges the Plenary Power doctrine, which grants decision-making authority exclusively to the Federal Government without constitutional review. This policy only applies to the areas of war and immigration since they fall under the concept of national sovereignty—the sole domain of the Federal Government. They clearly wish to escape from under the purview of our national government.

So, let us hand Arizona back to Mexico. Not only can we request our refund, we can save on what we are already spending on the state. In fact, we can probably ask for more since we are returning an Arizona with more developed land and attractive tourist sites (Only 15% of the region is privately owned and the rest are parks and other pleasant natural formations like the Grand Canyon). Plus, we are the US, the world needs us (Remember, the global economy went into a tailspin when we hit major financial crisis in 2007).

I’m absolutely sure that the bordering states of California, Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada could use the money to help further stimulate their economies.

Re-configuring our national borders will be relatively manageable since Arizona is already geographically connected to Mexico and it was the last landlocked state to become part of the US.

Additionally, this is a win-win for Arizona as well. Not only will they be free of the yoke of oppression of the US Federal Government, their “illegal immigration” issue will be largely resolved. Many of the undocumented immigrants will already be Mexican citizens. Arizona will be free of any legal challenges or bureaucratic red tape around their educational policy to ban ethnic studies. However, they will probably need to institute their own special ethnic studies classes since there may be some discomfort with the possibility that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and Gadsen Purchase may be characterized as “land grabs” and that it may be taught that English-only policies and discrimination towards Mexican residents living in the area prior to the US-Mexican War are violations of international agreements between the US and Mexico.

If residents of Arizona want to remain citizens of the US, they can go through the same process that all immigrants undergo. They can apply for employment-based visas if they possess any professional and technical skills, especially in the sciences and computer technology. Since the Immigration Act of 1990, they can de facto buy their way into the US by voluntarily investing a “million dollars” in the US. However, if they attempt to enter through family reunification visas, the sponsor must be able to support the immigrant at an annual income not less than 125% of the federal level. Additionally, the sponsor must also be earning enough to support him or herself at minimally the same level of income.

When they land in the US, they must remember that if he or she goes on public benefits within the first five years they will be deported. Additionally, the family sponsor will be billed the cost of the benefits used and will be penalized $5,000 if a payment is not made. In fact, according to the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, new immigrants are already barred from public benefits for 10 years. Woe to the Arizonan-Mexican immigrant who is “convicted of a crime for which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed” within five years after entry. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 states that they will be deported and have no right to due process. For example, if an immigrant is convicted for a crime like urinating on the grounds of a public park, they will be deported without any judicial review.

We must not underestimate the potential danger of illegal Arizonan-Mexicans crossing the border. I am especially nervous about the ones who defiantly hold onto their guns, deride our national government as socialist and liken our democratically elected president to Hitler (I have heard rumors that some of them may have literally spat on some of our Congress members). We must secure our borders and ensure our safety by enhancing our ability to identify and deport illegal Arizonan-Mexicans. Of course, we will not engage in racial profiling so I will simply display photos of the more prominent Arizonan-Mexicans as a guide.

Some private citizens will argue that our economy may still need to rely on these illegal Arizonan-Mexicans. Considering Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in Arizona, this is a workforce conditioned to low wages and little benefits and may be a solution to our ability to save on labor costs and grow our economy. They are already familiar with the US culture and language. It would cost less than deporting them. However, if we pursue legalization, we may be sending out the wrong message and leaving out crucial cultural considerations.

In 1979, President Ronald Reagan, when he launched his presidential run, proposed a “North American Accord,” where people and commerce would freely cross the borders of Mexico and Canada. Underpinning Reagan’s position is the idea that migration is a part of the logic of the global market, rather than narrowly defining immigrants as parasites within the framework of American exceptionalism. He once stated, “It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do? One thing is certain in this hungry world: No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”

All due respect to President Reagan, I have friends who are Arizonan-Mexicans but I just can’t see them sweating out in the fields and picking vegetables. Their white skins burn too easily under the sun.

I definitely can see them letting the “crops rot in the field” and making a fuss about working below minimum wage for over 11 hours a day with no overtime. They don’t seem to realize that once the owners acquire enough wealth, it will eventually reach them. They lack the patience and discipline to properly prepare for the national cyclical boom and bust of our economic system. It is just the system cleaning itself out and engaging in the “creative destruction” of the market. Additionally, a certain degree of unemployment is necessary to maintain competitive salaries and quality products.

Again, I have friends who are Arizonan-Mexicans and one was even my date for the high school prom but they are just too self-centered and only worry about themselves and no one else.


We are at a crucial crossroads and Arizona stands like a signpost in front of us. We can either go the direction of progress or regress as a nation. Giving back Arizona may potentially jumpstart our economy and stimulate our national imagination towards creating a greater common vision. If returning Arizona to Mexico doesn’t work, we can always revisit and adapt Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” and sell and consume undocumented immigrants as food in the ultimate and most seamless form of assimilation into the body politic of the US.

Si, se puede. Yes, we can.

John Delloro

Published by the LA Progressive on May 17, 2010
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