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Garreau’s Nine Nations Offers Immigration Insights By Jim Castagnera-Cain Austin ALK ACROSS THE campus of UT-Austin on any given class day, and you are likely to see at least one student sporting a T-shirt claiming, “We’re guarding the wrong borborder.” The message of course is directed at the influx of “Yankees” or “snow birds,” those job-seeking, winter-fleeing folks from up north, who are part of the most recent mass migration of Americans from one section of the nation to another. The part of the nation to which they are streaming in numbers so large they are impossible for the natives to ignore is usually called by demographers “the Southwest.” Joel Garreau, an editor with the Washington Post, in his 1981 book The Nine Nations of North America has coined a new label for the Southwest. He calls it MexAmerica. He includes under this heading Arizona, New Mexico, and healthy hunks of Colorado, California, Texas, and ignoring international boundaries that have come to mean less than they once did most of Mexico. Garreau’s basic premise in Nine Nations is that the North American continent can be divided into nine major regions, united not by state and national boundary lines, but by cultural similarities and shared economic interests. The labels he uses pretty much speak for themselves: New England, the Foundary, Dixie, the Islands \(South Ecotopia \(northiern California, Oregon, Empty Quarter, the Breadbasket, Quebec and, of course, MexAmerica. The T-shirts on the UT campus \(which include such variations on the theme as “If you weren’t born here, you don’t bethesis. Among many Anglo Texans, I sense less concern with the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico than with the perfectly legal flow of his fellow Americans from the north. \(Ironically, as one moves farther north from Mexico and Texas, there is increasing hostility toward illegal aliens, be they from Mexico, Haiti, Cuba or elsewhere in Latin It’s possible to postulate a number of explanations. The one Garreau seems to suggest is that the Mexican culture has become so thoroughly mixed with the Anglo social matrix that even the Anglo natives of MexAmerica have diverged in their outlook away from the rest of America. And, Garreau would add, the region shares mutual economic interests based upon an abundance of oil and gas and a scarcity of water both factors in dramatic contrast to most of the rest of the U.S. In addition to these cultural and resource-related factors uniting MexAmerica may be the fact that Anglos share a perceived threat to their jobs from the so-called snow-birds. By contrast, the illegals who wade across the Rio Grande have historically been a source of supplemental labor for the southwestern states. This fact was dramatically illustrated last May in the wake of Project Jobs, the $500,000 operation by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to open up jobs for American workers by sweeping up illegal aliens in a 300-raid dragnet touching a variety of businesses. In five days, Project Jobs caught some 5,400 illegal aliens. But did it open up jobs that Americans wanted to fill? According to a report in Time on May 10, at the Petaluma Poultry Company, located some 55 miles north of San Francisco, 18 chicken pluckers were arrested. Their jobs were quickly filled by out-of-work Californians. But by week’s end 14 of the 18 new employees had quit, presumably finding the work too distasteful. At the Point St. George fishery in Santa Rosa, California, 53 fish cleaners were picked up by the INS. According to the Time story, about 20 locals made inquiries about job openings, but none wanted to clean fish. They all wanted to drive trucks. IN THE DEVELOPMENT of the Southwest, the Mexican and Mexican American \(as Briggs, Fogel and Schmidt pointed out in The Chicano Worker, were delegated the role played in the Northeast by the Irish, and later the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and on the west coast by the Chinese. They were the cheap labor that built the railroads and mines, and that this region. After World War II, the Mexican portion of this labor force was channeled to the job sites by means of the bracero program. The winding down of that program in 1964 proved that the Washington bureaucracy could not turn off the flow of that labor force as one might turn off the generators at one of the TVA’s dams on the Tennessee River for a few days. As Briggs, Fogel and Schmidt observed, “The termination of the bracero program was by no means the end of the flow of Mexican nationals into southwestern farm labor markets. Illegal entry .. . has, since the mid-1960’s, assumed epidemic proportions. In 1974, for example, 710,000 illegal Mexican workers were caught and deported by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. . . . There are, of course, no figures available for the number who were not caught.” Garreau in Nine Nations adds, I think correctly, that no one seriously expects the US. border patrol to stop the flow of illegal immigration across the Rio Grande. We need Mexico’s labor, just as Mexico needs our dollars. Rather, he says, “They’re supposed to restrict illegal immigration. Mold it. Shape it. Channel it. Establish the rules under which it will be conducted and see that as few people as possible get killed in the process.” It is this last phrase of Garreau’s that gives one pause. Relations between Mexicans and Anglos have for a century and a half been characterized by friction, despite the growing commonality of culture and economic interests Garreau sees. The original Anglo settlers were invited to move into eastern Texas. But as the trickle became a flood and Anglos threatened to soon outnumber the indigenous Mexican population, the Mexican government made futile efforts to 12 OCTOBER 15, 1982