John Trumbo, the sheriff of Umatilla County, has asked Mexico to pay for the upkeep of inmates from that country who came to the United States illegally. Itís a good occasion once again to address the relationship between the U.S. and our neighbor to the south.
Mexico will not, of course, pay Umatilla County anything. It has no more reason to do so than does any other country whose citizens come to the United States and then get arrested...
Trumboís request, though, has indirectly opened another line of inquiry: Why donít Mexico and the United States cooperate more broadly on a lot of things so that the question of the border would matter less?
We have the North American Free Trade Agreement, which links the economies of the United States, Mexico and Canada. But this arrangement doesnít seem to extend to the movement of people.
If it did, there would be no such person as an illegal alien from Mexico ó or Canada ó in the United States. Instead, citizens of each would be free to move from any one of the three countries to one of the others. They could live where they wanted and work wherever they were qualified to work, or where their labor was wanted and needed. In fact, Mexico already allows Americans to come in and stay indefinitely if they can support themselves.
This isnít such a radical notion. Europe has worked out something like it with the European Union. As far as trade and the movement of people are concerned, borders have disappeared. But the countries themselves continue to exist. Europeans still live in their same old countries and under their same old laws, with some modifications to promote continental unity.
Look at the potential benefits if we did something similar in North America. No more hassling of Hispanics in Oregon. No more building of fences along the border. No more deaths of migrants in the Sonora Desert. No more disputes over whether Oregon and other states should issue driverís licenses. Reforms in Mexico (we must hope) to raise living standards of those people who now feel their only choice for economic survival is to sneak into the United States.
Sure, there are all kinds of potential pitfalls. But if borders can be erased in a continent that includes economies as diverse as Sweden and Sicily, North America should be able to do the same.