Commentary: There is far, far too much sermonizing on immigration
SAN DIEGO -- For many Americans, the only thing that makes them angrier than having illegal immigrants stream in from Mexico is getting a lecture from the President of Mexico about on how to treat the new arrivals.
Of course, Americans feel differently when we're doing the lecturing. President Obama has given his share of sermons. Consider his speech at Cairo University last year in which Obama scolded three different parties in the course of a few minutes.
"Palestinians must abandon violence," Obama said. "Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. ... Finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab peace initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities."
Still, when it comes to finger-wagging, Americans must think it's better to give than to receive. At the moment, many of my countrymen are fuming over the fact that Mexican President Felipe Calderon, having been given the honor of addressing Congress, urged the United States to get on with immigration reform and criticized the new immigration law in Arizona.
That law requires local and state police to determine the legal status of anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally. Those familiar with police work know this can't be done without taking race into account. And yet Arizona promises it will be.
Calderon isn't buying it. And neither are the 70 percent of Latinos who oppose the law, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
"It is a law that not only ignores a reality that cannot be erased by decree," Calderon told lawmakers, "but also introduces a terrible idea (of) using racial profiling as the basis for law enforcement."
To many Republicans, those were fighting words. The disgruntled include Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who took to the House floor a few hours later to condemn what he called Calderon's "highly inappropriate" remarks.
"I rise to take strong exception to the speech of the President of Mexico while in this chamber today," McClintock said. "The Mexican government has made it very clear for many years that it holds American sovereignty in contempt and President Calderon's behavior as a guest of the Congress confirms and underscores this attitude."
From there, McClintock drifted off on a right-wing tangent about the virtues of assimilation. He criticized those who seek "to hyphenate Americans, to develop linguistic divisions, to assign rights and preferences based on race and ethnicity, and to elevate devotion to foreign ideologies and traditions, while at the same time denigrating American culture, American values and American founding principles."
What does Calderon and his speech have to do with all this? You got me. But then I'm not the politician eagerly tossing out slabs of red meat to the nativist cheering section.
At one point, McClintock invited Calderon to return to the United States -- as an immigrant. Perhaps the congressman thinks that Calderon -- with a degree in economics, a law degree, and a masters from Harvard -- could do his landscaping.
"This is a debate of, by and for the American people," McClintock said. "If President Calderon wishes to participate in that debate, I invite him to obey our immigration laws, apply for citizenship, do what 600,000 legal immigrants to our nation are doing right now, learn our history and our customs, and become an American. And then he will have every right to participate in that debate. Until then, I would politely invite him to have the courtesy while a guest of this Congress to abide by the fundamental rules of diplomacy between civilized nations not to meddle in each other's domestic debates."
Translation: Mind your own business, amigo.
This sounds familiar. In 2005, my friend Tony Garza, the former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, ruffled feathers south of the border when he gave a speech in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Garza lectured Mexicans about how a reliance on oil exports and remittances from migrants in the United States was no substitute for a national economic policy. The Mexican elites hit the roof. Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, who was eyeing the presidency at the time, angrily insisted that outsiders should not meddle in Mexico's internal affairs.
Translation: Mind your own business, amigo.
It turns out the Americans and the Mexicans aren't so different after all. Both parties have been known to have thin skins and deep-seated insecurities. And neither likes hearing criticism from a neighbor -- especially when it's true.
Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.