Columnist runs for the border

first_imgIf that makes me patriotically confused, I can’t see how. Indeed, I don’t think there’s a better way that I can express my Americanness. If there’s one thing that characterizes the American spirit like nothing else, it’s our traditional of exploiting every possible opportunity to better our lot in life – no matter the disapproving looks. Besides, now when grumpy readers write in and tell me to go back to Mexico, I actually can. Mariel Garza is a columnist and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News. Write to her by e-mail at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WITH little fanfare, something momentous occurred the other day. This thoroughly American girl became a Mexican-American in the truest sense. For the cost of $13 and several official documents, I applied for and was granted Mexican nationality. I didn’t do it as a political statement. I didn’t do it because I want to rid myself of my United States nationality. I didn’t do it because I love my father’s native land more than my own. Rather, I did it for the same reason that generations of Americans have done crazy, risky, and brazenly glorious things: I did it because I could. And I could because it’s not only Americans who are worried about the sheer number of Mexicans settling on this side of the border. Many Mexicans are worried about it too. When a good chunk of your population suddenly ups and takes off for another land, and when your economy depends on these expats sending billions of dollars back, you’d be stupid not to be at least a little concerned. And to maybe think up ways to lure some of them back, especially the prosperous ones. To that end, the Mexican government decided about a decade ago to make it easy for expats and their offspring who had made lives – legally – in the U.S. to “reclaim” their nationality. At that time, Mexicans who became U.S. citizens lost both their Mexican citizenship and their nationality. (Mexico differentiates between nationality and citizenship, though the former essentially guarantees the granting of the latter, should one want it.) What was most remarkable about the law change is that it applied not just to former Mexicans, but also to their kids – no matter if they were born in Guadalajara or, like me, in Indianapolis. I don’t know how many people have exercised this option. I only know one other person who’s done it – an architect friend who doesn’t use it in any practical sense. It just appeals to the jet-setter in him to have dual nationality. But I can tell you that the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles has an entire Nacionalidad department for processing applications such as mine. On my numerous trips to the departments I waited among handfuls of other Americanized offspring of Mexican-born parents. No doubt many will call me un-American for this. No doubt many will see in this solid proof that Mexico is trying to take over the southwest United States. In fact, many have already weighed in on the perils of the dual-citizenship phenomenon, most notably Stanley A. Renshon, author of “The 50% American: Immigration And National Identity in an Age of Terror.” In his book and for previous reports he’s done as a fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, Renshon argues that the rise in dual citizenship (it is rising, though no one seems to know exact numbers) could seriously undermine America’s national identity. Especially troubling to him is the prospect of Mexican dual nationality because, curiously, of the propensity of the offspring of Mexicans to self-identify as Chicano or Mexican-American. Apparently that signifies an ambivalence in loyalty. But how does that jibe with other indicators of patriotism among immigrants and their offspring, such as military service? To me, the amount of Chicanos or Mexican-Americans fighting and dying to spread American-style democracy makes a very different point. All that aside, what no one is considering here is that this is not so much about helping Mexico to take over the United States, but my taking over a small part of Mexico. Ideally, one with ocean views. I can’t vote with my dual nationality, but I can buy property along the Baja California coastline. Non-Mexicans can’t buy Mexican land within 30 miles of the beach, which is, not coincidentally, the part of Mexico that Americans care about most. last_img read more