As debate continues over the federal government’s proposed border-crossing program, one aspect of the current policy deserves closer scrutiny — different treatment of our neighbors, depending on whether they come from north or south of the U.S. border.
Under the current system, guests from Canada with proof of Canadian citizenship are allowed to remain in the United States for up to six months without any visa. Visitors from Mexico who use the new laser visas, however, are limited to a 72-hour stay unless they apply for a tourist or business visa. Not only that, but Mexican citizens can’t go more than 25 miles from the border, while Canadians are free to travel throughout the United States.
There is no security-related reason to make Mexican visitors, who are willing to spend money during their stays here, jump through hoops in order to travel farther and remain longer. If homeland security were a concern, then the restrictions should also apply to Canadians. After all, some of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers entered the United States from Canada, but as far as we know, none came in from Mexico.
Not only is the separate treatment unfair, it only ends up hurting the economy of the Rio Grande Valley. Canadians who enter from the north can stay and spend; many end up in New Mexico vacation resorts without having to worry about getting a visa. But Mexicans who come here without a tourist visa can’t stay very long — a factor that is decreasing potential tourism.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has introduced legislation to eliminate this unfair treatment. His bill would give Mexican citizens entering with laser visas the same six-month stay that Canadian citizens currently enjoy.
“They invest in our real estate, own businesses and contribute to our economy,” Cornyn said in a press release. “They should be allowed to stay as long as Canadians engaged in similar travel.”
Cornyn, a member of the Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee (part of the Judiciary Committee), knows what he’s talking about. His legislation deserves serious consideration.
This treatment of our southern neighbors — so different from how we deal with our northern friends — doesn’t come from any real security reason. Instead, it’s based on the decades-old fear that visitors from Mexico will abuse the system and remain here illegally. But the current system doesn’t stop those looking for work. It instead curtails tourism among Mexico’s middle- and upper-class citizens and engenders ill will between the United States and Mexico.
United States immigration policy should treat legitimate visitors from Mexico the same way it treats those from Canada. Our current system is downright unneighborly.