Influence on both sides of the border

"Influence on both sides of the border/Activists' political power is rising in Chicago and their homeland, as they seek reforms through marches and money"/Antonio Olivo and Oscar Avila/Chicago Tribune/[[April 6, 2007]]/ link

Discusses how those with divided Mexican/American loyalties have political power in both countries, focusing on Mexican immigrant clubs ("hometown associations"). Begins with a meeting to plan the [[May 1, 2007 Chicago march]].

Includes the following quote from Jose Luis Gutierrez, an aide to Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich who heads the state's Office of New Americans Policy and Advocacy:

"'The nation-state concept is changing... You don't have to say, `I am Mexican,' or, `I am American.' You can be a good Mexican citizen and a good American citizen and not have that be a conflict of interest. Sovereignty is flexible."

Also discusses a Political Action Committee called Mexicans for Political Progress that raised $23,000 for Rod Blagojevich. MPP was co-founded by Fabian Morales, a Realtor who also handled logistics for three massive immigration marches in Chicago last year -- including a four-day walk to suburban Batavia (see Immigrant march en route to Hastert's digs).

Discusses dual citizen Timoteo Manjarrez ("Alex") who ran for mayor of his hometown in Mexico.

An active role in Mexican politics might seem at odds with building political influence here. But Gutierrez and others say they form a budding new political consciousness among Mexican immigrants -- a "third nation" of sorts that transcends the border, advancing the community's cause on both sides.

That concept worries some U.S. officials and scholars who see the dual loyalty as undermining the assimilation of Mexican immigrants.

Irish, German and Polish immigrants eventually melded into Chicago's landscape, their ties to their native soil largely sentimental. But Mexican immigrants today are linked to their homeland like no group before, scholars say, connected by NAFTA, satellite TV, the Internet, cell phones and cheap non-stop flights.

...(Morales helped found) CONFEMEX, an umbrella organization for most of the hometown clubs in the Midwest. Among other things, the group is a central voice in economic development in Mexico, representing an estimated $340 million in projects generated by U.S.-based hometown associations in the last five years, according to Mexican federal officials.

Morales also spoke at a meeting of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad.

...In addition to all-day strategy sessions on how to improve Mexico, council members brainstormed over late-night drinks on next moves in the fight for U.S. immigration reform. Many members had used their existing e-mail network to coordinate simultaneous demonstrations in Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities.

Though not active participants in the U.S. immigrant movement, Mexican officials urged their compatriots to keep on fighting.

"Let there be no barriers or walls between Mexicans here on the inside and the outside," former Mexican President Vicente Fox told the group, referring to a 2006 U.S. law that allows for a 700-mile fence to be built at the border. The audience stood and cheered.

The idea that the Mexican government might be helping its nationals shape U.S. politics has raised red flags, both in the halls of academia and in the more volatile world of talk radio and the Internet.

Robert Leiken, director of the immigration and national security program at the right-leaning Nixon Center in Washington, argued that binational activism among Mexican immigrants is bad for both countries. In the U.S., the meetings in Spanish and the often-passionate interest in Mexico's future hinder assimilation, he said.

...Near a trickling courtyard fountain, Morales praised the governor in Spanish at the kickoff dinner for the Mexicans for Political Progress PAC. While Morales once raised money for his hometown with $1 tamales, the price here was as much as $500 a plate.

"Let us demonstrate our political power by voting in the election, by voting for our friends interested in the prosperity of Mexicans. Friends like Gov. Rod Blagojevich!" Morales told the crowd.

...Jose Artemio Arreola, a key organizer of next month's march in Chicago, has been actively monitoring the battle in Carpentersville.

He sees the activity there as part of a plan to create a political empire for Mexican immigrants, one linking hometown associations in Chicago and other cities to labor unions and Mexico's congress...