Mexican perspectives: within the USA and outside it

Undocumented Mexican migrants in the USA, despite being the group most vulnerable to a flagship Republican policy, have no voice in the country’s future. Those who can vote have a moral obligation to those who can’t: stop Mitt Romney in his tracks

Length of the border between Mexico and the United States: 1,951 miles.

Border transit between the two nations: more than 350 million crossings per year.

Bilateral trade: in excess of 400 billion dollars annually.

Knowing these figures, nobody should be surprised that the US presidential elections are being followed exhaustively, and with some concern, in Mexico. If you cast an eye over the front pages of Mexican newspapers, there they are: Obama and Romney. If you listen in to this or that conversation in a bar, you’ll hear their names: Obama and Romney. What’s difficult to find this time round, however in this particular election, is the hope and enthusiasm that Obama awoke among Mexicans four years ago. So many things have happened since then. Since 2008, a terrible wave of violence – wrought by the drug cartels and much encouraged by president Felipe Calderón’s irresponsible security policies – has devastated the country, leaving in its wake more than sixty thousand corpses, of which thousands remain unidentified. On top of that, federal elections were held in the country in July this year with the following outcomes: first, the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governed the country without interruption between 1929 and 2000; and second, the resulting frustration of wide sectors of Mexican society (university students, the urban middle classes, the large majority of the population of Mexico City), who demonstrated on the streets and the social networks, organised an electrifying student movement and voted en masse against the PRI candidate without managing to stop him barreling in to power, shielded as he was by television stations and old PRI-ist factions. In short, Mexico doesn’t have much to celebrate at the moment – much less another presidential election.

And nor is there much that is happening in the US itself to feel enthusiastic about. Viewed from Mexico, the American elections are a sad sight. They look at best like a clash between a president who has let the Hispanic community in the US down, and who this time can’t even bring himself to make a serious pledge about immigration reform, on the one hand – and on the other a candidate who provokes fear and suspicion, and whose only proposal on immigration (self-deportation) is, frankly, heartless: it would mean making life impossible for millions of undocumented migrants until they go back to their country of origin. And as though that weren’t enough, both candidates are straining to ignore what is happening to the south of their border, even if the violence happening there is due in large part to the drugs the US consumes, to the arms the US sells.

According to electoral polls, nearly ten million Hispanic voters will turn out on 6 November – and a considerable majority of them (69% according to a survey by the Pew Research Center) will do so in favour of Obama. What these figures don’t tell us is that millions of people who have lived and worked for many years in the United States won’t go to the polling booths because they quite simply don’t have the right to – just as they don’t have the right to do so many other things. I’m talking about those men and women who, in just the same way as everyone else, think and speak and have something to say about the country they live in but who are nonetheless never consulted and whose opinions are absent from the polls. I’m talking about those migrants to whom Romney has already said that their lives will be made miserable and who don’t even have the opportunity to defend themselves by voting for the opposing candidate. I’m talking about those millions of sans-papiers – at least six million of whom are Mexican – who form part of the social fabric of the US ,whether the Republicans like it or not, and who are hoping and asking for fair working and living conditions.

Those who can vote have a moral obligation to those who can’t: stop Mitt Romney in his tracks and prevent him executing his threat to harass millions of undocumented migrants, keep Barack Obama in the White House and demand that this time he really does push ahead with an urgent immigration reform.

Translated by Ollie Brock.

This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click here.

About the author

Rafael Lemus was born in Mexico City in 1977. He is a literary critic, and a contributor to Letras LibresLa Tempestad and Día Siete among other publications.