Is Mexico Really 'Dysfunctional'?

God help me. I'm beginning to sound like Joe Biden. I hope there is a cure. If not, the next thing you know, I'll be confusing Herbert Hoover with Franklin Roosevelt, insulting Indian-Americans who don't work at 7-11, calling Barack Obama "clean" and "articulate," and vowing he'll will never take away my gun. For now, I'll have to accept the fact that my views on Mexico are similar to those espoused by the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

A few weeks ago, while addressing about 20 Latin American professionals in San Diego on the subject of immigration and the 2008 election, I blurted out that Mexico was "broken." It's not just that a country of 110 million people and a functioning if imperfect democracy with abundant resources can't provide enough jobs for its own people so they don't have to take their chances north of the border; or that the Mexican government is filled with corruption and has long pampered the rich at the expense of the poor; or that the country has no economic policy to speak of beyond oil revenue and remittances from expatriates in the United States.

The real indictment of Mexico, I told the audience, is that it has become so dependent on money received from abroad —some $25 billion last year alone— that it would consider an act of war any effort to repatriate the millions of Mexican illegal immigrants living in the United States. Well-to-do Mexican professionals south of the border tell me that the thing they fear most is that the United States will ship back large numbers of illegal immigrants that the Mexican economy can't absorb.

"When you treat your own people as the equivalent of a heat-seeking missile that can wreak unspeakable destruction on society," I said, "your country is broken."

Now I see where Joe Biden reached much the same conclusion in December 2007 when he reassured an Iowa crowd concerned with illegal immigration that the solution to the problem starts with Mexico and the Mexican government.