Our border with Mexico allows for levels of illegal immigration that have no historical precedent. In 1970, there were fewer than 800,000 Mexicans in America, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. In 1980, there were 2.2 million. In 1990, the number reached 4.3 million, and by 2000 it had climbed to 7.9 million. In 2005, there were 10.8 million - a spike of 37 percent in half a decade. Today, roughly a third of all undocumented immigrants in America are Mexican, and they make up a disproportionate share of low-wage immigrants.
The Mexican government aids and abets illegal immigration in myriad ways, including giving prospective entrants to the U.S. a how-to guide for how to slip across the border, telling them not to wear heavy clothes, to drink plenty of water, and to keep your professional smuggler-guide in sight at all times. There's much less in the booklet about how to fill out the right forms and pass the naturalization exam.
The Mexican government is being perfectly rational. Mexico depends on the billions of dollars its fellow countrymen send back home, and it benefits - or hopes to - from the political clout Mexican-Americans have in our political system.
This isn't an anti-Mexican observation. It is, in fact, merely an observation, and an irrefutable one. But it flies in the face of a lot of idealistic abstraction. Most Americans are proud, to one extent or another, of America's status as a "nation of immigrants." That's why the protest organizers were desperate to have a lot of American flags and "We are Americans" chants. The more illegal immigration from Mexico can be seen as consistent with the "story of America," the better it is for people who want to either maintain the status quo or expand illegal immigration.
Of course, we have other immigration problems, too. For example, our visa system allowed terrorists into this country and permitted a former spokesman for the Taliban to get into Yale. But that's a discussion for another day. Nonetheless, it does illuminate how silly it is to talk about "immigration" as if it is a single, coherent issue or problem.
Personally, I'm quite fond of immigration - legal immigration, that is. But this, too, is a distinction the protest organizers would like to blur as much as possible.