Book review 8: “The meaning of a special relation: Mexico´s relationship with Texas in the light of California´s experience” (Chp. 12) in Mexican Consular Diplomacy in Trump´s Era.
After reviewing the TRICAMEX consular coordination program developed in South Texas, and discussing the Transborder Consular Diplomacy experience of CaliBaja between Southern California and Baja California, I think is advisable to examine the chapter written by Ambassador Carlos González Gutiérrez titled “The meaning of a special relation: Mexico´s relationship with Texas in the light of California´s experience”.
Ambassador González Gutiérrez had a first-hand experience of the differences between the two giants. He was the Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento, California, and later in Austin, Texas, the two States' capitals.
It is not an exaggeration to say that what happens in the Golden State and the Lone Star State has a similar impact on Mexico and its community in the U.S. as the bilateral relationship in Washington and Mexico City.
These two heavy-weights were once part of Mexico, as I mentioned in my post about the Origins of Mexico´s Consular Diplomacy. For most of history, they had comparable approaches to Mexico and the Mexican community living there. However, in the 1990s, while Texas had a pragmatical approach, California´s electorate approved the ballot initiative Proposition 187 in 1994.
Both States coincided in 2001, as the two enacted legislation to offer in-state tuition to undocumented persons who graduated from local high schools. But, as the reader will see in the chapter´s review, from there, their positions about immigration issues have significantly diverged. While the Golden State has promoted welcoming immigration policies, the Lone Star State has become the spearhead of the anti-immigrant movement in the U.S.
Before moving forward, there is an important caveat that applies across the United States. Even though each State´s policies and the society´s attitudes towards immigrants are very different, not all is black or white, but many shades of gray, or I should say red and blue.
Rural and ex-suburbs areas of the Golden State have the same negative sentiments towards immigrants as in any part of the Lone Star State. However, Texan cities such as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, and even border towns as El Paso and Brownsville are as welcoming to foreigners, particularly Mexicans, as California as a whole. You just have to see a county electoral map in both states to understand this situation.
Figure 1 includes a comparative chart of some of the differences between the two States mentioned by Ambassador González Gutiérrez in his chapter, which will help comprehend better the situation in both States.
So, let´s start with the review.
The Ambassador declares that his essay's objective is to explore the relationship between Mexico and Texas in trade and migration while comparing it with California´s links with Mexico. He also analyzes the short and long-term perspectives of the Mexican Consular Diplomacy in Texas.[i]
While describing the similarities and differences of Mexico's relationships and the Golden and the Lone Star States, González Gutiérrez pinpoints the origins of the very different roads that both states have taken regarding immigration. The Ambassador indicates that “if the Latino electorate in Texas were as relevant as is in California, it is less likely that Texas would promote with the same vigor a restrictive agenda regarding immigration.”[ii]
As the reader will learn, the chapter is a vital contribution to understanding different paths that both States have taken concerning their immigrant communities. The Ambassador uncovers Texas´ disassociation between the reality of the migrants' relevance to the States´ prosperity and its anti-immigrant discourse and policies.[iii]
González Gutiérrez substantiates comparing Mexico´s relationship with California and Texas because they are the two largest States, and both have the closest links to our country. Besides, the two represent the opposites of the U.S. ideological spectrum and reveal very different political cultures.[iv]
The Ambassador implies that California and Texas´s different immigration paths resulted from a significant increase of Hispanics in Texas (60.4%), compared to California (38.9%) from 2000 to 2015.[v]
The changes in foreign-born were also dissimilar. From 1990 to 2000, the foreign-born population grew by 37.2% in the Golden State, while from 2000 to 2018, only 19.9%. The numbers are superior in the Lone Star State, so from 1990 to 2000, it increased by 90% and 2000-2018 by 70%.[vi] I think there was a similar growth of anti-immigrant attitudes in places where new immigrants arrived recently.
Additionally, from 2009 to 2014, as a result of the economic crisis, the number of undocumented Mexicans fell 190,000 in the Golden State while the numbers remained the same in the Lone Star State.[vii]
Afterward, González Gutiérrez describes how California and Texas responded to immigration challenges. He starts explaining that in 2001 the two legislatures approved in-state tuition for undocumented youth. For the Golden State was the beginning of several pro-immigrant bills, while in Texas, it was outlier legislation and soon turned into the anti-immigrant field.[viii]
While California inaugurated the era of anti-immigrant policies with Proposition 187 in 1994, later on, after taking over the control of the legislature and the governor´s office, the State embarked on an integrative agenda for migrants, enacting several laws, such as;
Meanwhile, from a practical perspective on immigration with then-governor George W. Bush, Texas became the anti-immigrant movement forerunner in the United States with Governor Greg Abbott and the enactment of the SB4 law in 2017.[x]
The Ambassador explains that this movement resulted from the total control that the Republican party has of the State´s government and the need for getting the support of hard-core primary voters.[xi]
He pinpoints the move to a more radical position as a result of Governor Perry´s presidential aspirations. He was the one that first sent Texan Rangers to guard the border, arguing the failure to do so by the federal (Obama) government.[xii]
In the section titled “A special relationship with Mexico?”, González Gutiérrez tries to explain Texas´ contradictory position about its southern neighbor, considering that it has a very close trade and economic relation while implementing anti-immigrant policies directed mainly against Mexicans.[xiii]-
As previously mentioned, he elucidates that the elections occur in the primaries. Politicians prefer short-term gains for their support, even if this means alienating part of the Latino community or against the State´s economic interests.[xiv]
The Ambassador does not think that Texas will follow California on immigration issues because labor unions in the Lone Star State are not as strong as the Golden State. Also, the political distance between the two parties in California was narrower than the one in Texas.[xv] Besides, both States' political cultures are very different, and “it would be a mistake to assume that Latinos in the two are ideological alike just because they have the same ethnicity.”[xvi]
In the last part of the chapter, the Ambassador evaluates Mexico´s Consular Diplomacy in Texas. He explains that the eleven consulates of Mexico in Texas have to deal with a “cognitive dissonance”, between the excellent trade partnership and its “Mexican bashing”.[xvii]
González Gutiérrez depicts the Texan business sector's effort thru the Texas Mexico Trade Coalition to defend NAFTA, while State politicians remained on the sidelines for a while. It was not until the Coalition lobbied them when they publicly supported free trade with Mexico and Canada.[xviii]
He asserts that Texas's special relation is limited and has not crossed over to additional bilateral concerns. It has not developed into regional-transborder arrangements such as the links between Baja California and California in CaliBaja, or the Arizona-Mexico/Sonora-Arizona Commission.[xix] Sadly, I think, the State with the most extensive shared border “there are no fora, commissions nor periodical meeting with the authorities of the four Mexican border states.”[xx]
Moreover, the Ambassador indicates that describing the situation at the border as a war zone does not help either. It is beneficial for getting funds or the signing of anti-immigrant bills. Still, it encumbers focusing on the bilateral relations' positive topics, such as economic development or the construction of binational infrastructure projects.[xxi]
González Gutiérrez recommends that Mexico has to take advantage of Texas mobilization in support of NAFTA. Besides, the consulates need to assist in renewing old collaboration schemes or establishing new ones such as binational business and majors meetings.[xxii]
At the same time, he declares the relevance of launching a Public Diplomacy strategy to highlight the contributions of Mexican migrants to the Lone Star State in public discussions.[xxiii]
The Ambassador concludes that Mexico must cultivate a permanent dialogue with the Texas government to celebrate economic integration and be aware of the gap between reality and the public discourse.[xxiv]
González Gutiérrez introduces an exciting idea that the consulate's work contributes to mitigating U.S. government institutions' absence responsible for facilitating new immigrants' integration. This idea is in line with what Francisco Javier Díaz de Léon and Víctor Peláez Millán described as the empowerment of the Mexican Community in their book´s chapter.
Why is it worth reading?
The chapter summarizes very well the different paths that the Golden and the Lone Star States have taken regarding immigrant issues. The Ambassador distinguishes some of the reasons this has happened, which helps comprehend the country's current situation.
He also identifies areas of opportunities for Mexico´s Consular Diplomacy, particularly in closing the gap between reality and the public discourse in the Lone Star State. The Ambassador indicates that Texas offers a few advantages than other States, like its economic integration, the shared challenges at the border, and the growing Mexican population.
I believe that if Mexico finds a way to work with Texas on this issue and promote greater collaboration in bilateral matters, it could lead the path to transform the current anti-immigrant attitudes and policies in other parts of the United States. To achieve this goal, I think Mexico would need to have a laser-focus Public/Consular Diplomacy long-lasting strategy, with a specific component that targets rural communities across the Lone Star State.
It is interesting to reflect that the Consular Diplomacy of a country is the paradiplomacy of the other country´s State and local authorities. In this regard, this chapter contributes to the concept of Consular Diplomacy by incorporating the idea of paradiplomacy into its frame. Most of the consulates diplomatic activities are targeted toward state and local audiences. Of course, it has to consider the national context and the overall bilateral relation to be successful.
By scrutinizing California and Texas trade and immigration stances and Mexico´s strategy, Ambassador González Gutiérrez encompasses paradiplomacy into Consular Diplomacy. This notion is relevant as both ideas are the different sides of the same coin.
I also think that Mexico´s Consular Diplomacy in the United States had to adapt to the country´s patchwork of multiple, sometimes significantly different, federal, state, county, and authorities and policies. In the chapter, California and Texas's example proves very useful to see this characteristic and the need to have a flexible Consular Diplomacy.
[i] González Gutiérrez, Carlos, “El significado de una relación especial: Las relaciones de México con Texas a la luz de su experiencia en California” in La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en Tiempos de Trump, 2018, p. 254.
[ii] Ibid. p. 255.
[iii] Ibid. p. 264.
[iv] Ibid. p. 254.
[v] Ibid. p. 259.
[vi] Migration Policy Institute, “California, Demographics and Social” and “Texas, Demographics and Social”
[vii] Ibid. p. 258.
[viii] Ibid. p. 259-262.
[ix] Ibid. p. 262.
[x] Ibid. p. 261.
[xi] Ibid. p. 263.
[xii] Ibid. p. 260-261.
[xiii] Ibid. p. 262-264.
[xiv] Ibid. p. 263.
[xv] Ibid. p. 263.
[xvi] Ibid. p. 263-264.
[xvii] Ibid. p. 264.
[xviii] Ibid. p. 264.
[xix] The official name in English is Arizona-Mexico Commission, while in Spanish is the Comisión Sonora-Arizona.
[xx] González Gutiérrez, Carlos, Ibid. p. 265.
[xxi] Ibid. p. 265.
[xxii] Ibid. p. 265.
[xxiii] Ibid. p. 265.
[xxiv] Ibid. p. 265.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer, or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.