Deep Ties, Tested on Mexico’s Border

The NYT does a profile of border city Laredo, TX (“Deep Ties, Tested on Mexico’s Border“)

Laredo, a majority-Hispanic city since its founding in 1755, knows what it takes to incorporate immigrants. But over the past few years, as violence across the border in neighboring Nuevo Laredo has surged and as Border Patrol surveillance and checkpoints have made it harder to travel north of Laredo without documents, Laredo’s magnetic appeal has intensified, drawing immigrants who are testing local confidence, finances and the city’s bicultural equilibrium.

Fewer Laredoans now go south to visit friends or shop, while more from Mexico land here, staying longer instead of just visiting or moving on. Some are desperate and willing to accept lower wages. Others push their children into public schools, setting them up with distant relatives who sometimes apply for food stamps if the children were born on the American side of the border, leading to complaints that Mexican families are more interested in benefits than work…

On the national continuum of cultural and economic integration, Laredo’s challenges are extreme — it is the most Mexican of American places,96 percent Hispanic, with a bilingual population that often prefers Spanish to English. Its daily, difficult effort to meld two cultures, though, is one local version of an evolution occurring in many cities and towns nationwide, as it has become clear that immigrants are putting down permanent roots.

My favorite quote from the piece:

We are joined by the border, not separated,” said Raul G. Salinas, the mayor of Laredo

America-as-an-extension-of-Mexico. Samuel Huntington’s thesis about the unprecedented U.S. immigration dynamic when the majority of immigrants come not from across an ocean (with the corresponding assimilation pressures that would ensue, being far away from one’s “home” country) but from a wide and porous border from a contiguous foreign country.

Regarding the Antonio M. Bruni Elementary school, which with its 650 students, has these wonderful little factoids:

Most of the children are American citizens. The school is 99.9 percent Hispanic and 99.3 percent economically disadvantaged, and nine out of 10 students speak English as a second language.

There’s lots of ‘read between the line’ passages, such as:

His school is constantly in flux. Laredo’s two school boards after much debate successfully persuaded voters last year to approve bond issues for $533.7 million to deal partly with the overcrowding often associated with children arriving from Mexico. Some show up for the first or second grade having never attended school. Involved immigrant parents like Erika Gomez, 41, the mother of a fourth grader and a first grader, are a rarity.

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