The role foreign consuls play in a free market economy is virtually incontestable. Aside from facilitating commerce and tourism, they assist and protect their own citizens as they begin assimilating in communities abroad. Such is the role of Mexican Consul Eduardo Arnal Palomera - a newly appointed Ambassador by Mexican President Felipe Calderon - to represent Latino-Americans in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.
Last week, we met with Ambassador Palomera to discuss his first tour of Wisconsin. Palomera's jurisdiction spans three states covering southern Wisconsin, most of Illinois, and the northern half of Indiana. All in all, Palomera's territory represents nearly 3 million people living in approximately 128 counties. And just as he did when he was the Consul of Colorado, he plans to visit community leaders of each of the 128 counties in order to promote stronger ties with Mexico.
We interviewed Ambassador Palomera during the LULAC convention where he was invited to be a guest speaker. He reassured us this will not be the last time we see him in Wisconsin. He intends to frequent our state and become active in Wisconsin's Latino community, which of course includes visiting the world renowned Mexican Fiesta in August.
At the young age of 30, Palomera was elected Congressman in Mexico. Because Mexico doesn't have reelections, Palomera took a job as a city manager of Atizapan de Zaragoza when his three-year term ended. It didn't take long before President Calderon took notice of Palomera's ability to bring people together. He was soon appointed by Calderon to be Consul of the state of Colorado, a job where Palomera's skills in diplomacy could be put to good work.
As of May 16th, Consul Palomera was reassigned as the Mexican Consul to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana - the second largest consulate in the U.S - covering approximately 3 million people in 128 counties. His ambition is to promote the sort of commerce, tourism, and civic events that unite Mexico with the three states currently under Palomera's purview.
At times, the job can be challenging. Palomera said that Mexico is the second most diverse nation in the world and is made up of 63 different ethnic groups, 53 different languages, and has over 4,000 years of rich history. Bringing people together, says Palomero, is the most challenging part of his job.
Palomera considers Utah's guest worker program a partial solution. "Sooner or later," Palomero said, "we will have comprehensive immigration reform in this country." He said the U.S. has the world's largest economy, which "functions as a big magnet" drawing in foreign labor.
"The only way this country can compete with China," Palomera says, is by making use of Mexican labor. Palomero noted that in just a few years, more than 55 million baby boomers will retire creating a need for foreign labor. The United States has the capital, Palomero said, and Mexico has the labor demonstrating that we have complementary economies.
Palomera conceded, however, that their loss in terms of labor is our gain. They are trying to do what they can to stop immigration and provide jobs and opportunities to the citizens of Mexico. "Mexico has the 9th largest economy worldwide," Palomero said, and is projected to be the 5th largest by 2050. If they don't do something fast, Mexico "will need to import workers."
When asked if he considers the Utah guest worker program to be a step in the right direction, Ambassador Palomera hesitated. He said playfully, "You know, diplomats and flies, we have something in common; both can be killed by a newspaper." After a brief laugh, Palomera admitted that Utah's program is "a good partial step," but graciously declined to discuss the issue any further.
When asked about Representative Don Pridemore's immigration bill, Palomera remarked that it's a bad decision that would result in racial profiling. He said, the only way police can assume that someone is undocumented in based upon their physical appearance. "Obviously, the system is not functioning" Palomera says, but a solution like that would compromise the trust the Latino community has in law enforcement, a vital component needed for fighting crime.
Palomera iterated that victims of domestic violence often do not report the offense because they fear the consequences of dealing with law enforcement. Pridemore's bill, Palomera inferred, would compromise the ability of the Hispanic community to work together with the police to maintain safe neighborhoods.