Mexico’s improving economy warrants an open-border policy with the United States, Mexican economist and ambassador Dr. Cassio Luiselli Fernandez told an audience in the Chicano studies conference room yesterday.

Fernandez spoke of the changes in Mexico’s economy and the prospect of increasing North America’s prosperity by further improving Mexico’s economy in a lecture titled “The Future of Immigration Policies Between Mexico and the United States.” The discussion was sponsored by the Dept. of Chicano Studies and the Center of Chicano Studies along with the Mexican Consulate of Oxnard.

Following the guidelines set by the North American Free Trade Agreement, Fernandez hopes the U.S., Canada and Mexico can work on policies promoting relations between the three countries – a step he said the U.S. is reluctant to take.

“This country is so successful that people are reluctant to make reforms, but Americans must face the 21st century,” he said. “Why should we be afraid of changing gears and getting a more enlightened policy?”

Fernandez, who has served as the ambassador from Mexico to South Africa and South Korea, said this reluctance is compounded with a fear Americans hold of an open-border policy – a fear he finds irrational considering the current state of the Mexican economy.

“Many Americans have the idea that if the borders are opened, 50 million Mexicans will come in. It’s not true. The U.S. is a great country, but so is Mexico,” he said. “San Diego is much richer than Tijuana, but Tijuana is growing much faster than San Diego. And El Paso is sleepy, but Juarez has a lot of activity.”

Despite this belief, Fernandez listed several reasons why emigration from Mexico to the United States occurs, including higher wages and an already established community. Currently, Mexican immigrants make up 60 to 70 percent of the agricultural labor force in the U.S.

“It’s hard to stop migration when you have cultural links and an enormous wage differential,” Fernandez said. “As long as we have this, the incentive for migration is very high.”

Mild racism compared to other countries also contributes to the influx of immigrants, Fernandez said.

“This is not a racist country. It is not. The U.S. is very well equipped to accept other countries. It took many years and enormous battles for the American people to overcome racism,” he said. “The number one issue for me is protecting human rights, and we have to be vigilant about racism.”

Several audience members disagreed with Fernandez’s opinion. Junior economics major Cesar Salazar believed Fernandez’s inexperience with American society accounts for his naivet