Safety First in Mexico [Op-ed]

November 28, 2012

The New York Times, 11/28/2012

Mexico’s outgoing president, Felipe Calderón, was never much loved. His election in 2006 was overshadowed by claims of fraud by a leftist challenger. He then struggled with a deep recession brought on by the global financial crisis. And throughout his term he sponsored an army-led “war on drugs,” which has left a death toll variously estimated at between 65,000 and 100,000. Little wonder that most Mexicans are eager to see him leave office on Saturday.

The country’s economy is again growing, with the combination of falling unemployment at home and fewer jobs in the United States bringing a dramatic drop in illegal migration to the north. And thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, instead of exporting people, Mexico is now a major exporter of cars, televisions, aircraft parts and other manufactured goods.

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In Mexico, rising tension at shelter for migrants

May 7, 2012

The Sacramento Bee, 5/7/12

The travelers, with bloodshot eyes and sleep-wrinkled clothes, press around a man with a map of Mexico taped to the wall. He speaks, and his finger traces various routes north to the border. All roads lead to trouble.

Up here, kidnappers and drug killers. Over there, Mexican army checkpoints. Farther along, a giant desert, with poisonous snakes and deadly heat. Listeners rise on tiptoes to see better. A woman asks for a piece of paper; she wants to remember the name of the Mexican state bordering Arizona. Sonora. Others swap hesitant looks but stay silent, like soldiers being briefed on a terrible foe.

They are migrants, almost all from Central America, and they have endured much to reach this place, a church-run shelter about an hour’s drive north of Mexico City. And they will endure more. The man with the map is a volunteer whose job is to make sure they know how much more.

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Op-ed: 3 things Americans don’t need to worry about

May 2, 2012

Chicago Tribune, Stephen R. Kelly, 5/2/12

The United States is not being overrun by illegal aliens, is not running out of oil or natural gas, and is not being sucked into the vortex of Mexican cartel violence along the border.

In fact, illegal immigration is at a 40-year low, oil production is at an eight-year high and U.S. cities along the Mexican border are among the safest in the nation. All this might come as news to anyone who has closely followed this year’s presidential primaries, whose general theme seemed to be that America is circling the drain. To help lift the national mood, here are three things you can remove from your worry list.

Virtually all the GOP presidential candidates have talked about illegal immigration in starkly negative terms, with the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, proposing further crackdowns so undocumented immigrants “self deport.” But the numbers suggest this rhetoric has been overtaken by events.

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Op-ed: Central Americans determined to trek north to U.S.

April 29, 2012

The Washington Times, Guy Taylor, 4/29/12

About 200 impoverished and undocumented migrants recently packed into a small building in this ramshackle town 20 miles north of Mexico City.

Nearly all were from Honduras and headed for the U.S. border. Almost none spoke a word in the shelter’s dark main room, where the only thing thicker than the smell of unwashed clothes was a sense of fear. “Yeah, I’m scared,” said Victor Caseres, 26, who had traveled 750 miles by hopping freight trains to arrive at the shelter, one of more than a dozen run by the Catholic Church in Mexico to provide refuge for migrants.

“Everything’s been all right so far, but going forward, I’m afraid. Sometimes criminal guys hop on the train, and they’ll rob you or kill you.” Migrants in search of jobs in the U.S. face a gantlet of life-or-death risks in their treks across Mexico from its southern border: Many fall prey to extortion, kidnapping, rape and killing by crooked police and criminal gangs.

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More kids crossing Mexico border alone

April 29, 2012

San Francisco Chronicle / Associated Press, 4/29/12

Texas – An unprecedented surge of children caught trudging through southern Texas scrublands or crossing at border ports of entry without their families has sent government and nonprofit agencies scrambling to expand their shelter, legal representation and reunification services. On any given day this year, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has been caring for more than 2,100 unaccompanied child immigrants.

The influx came to light recently when 100 kids were taken to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio for temporary housing. It was the first time the government has turned to the Defense Department – in all, 200 boys and girls younger than 18 stay in a base dormitory.

While the issue of unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States isn’t new, the scale of the recent increase is. From October through March, 5,252 kids landed in U.S. custody without a parent or guardian – a 93 percent increase from the same period the previous year, according to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services. In March alone, 1,390 kids arrived.

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The Dream Deferred

April 27, 2012

Americas Quarterly, 4/26/2012
Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco

In this AQ feature article by Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, the issue of U.S.-born children of immigrants and newcomers who arrive at an early age is explored. It is argued that these individuals have deep roots in their communities and that “regardless of whether their parents “have papers” or not, these children and youth attend U.S. schools, learn English and develop an emerging American identity. But for children from households lacking documentation, their or their parents’ status hangs over their daily lives and future.”

The author contends that “the fear of apprehension and deportation, for themselves or their parents, is ever-present and immensely damaging.” The current rhetoric surrounding immigration in the United States, however, does not longer reflect the recent shifts in migration flows. Although the debate continue to be focused on “illegal immigration,” the truth is that whereas the unauthorized population grew from under 1 million in 1980 to nearly 12 million in 2000, the trend has now reversed. Suárez-Orozco argues that this leaves the political rhetoric on both sides of the spectrum disconnected from reality. Suárez-Orozco adds:

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Supreme Court to hear arguments over Ariz. immigration law

April 25, 2012

USA Today, 4/25/12

Crowds began arriving early at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday morning as justices prepared to consider the fate of what many consider the toughest state immigration law in the country.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 has become a flashpoint for the debate over how to enforce immigration in the U.S. and has served as a blueprint for five other states that adopted similar laws the following year. The Arizona Legislature passed the bill in 2010, and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010.

Sponsors said the law was necessary because the federal government has failed to control the influx of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states such as Arizona to grapple with the security concerns and high costs of educating and caring for illegal immigrants. They said the law simply empowered police and state officials to help enforce federal immigration laws.

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Op-ed: The anti-immigrant game

April 24, 2012

Los Angeles Times, Karthick Ramakrishnan, 4/24/12

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday on the constitutionality of Arizona’s 2010 immigration enforcement law. If upheld, SB 1070 would require local police in most circumstances to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop based only on a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully in this country.

It would also compel residents to carry their immigration papers at all times and create state immigration crimes distinct from what is covered by federal law. A few other states, such as Alabama and Georgia, and some cities have passed similar laws, and many more may consider such laws if the Supreme Court finds Arizona’s law to be constitutional.

The primary legal debate in U.S. vs. Arizona will focus on the issue of whether a state government can engage in immigration enforcement without the explicit consent of the federal government. The state of Arizona will argue that its measure simply complements federal enforcement, while the federal government will argue that Arizona’s law undermines national authority and that immigration enforcement is an exclusively federal responsibility.

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Self-deportation proponents Kris Kobach, Michael Hethmon facing time of trial

April 24, 2012

The Washington Post, 4/24/12

They were a mismatched pair who somehow managed to re­arrange the national immigration debate and the half-shadow world in which illegal immigrants live and work in the United States. One, Kris Kobach, was a telegenic law professor who was worried about foreign terrorists. The other, Michael Hethmon, was a bookish lawyer afraid that immigrants would overburden the environment.

Over the past six years, the two have become the most successful propagators of a powerful idea: that state and local governments can make life so miserable for illegal immigrants that they would choose to deport themselves. During this year’s Republican presidential primary contest, the notion of self-deportation began to take on new legitimacy. Mitt Romney, the party’s presumed nominee, praised the idea and has pledged that he would drop the Obama administration’s challenges to state laws in places such as Alabama and Arizona.

Kobach and Hethmon have helped six states and at least seven cities and counties write tough legislation that allows local police or bureaucrats to crack down on illegal immigrants. Usually, that’s a function reserved for the federal government, but these two lawyers said they knew the “magic words” of legalese to make local laws work.

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Pew Hispanic Center: Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less

April 24, 2012

A news story covering the release of this report by Pew Hispanic Center was featured on NPR. The story “Immigration from Mexico to the U.S. comes to a standstill” can be read here.

Pew Hispanic Center, 4/24/12

The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.

The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.

The report is based on the Center’s analysis of data from five different Mexican government sources and four U.S. government sources.

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