01/29/2013

Mexico's take on US immigration debate

A few moments ago, Mexico's Secretariat of Foreign Relations issued a statement about the intensifying debate in the United States about immigration reform.

This came within hours of President Barack Obama's speech in Las Vegas laying out his vision of immigration reform and a day after a bipartisan group of senators laid out their vision.

Let me know what you think of Mexico's posture on this. Here's the statement:

Mexico's government welcomes the principles that have been raised by U.S. President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators as a basis for a comprehensive reform of the immigration system in the United States. Also we watch with interest the valuable input in recent weeks offered by numerous civil society organizations and economic groups. 

The Government of Mexico recognizes the commitment shown by a growing number of actors in the United States to ensure that legal frameworks in North America reflect the demographics of the region, the complementarities between our economies, the need for a prosperous, competitive, secure and efficient border region, and family ties and shared values ​​between the two societies. The priority of protecting the rights of every individual, regardless of his or her immigration status, has been properly included in the center of this debate. 

Immigration policy is an internal matter of federal jurisdiction in the United States. However, it concerns millions of individuals living in this and other countries. Therefore, the Government of Mexico respectfully continues to promote informed discussion of the many dimensions of this issue to protect the rights of its citizens abroad.

09/28/2011

Obama: Mexicans lack skills training

President Barack Obama sat down at the White House yesterday to answer questions from Hispanics who had emailed questions to Yahoo Espanol, AOL Latino, MSN Latino or Huff-Post Latino Voices.  Two of the questions were pertinent to Mexico. I've put in bold the part of the official transcript that I found interesting:

MS. KARINE MEDINA (MSN LATINO):  So the next question comes from California and was asked by Mike:  Is there anything the United States can do to strengthen the Mexican economy?  Could we form a stronger partnership with Mexico that would result in less illegal immigration and lowered expense of Border Patrol? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it's very important to recognize, as the question recognizes, that if we can strengthen the Mexican economy then people have less incentive to look for work in the United States. We welcome immigration, but obviously a lot of people in Mexico would love to stay home and create businesses and find jobs that allowed them to support their family if they could, but the Mexican economy has not always been able to generate all the jobs that it needs.

This is a long-term challenge.  The Mexican economy is very integrated to the world economy and the U.S. economy, so they were affected by the recession very badly themselves.  I have a great relationship with President Calderón and we have looked for a whole range of ways that we can improve cross-border trade.  For example, we've been focused on how we can change the borders infrastructure so that goods are flowing more easily back and forth.

Ultimately, though, the Mexican economy is going to depend also on changing some of the structures internally to increase productivity, to train the workforce there, so education in Mexico is going to be also very important.  Part of what's happened in Mexico is, is that a lot of people have been displaced from the agricultural sector and they've moved to the cities; they don't have the skills necessarily for the higher-skilled jobs that exist in urban areas.  And so an education agenda in Mexico is also important, just as it is here in the United States.

But we very much want to work with Mexico around their development agenda because the more they are able to generate industry and businesses in Mexico, to some extent that's probably going to be one of the best solutions for the immigration pressures that we've been seeing over the last decade or so.

///

MR. JOSE SIADE (Yahoo Espanol):  Mr. President, this question comes from Karina in Ohio:  Mr. President, what is your strategy to stop the flow of weapons bought with drug money in the U.S. and then sent to Mexico, especially after what happened in Operation Fast and Furious?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is a great challenge, and I’ve been the first one to admit -- I’ve said this publicly in  bilateral meetings with President Calderón that there's a two-way street in terms of the problems of transnational drug operations. The Mexican government I think has been very courageous in taking on these cartels, at great cost, obviously, with respect to violence in Mexico.  That's the right thing to do.

We have to be a more effective partner in both reducing demand for drugs here in the United States and for stemming the flow of weapons and cash that help to finance and facilitate these cartels.  So we're working very hard to have a much more effective interdiction effort of south to north -- or north to south traffic than we have in the past, so we are checking southbound transit to try to capture illegal guns, illegal cash transfers to drug cartels.  It is something that we have been building over the last couple of years; it's not yet finished.And there's going to be more work to do.

Part of the issue here, obviously, is budgetary.  At a time when the federal government is looking for ways to save money, we're going to have to figure out ways to operate smarter and more effective in our investigations without a huge expansion of resources because those resources aren’t there.

08/30/2011

The odyssey of migrants in Mexico

IMG_0265
I’ve spent a bit of time in southern Mexico in the last two or three months, doing stories on the southern border and the plight of migrants traversing Mexico. For anyone interested in the matter, here’s a link to a story on the porous southern border. I did another one on Los Zetas have practically taken over the migrant trafficking trade. And a final story yesterday related how many of the migrants in shelters around Mexico are U.S. deportees. Their journey isn’t one to a new land but a return home. 

07/03/2011

Running into heavy rains

IMG_0256
This time of year, heavy rains can interrupt all plans. A photographer friend and I left Mexico City yesterday morning and it’s been raining off-and-on for the last 36 hours.

By the time we got to the edge of the Suchiate River between Guatemala and Mexico, it had become a real gully washer. But that didn’t stop the makeshift rafts that bring people and merchandise across the river. This southern border has to be one of the most porous populated borders in the world.

The rafts are each made from two tractor inner tubes, and the owners say they can each carry 25 “quintales,” which would be bushels and which I imagine might be equivalent to about 50 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for a raft. The big ones can bring 15 people.

Few countries have a more ambiguous and even schizophrenic policy toward undocumented migrants than Mexico. For example, when we left the town of Arriaga this morning, which is near the Chiapas state border with Oaxaca and is a railhead where migrants hop trains northward, our driver pointed out the state office where investigators ensure that the rights of migrants aren’t violated. Moreover, in Arriaga we conducted interviews at the Casa de Migrante, a Catholic-run migrant center that is crawling with undocumented travelers from Central America.

Yet between Arriaga and Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, we passed no less than seven checkpoints on the highway. Three were operated by migration agents, three were staffed by federal police and one by the army. 

So are migrants welcome or not? I’ll keep you posted.

IMG_0267

06/27/2011

Was it 'red, white and boo'?

 

Gold Cup Soccer_Nost
That was part of the headline over a column in the Los Angeles Times following Mexico’s rousing 4-2 victory over the U.S. national soccer team Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

For anyone who watched the game on television _ and certainly much of Mexico did _ one had to be be struck by the leanings of the crowd. According to this Yahoo Sports story, “Mexico was supported by more than 80 percent of the 93,420 in attendance.”

That is an extraordinary statistic. And certainly the red-white-and-green Mexico flags, hats, facepaint and signs in the stands attest to its veracity. One can’t help but wonder if there is any other country in the world that can host a “home game” and have its fans be outnumbered in such a hostile way.

This touched a raw nerve for some Americans. As the LA Times sports columnist wrote, “This was Staples Center filled with Boston Celtics fans.”

The columnist quoted a 37-year-old resident, Victor Sanchez, who said, "We're not booing the country, we're booing the team. There is a big difference.” It noted that fans such as Sanchez reside in the United States while their sporting souls dwell elsewhere.

"But eventually, the rules for their unrequited love get tricky. Because eventually, Mexico ends up playing the U.S. team on U.S. soil. And then folks start wondering, as they surely did Saturday, is it really right for folks who live here to boo and jeer as if they don't?"

The columnist, Bill Plaschke, went on:

“How many places are so diverse that it could fill football stadiums with folks whose roots are somewhere else? How many places offer such a freedom of speech that someone can display an American flag on their porch one day and cheer against the flag the next? I hated it, but I loved it. I was felt as if I was in a strange place, and yet I felt right at home.”

Some analysts saw the Rose Bowl game as a new sign of the reconquista _ or reconquest _ of the American Southwest by Mexicans and were offended by the sentiments of the LA Times piece. Here’s an excerpt from the American Thinker website:

“That a Los Angles Times writer approves of the most recent Rose Bowl spectacle underscores yet again that many in the mainstream media are out-of-step with what most Americans believe.”

 

The American Thinker essayist, David Paulin, goes on to quote the famous late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington (he of The Clash of Civilizations) who wrote in Foreign Policy magazine in 1998 that he was appalled by Mexican residents of the U.S. who booed the U.S. national anthem and cheered for Mexican sports teams.

"Such dramatic rejections of the United States and assertions of Mexican identity are not limited to an extremist minority in the Mexican-American community. Many Mexican immigrants and their offspring simply do not appear to identify primarily with the United States."

 

One objective fact amid all this interpretation: Mexicans probably care about soccer far more than Americans and would be more inclined to go to the Rose Bowl to see the game.

From personal experience, I’d also suggest that it remains foolish to underestimate the huge assimilative powers that have made the United States exceptional over the past several centuries.  

My stepdaughter lived only two years in the U.S. during her adolescence since her mother and I moved often between Latin America and Asia. She used to voice some disdain toward the U.S., influenced by friends from Europe and elsewhere. Some of this may have been to needle me (her mother is from Nicaragua). But then she went off to university two years ago in the Boston area. Let me tell you, the richness of her experience there has left an indelible imprint on her. She could hardly be more American now. Even if her roots are foreign, her appreciation of the American experience is profound. 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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