Thursday, March 24, 2005

The State Department says that the Mexican government, angry that a thousand American volunteers will begin an Arizona border vigil next month, consistently violates the rights of illegal immigrants crossing its southern border into Mexico.

Many of the illegals in Mexico, who emigrate from Central and South America, complain of “double dangers” of extortion by Mexican authorities and robbery and killings by organized gangs.

The State Department’s Human Rights Practices report, released only last month, cites abuses at all levels of the Mexican government, and charges that Mexican police and immigration officials not only violate the rights of illegal immigrants, but traffic in illegal aliens.

Although Mexico demands that its citizens’ rights be protected when they illegally enter the United States, immigrants who cross illegally into Mexico “are often ripped off six ways until sundown,” says George Grayson, a professor at the College of William & Mary and a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

Mr. Grayson, who wrote a report for the center on Mexico’s abuses of aliens, says “very little” is being done by Mexico to protect the welfare of the Central Americans and the others who cross into Mexico.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said last week that his government will sue in U.S. or international courts if the volunteers — part of the Minuteman Project, which is designed to protest the Bush administration’s lax immigration policies — break the law.

“We totally reject the idea of these migrant-hunting groups,” Mr. Fox said prior to yesterday’s Baylor University summit in Waco, Texas, with President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, at which the countries agreed to improve security and unify business practices.

“We will use the law, international law and even U.S. law to make sure that these types of groups … will not have any opportunity to progress,” Mr. Fox said last week.

In response, Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, urged Mr. Fox to respect America’s right to defend its borders and “demonstrate perhaps a little less disdain for the rule of law north of the border.”

Mr. Kyl said Mr. Fox’s “pre-emptive threats” to file lawsuits on behalf of those crossing the border unlawfully “is hardly helpful, since it presumes that illegal aliens have more of a right to break American law than American citizens have to peacefully assist authorities in enforcing it.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, says Mexico had “raised the bar on chutzpah” by criticizing efforts by the Minuteman volunteers to protest immigration enforcement by the U.S. government.

“Since when are ‘Neighborhood Watch’ citizens ‘vigilantes’?” Mr. Tancredo asked. “President Fox thinks we should tear down the fence that keeps illegal aliens out? Then why doesn’t he put up a welcome sign on his southern border with Guatemala instead of using his military to keep poor Guatemalans out? Such hypocrisy about borders defies historic parallel.”

In a press conference yesterday in Waco, President Bush described the Arizona volunteers as “vigilantes.”

Alfonso Nieto, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said the presence of “vigilantes” on the border “will only exacerbate a climate of unease and provide sources of confrontation that will not contribute to solving the flow of economic migrants demanded by the U.S. government.”

Mr. Nieto would not comment on suspected immigrant abuses in his own country, but Mexican government officials earlier said Mr. Fox created a national program on human rights to address problems.

James Gilchrist, one of the Minutemen organizers, who expects to send 30 private planes aloft to patrol the border, said the volunteers will not confront the aliens, but report them to the Border Patrol. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said it will post legal observers to monitor the Minutemen.

Mr. Grayson says most of Mexico’s abuses occur along its 600-mile border with Guatemala, and that three groups — criminals, local police and immigration agents — account for most of the mistreatment. He said Mexico’s efforts to promote professionalization among its own border officials “thus far have achieved limited success.”

About 200,000 immigrants were detained last year on Mexico’s southern border, most of them from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Most of them were trying to reach the United States.

Mr. Bush, to criticism by both Democrats and Republicans, proposes to hire 210 new Border Patrol agents instead of the 2,000 set out in the intelligence-overhaul bill that he signed in December. The Senate voted last week to provide additional funding for the 2,000 agents in next year’s budget, signaling a willingness to challenge Mr. Bush on immigration security.

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