Mexico harasses immigrants
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|Thu, 05-27-2010 - 10:24am|
And yet Obama and the Democrats embarrassed America by standing and cheering for Calderon as he bashed American laws.
Experts: Mexico harasses immigrants as it criticizes Arizona immigration law
by Chris Hawley - May. 27, 2010 12:00 AM
Republic Mexico City Bureau
TULTITLAN, Mexico - Arizona's new law directing local police to take a greater role in enforcing immigration rules has brought a lot of criticism from Mexico, the largest source of illegal immigrants in the United States. But, in Mexico, undocumented immigrants say they suffer even worse treatment from corrupt authorities.
"There (in the United States), they'll deport you," Hector Vázquez, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, said as he rested in a makeshift camp with other migrants under a highway bridge in Tultitlan. "In Mexico, they'll probably let you go, but they'll beat you up and steal everything you've got first."
Mexican authorities have harshly criticized Arizona over Senate Bill 1070, which makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It states that an officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person's legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.
"(The law) violates inalienable human rights," the Mexican Foreign Ministry says.
Meanwhile, Mexican police freely engage in racial profiling, harassing Central American migrants while ignoring thousands of American retirees living illegally in Mexico, immigration experts say.
Mexico already has an Arizona-style statute requiring local police to check IDs. That clause has fed an epidemic of kidnappings, rapes and other atrocities against migrants because victims are afraid to talk to police, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says. A bill eliminating the rule has been stalled in the Mexican Senate since March.
Mexican officials say they've been trying to improve treatment of immigrants by softening some of the most restrictive parts of Mexico's immigration law since 2008.
"We are trying to write a new story (regarding) immigrants, especially coming from Central American countries," Mexican President Felipe Calderón told CNN last week.
But human-rights activists say abuses have continued unabated.
"The Mexican government should probably clean up its own house before looking at someone else's," said Melissa Vertíz, spokeswoman for the Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center in Tapachula, Mexico.
In one six-month period from September 2008 to February 2009, at least 9,758 migrants were kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico, 91 of them with the direct participation of Mexican police, a report by the National Human Rights Commission says. Other migrants are routinely stopped and shaken down for bribes, it says.
A separate survey conducted during one month in 2008 at 10 migrant shelters showed Mexican authorities were behind migrant attacks in 35 of 240 cases, or 15 percent. Most of the abuses against migrants are committed by gangs and migrant smugglers.
Most migrants in Mexico are Central Americans passing through on their way to the United States, human-rights groups say. Others are Guatemalans who live and work along Mexico's southern border, mainly as farmworkers, maids, or in bars and restaurants.
One of the largest populations of illegal migrants in Mexico is made up of American retirees who enter as tourists, then overstay their visas, said Patricia de los Rios, director of the migrant-affairs program at Iberoamerican University in Mexico City. Some Americans even work in Mexico illegally, giving English lessons, running tourism-related businesses or telecommuting.
"The biggest population of foreigners here is Americans, and an important percentage of them live here without documents," de los Rios said. "There, we see racism in reverse, because if you have an American accent and are light-skinned . . . the (police) are not going to treat you the same as if you look Honduran."
Last year, 63,215 of the 67,282 undocumented migrants detained by Mexican authorities, or about 94 percent, were from four impoverished Central American countries: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Only 836 detainees, or about 1 percent, were from the United States.
The Central American migrants headed to the United States travel mainly on freight trains, stopping to rest and beg for food at rail crossings like the one in Tultitlan, an industrial suburb of Mexico City.
On a recent afternoon, Victor Manuel Beltrán Rodríguez of Managua, Nicaragua, trudged among the cars at a stop light, his hand outstretched.
"Can you give me a peso? I'm from Nicaragua," he said. Every 10 cars or so, a motorist would roll down the window and hand him a few coins. Within a half-hour, he had collected 10 pesos, about 80 U.S. cents, enough for a taco.
Beltrán Rodríguez had arrived in Mexico with 950 pesos, about $76, enough to last him to the U.S. border.
But near Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, he said municipal police had detained him, driven him to a deserted road and taken all his money. He had been surviving by begging.
Abuses by Mexican authorities have persisted even as Mexico has relaxed its rules against illegal immigrants in recent years.
In 2008, the Mexican government softened the punishment for undocumented migrants, from a maximum 10 years in prison to a maximum fine of $461. Most detainees are simply taken to detention centers and put on buses for home.
Mexican law calls for six to 12 years of prison and up to $46,000 in fines for anyone who shelters or transports illegal immigrants, but the nation's Supreme Court ruled in March 2008 that the law applies only to people who do it for money.
For years, the Mexican government has allowed charity groups to openly operate migrant shelters, where travelers can rest for a few days on their journey north. The government also has a special unit of immigration agents, known as Grupo Beta, that patrols the countryside in orange pickup trucks, helping immigrants who are in trouble.
At the same time, however, Article 67 of Mexico's immigration law requires that all authorities, "whether federal, local or municipal," demand to see visas if approached by a foreigner, and to hand over any undocumented migrants to immigration authorities.
"In effect, this means that migrants who suffer crimes, including kidnapping, prefer not to report them to avoid . . . being detained by immigration authorities and returned to their country," the National Human Rights Commission said in a report last year.
As a result, the clause has strengthened gangs who abuse migrants.
"That Article 67 is an obstacle that urgently has to be removed," said Alberto Herrera, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico. "It has worsened this vicious cycle of abuse and impunity, and the same thing could happen (in Arizona)."
A bill passed by the Mexican Senate on Oct. 6 would eliminate the ID requirement in Article 67 and replace it with language saying, "No attention in matters of human rights or the provision of justice shall be denied or restricted on any level (of government) to foreigners who require it, regardless of their migration status."
The Mexican House of Representatives approved a similar measure on March 16 but added a clause requiring the government to set aside funds to take care of foreigners during times of disaster. The revised bill has been stuck in the Senate's Population and Development Committee since then.
To discourage migrants from speaking out about abuse, Mexican authorities often tell detainees they will have to stay longer in detention centers if they file a complaint, said Vertíz, of the Human Rights Center.
A March 2007 order allows Mexican immigration agents to give "humanitarian visas" to migrants who have suffered crimes in Mexico.
But the amnesty is not automatic, and most migrants don't know to ask for it, the commission said.