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Mexico: "Something fundamentally wrong" with U.S. migrant policy

Olivia P. Tallet, EFE - 6/28/2002

HOUSTON, Texas - Declaring U.S. immigration policy a failure, Mexico's foreign secretary said "something is fundamentally wrong" with a system that produces the death in the desert each year of hundreds of would-be immigrants seeking "jobs available in abundance."

With respect to ongoing immigration negotiations, the United States and Mexico could "reach a satisfactory agreement sometime in 2003," Foreign Secretary Jorge Castañeda said Wednesday in Houston at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention.

"U.S. immigration policies have failed to stem illegal immigration from Mexico and, in exchange, have fostered a dangerous and sometimes lethal black market for human beings," Castañeda said.

The secretary acknowledged, nevertheless, that the U.S. "has the right to regulate who enters its territory."

The fact that hundreds of immigrants lose their lives attempting to cross the border in search of jobs that are readily available is evidence that "something is fundamentally wrong," he added. Moreover, the secretary noted the "lack of legal status makes immigrants vulnerable to unscrupulous employers" who exploit them.

"The time has come for us to act and to act decisively to end this intolerable situation," Castañeda said.

During his address, Castañeda also summed up Mexico's efforts to combat drug smugglers by extraditing drug traffickers, exchanging information and improving border security, among other issues that top the U.S. wish list.

"Mexico certainly has done its part. Now we are confident that the U.S. will hold to its commitment to work constructively with Mexico on issues that are important to us, the most important of which is immigration," Castañeda said.

Mexico is still seeking a U.S. solution to issues that topped the agenda last year, including legalizing the status of Mexicans residing here, increasing the number of resident visas for Mexican citizens and creating a guest-worker program.

Other priorities, Castañeda said, include boosting border security and promoting economic development programs, especially in Mexican regions with the highest percentage of immigration.

"Instead of criminalizing this flow of workers, the two countries have to work on regulating it," which would benefit both countries, he said.

The election calendar in the U.S. and events of Sept. 11 have created a climate that is not "favorable" for immigration talks, Castañeda noted. The official urged LULAC convention goers to lobby U.S. legislators to push for immigration accords.