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México City, May 10, 2001

Hernandez calls for border death probe but hails success at Arizona border summit

The News Staff Reporter

Presidential advisor on migrant affairs Juan Hernandez on Wednesday met with Arizona's Gov. Jane Hull to demand the U.S. investigate the March 5 death of a Mexican migrant at the hands of a border patrolman.

The governor passed that buck to the federal government, but expressed support for Hernandez' other goals in the area of migrant rights, most notably enabling migrants to apply for drivers licenses though they may lack social security numbers.

"She said she didn't want Arizona to be known as a state that was not a friend to Mexicans," said Hernandez in a telephone interview from Arizona. " 'Where would Arizona be without Mexican immigrants?' were her exact words."

Nonetheless, "she said (the border shooting) was a federal investigation and that the state of Arizona had nothing to do with it."

Roberto Chavez was killed by a border patrol agent while crossing the border in Arizona; the agent claims he drew his weapon in self defense, and to date he walks free.

Mexico City newspapers recently have criticized the Foreign Relations Secretariat for forgetting about the case despite initial promises to aid the migrant's family and demand justice for his killer. [The Mexican should not have been on American soil.]

"We don't know anything," Chavez's mother told a Mexico City newspaper in an article published Tuesday. "They haven't informed us of anything, nobody, not the lawyer, not the Mexican authorities, there has not been any response from those that made us promises."

Hernandez said despite Hull's refusal to get involved in the situation, he is confident U.S. federal authorities are taking the Mexican government's demand for an investigation seriously.

A law firm representing the Mexican consulate in Tucson has officially demanded the Border Patrol pay 25 million dollars in damages to Chavez' family.

On other issues, however, Hull was more willing to take action. Hernandez said the governor agreed to study the question of whether Arizona could skirt U.S. federal regulations requiring social security numbers for drivers license applicants, as a few states have done. The two will meet again in three weeks to discuss further action on the issue.

Before his meeting with the governor, Hernandez met with 500 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans at Phoenix's Frank de Guadalupe school. He listened to complaints, petitions and some praise for Fox's administration.

One woman said she was the victim of police extortion during a visit to Mexico. She claimed she gave police 600 dollars to keep her U.S. van from being confiscated. "It's not fair to be treated this way in our country," she said. "My husband and daughters are afraid to return."

Hernandez said he would order an investigation.

Others accused the Beta Group, Mexico's border patrol, of protecting drug traffickers.

Hernandez said he had heard other accusations against the agents who operate along the Arizona-Mexico border, "but there are also valuable members that help save the lives of immigrants who try to enter the United States through the desert."

Hernandez said much remains to be done in favor of Mexicans abroad, but reiterated the new administration's commitment to the cause.

"I'm moved to see and hear the spirit and hope that exists among Mexicans" abroad due to the change of government, he said after the meeting.

Hernandez also told Notimex that just before the Arizona trip, President Vicente Fox had given the green light to the creation of a Mexico City-based special government legal office to protect Mexicans living abroad. Hernandez said Fox on Tuesday received the proposal with "great interest."

"He gave me the go-ahead to forge ahead with the project," Hernandez said. "As such, I will soon present Fox with a list of possible candidates to head the new office."

The official said the office's main purpose will be to attend to complaints filed by Mexicans living north of border.

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