Wednesday, April 19, 2006 > News > Mexico -- Mexico wants migrant rights in U.S., but is harsh to undocumented Central Americans > News > Mexico -- Mexico wants migrant rights in U.S., but is harsh to undocumented Central Americans:

"TULTITLAN, Mexico – While migrants in the United States have held tremendous demonstrations in recent weeks, the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Central American migrants in Mexico suffer mostly in silence.

Considered felons by the Mexican government, they fear detention, rape and robbery. Police and soldiers hunt them down at railroads, bus stations and fleabag hotels. Sometimes they are deported; more often officers simply take all their money.

While Mexico demands the humane treatment of its citizens who migrate to the U.S., it appears to be unable to guarantee similar rights for Central American migrants to this country.

The level of brutality Central American migrants face in Mexico was underscored on Monday, when police conducting a raid for undocumented migrants near a rail yard in central Mexico state shot to death a local man, apparently because his dark skin and work clothes made him look like a Central American."


Central Americans, as columnist Gustavo Arellano of the Orange County Weekly pointed out, “are the Mexicans of Mexico.”

Migrants generally acknowledge that Mexican federal immigration agents are among the more honest of the country's law enforcement officers. The problem is, most migrants here usually are detained by police or soldiers, who technically aren't authorized to enforce immigration laws. Meanwhile, Mexico objects to the United States using army and local police forces to detain migrants.

Among other ironies: Mexican-migrant activists in the United States hotly oppose a congressional bill that would make undocumented immigration in the U.S. a felony – but Mexican law already classifies it as such. The crime is punishable by up to two years in prison, although deportation is more common.


While pressing the United States for the legalization of millions of its citizens in the United States, Mexico has done little to legalize its own migrants: With a population of about 105 million, the government granted legalization to only about 15,000 migrants in the past five years.

Like the United States, Mexico is becoming reliant on immigrant labor. In a speech on immigration issues presented last year, Magdalena Carral, then-director of Mexico's National Immigration Institute, noted that Central American migrants were not just passing through on their way to the U.S., but were also staying and looking for work in southern Mexico.

“There are sectors of the Mexican economy which face labor shortages, but because there is no formal or efficient method (for work visas), they have to do it as undocumented workers,” Carral said.

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