Mexican senators want immigration accord with the United States

Tucson Citizen
Oct. 3, 2002

A delegation of Mexican senators wants the U.S. government to help reduce the record death toll at the Arizona border by creating legal routes for Mexicans to find work here.

After hearing testimony from human rights activists in Tucson, the members of the delegation stressed the importance of an immigration accord with the United States.

Miguel Sadot Sánchez Carreño, president of Mexico's Human Rights Commission, said U.S. border policy has created "a corridor of death" for Mexican migrants, who perished in record numbers trying to cross the Sonoran desert.

According to figures from the Mexican government, 315 Mexican died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally this year. The majority, about 170, died trying to cross into Arizona.

Preliminary fiscal year statistics from the Border Patrol put the death toll at 145 for Arizona, but that does not include people who died on the Mexican side of the border.

Talks with the Mexican government were on track for a possible amnesty and guest worker program before the terrorist attacks Sept. 11. Since then, Congress has shied away from any discussion of an immigration accord, which would have offered legal status to more than 3.5 illegal immigrants from Mexico living in the United States.

Sadot Sánchez Carreño said the Mexican government's ultimate goal is a "a great mobilization of the public opinion in American."

"So that once and for all we bury the idea that security is directly associated with immigration," he said.

The senators and representatives of Mexico's Human Rights Commission outlined their top priorities for an immigration accord, which include:

n A general amnesty for Mexicans living illegally in the United States. n A plan that would increase security at the border.

n An economic development plan for Mexico that would focus on communities that have the highest number of people leaving for the United States.

 "We understand and we support the United State's attitude in respect to defense," Sadot Sánchez Carreño said. "But we don't believe that should exclude the defense of human rights."

He argued that a legalization, or amnesty program, would allow the United States to keep better track of foreigners living here. It would also allow Mexicans working here illegally to no longer fear authorities and deportation, he said.

Orlando Paredes Lara, a senator who represents the southern state of Yucatan, said an immigration accord is extremely important to Mexico, "but it is very far from being achieved."

He called for Mexican leaders to introduce an "emergency employment" plan before the Mexican government that would create jobs in regions of the country that are sending the largest numbers of emigrants north.

Paredes Lara also said the Mexican government can help reduce the number of deaths by getting word out to people already living in the United States not to send for their family members.

The senators' comments followed a hearing at the Doubletree Hotel, 445 S. Alvernon Way. Immigrant advocates told senators about deaths at the border and the plight of illegal immigrants already living the United States.