U.S. lawmakers push for better treatment of illegal immigrants in Mexico
By Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times Saturday, December 3, 2011
**FILE** Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat (Associated Press)
Already unhappy with the Obama administration's handling of illegal
immigrants in the U.S., liberal lawmakers on Friday asked the
government to go even further and make American aid to Mexico based
on that country treating immigrants better.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat and a co-chairman of the
Congressional Progressive Caucus, led a letter signed by more than 30
lawmakers, including Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Democrat
Howard L. Berman, that accused Mexican authorities of everything from
kidnapping and robbery to extortion of migrants crossing Mexico on
their way to the U.S.
In the letter the lawmakers asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton to put pressure on Mexico to clean things up.
"The current levels of abuse against migrants in transit in Mexico
represent a humanitarian crisis that has been recognized by
international human rights organizations across the globe," they
wrote, adding that because of its location and ties, the U.S. has "a
clear interest and responsibility" to push Mexico.
Mexico has regularly fought for better treatment of its citizens who
live illegally in the U.S., but reports have exposed rough treatment
by Mexican authorities of Central American migrants who cross Mexico
on their way to try to enter the U.S. illegally.
In addition, illegal immigrants are preyed upon by smugglers and
sometimes fellow migrants themselves.
One worker at a shelter for illegal immigrants in Mexico told Amnesty
International in 2010 that six out of every 10 women and girls who
pass through the facility have faced sexual violence.
It's unclear how many illegal immigrants cross Mexico to try to reach
the U.S. The 2010 Amnesty report, citing Mexican government figures,
said the number has been declining since 2006 — just as authorities
in the U.S. believe the flow of illegal immigrants across its own
border has decreased.
Up until several years, even Mexico pushed for lower penalties for
its citizens living illegally in the U.S., Mexican law called for
prison sentences of up to 10 years for illegal immigrants there. In
2008 that penalty was reduced to a fine.
Even with illegal immigration numbers leveling off in the U.S., the
issue remains a hot topic.
Immigrant-rights groups and liberal members of Congress have called
on the Obama administration to halt deportations until a broad new
immigration law can be passed to legalize most illegal immigrants.
President Obama has said he doesn't have the authority to halt all
deportations, but earlier this year the administration issued new
guidance telling immigration authorities and federal prosecutors not
to pursue cases against rank-and-file illegal immigrants who don't
have long criminal records or repeated immigration law violations.
Hispanic members of Congress, including many who signed Friday's
letter, plan to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Napolitano next week to ask her about how the new priorities are
This past week Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, personally
took an illegal immigrant in South Carolina to a meeting with
Homeland Security officials in Charleston to ask that he be
considered one of the low-priority deportation cases that gets
"Successfully appealing for the closure of Mr. Sanchez' case shows
people how to fight on other cases in South Carolina and nationally
where deporting a father and working man is not in the best interest
of our country," Mr. Gutierrez said.
He said the case would be a key test for the Obama administration.
Mr. Gutierrez also joined the letter to Mrs. Clinton this week on
Mexico's treatment of migrants.
In that letter, the lawmakers said U.S. aid under the Merida
Initiative has gone to aid Mexican anti-drug trafficking efforts, but
that some of the same law enforcement agencies that got that money
have been implicated in the abuses of illegal immigrants there.
"The daily abuses suffered by migrants en route to the United States
directly impact American lives, and American policymakers need to
make stopping them a priority," said Mr. Grijalva, who led the
letter. "The State Department has a responsibility to look beyond our
own borders and halt these ongoing tragedies."