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Posts Tagged ‘Illegal Immigration’

     This is the final Blog on my Five Part Series dealing with the issue of immigration. The purpose of all of these articles is more than a simple recitation of the facts. Central to all of this is to provide a well-rounded comprehensive look at the issue. The goal has been to foster better public understanding of this complex, and at times, bewildering major public dilemma. What I have done is to look at immigration under the microscope. And initially, I discovered both push and pull factors as to why there is so much illegal immigration.

      As I twisted the eyepiece for visual clarity, I discovered that the issue of immigration currently creating a political stalemate between liberals and conservatives—has three major components: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” The “Good” is a thriving Mexican economy the people of Mexico can be proud of (11th largest economy in the world; Annual GDP {1.085 Trillion}with a growth rate of 4.1% in 2010; National debt of only 272 billion; and an unemployment rate of only 6.2% ).

      The “Bad” is a high rate of poverty—13% of Mexico’s population is in poverty, particularly in rural areas; an underemployment rate of 21%; and droves of illegal immigrants who cross into the United States each year. Then there is the “Ugly” because of extensive human rights abuses, torture, murder, kidnappings, child abductions, violence and uncontrolled drug crime involving the many cartels in Mexico. In addition, Mexico suffers from widespread political corruption from the top of government all the way down to local levels involving political officials and even the Mexican police.

      I don’t mean to be unkind in my comments—but Mexico the last two decades appears to be a “Hellish Cauldron” of human rights abuses. If HELL itself has a training ground for “scum of the earth”— evidently it can be found in Mexico. The people of Mexico are a good and decent people and deserve much better than this. Latin American countries in general have had a terrible record of human rights abuses over the decades. It now seems Mexico wants to join them.

     What you are about to read is the true story of a country on the brink of a major social disaster of immense proportions. As I said in Part I of this series, it is hoped that the reader will come away with a more well-rounded perspective on the immigration issue, but also a more in-depth understanding of the violence and human rights abuses that are currently plaguing a troubled Mexico. I cannot measure the impact such later events as violence and human rights abuses are having on motivating people to cross the border into the United States from Mexico—but rest assured, such factors are motivating some individuals not to have second thoughts about leaving their native country.  Perhaps people lose pride in their native country when they’re sitting on a powder keg and someone is aiming a gun at their head.

Through a comprehensive look at this issue from all sides, perhaps now we can finally make sense of this.

 Connections

      Back in January 2010 I started looking around for another charity for which to contribute money. I was struck immediately with just how many good causes there are. I began however to limit my search to those that relate to my own life, namely cancer and diabetes. I had contributed to the American Diabetes Association for almost two decades. But, I wanted to find a charity or organization I was really passionate about, not just intellectually interested in.

     When I looked back at all the Blog articles I had written since May 2008 I realized that the one issue that really got my blood running hot was the issue of torture. I was angry at the Bush administration and the complicity of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for enacting procedures to torture prisoners of war. Their actions disgraced our country.

      I then remembered that Amnesty International is one of the most respected organizations dealing with the issue of torture and human rights abuses worldwide. Recently, through publications and reports by Amnesty International, the horrendous issues of human rights abuses, torture, murder, kidnapping, and intimidation and threats, in general has surfaced center stage in neighboring Mexico. Although most Americans are currently occupied with immigration issues, and only secondarily aware of the drug wars going on in Mexico, the issue of human rights abuses doesn’t seem to show up on many individual’s radar screen. This is unfortunate and needs to be rectified right here and now.

      The purpose of this Blog is to educate readers and help them understand the terrible tragedy of crime and human rights abuses occurring in Mexico. Part of that understanding is to first look at the backdrop of both Mexico’s culture and its economy. In this way one is getting the “wide angle view” of the human rights abuses being committed fostered by lawlessness, drug cartels, and ineffectual law enforcement, all of which is occurring nonetheless in a very prosperous economy and a fascinatingly diverse culture. 

 Some Cultural and Economic Facts on Mexico 

 Overview of population

     According to the latest official estimate, which reported a population of 111 million, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexican annual population growth has drastically decreased from a peak of 3.5% in 1965 to 0.99% in 2005. Life expectancy in 2006 was estimated to be at 75.4 years (72.6 male and 78.3 female). The states with the highest life expectancy are Baja California (75.9 years) and Nuevo León (75.6 years). The Federal District has a life expectancy of the same level as Baja California.

     The lowest levels are found in Chiapas (72.9), Oaxaca (73.2) and Guerrero (73.2 years). The mortality rate in 1970 was 9.7 per 1000 people; by 2001, the rate had dropped to 4.9 men per 1000 men and 3.8 women per 1000 women. The most common reasons for death in 2001 were heart problems (14.6% for men 17.6% for women) and cancer (11% for men and 15.8% for women).

     Mexican population is increasingly urban, with close to 75% living in cities. The five largest urban areas in Mexico are Greater Mexico City, Greater Guadalajara, Greater Monterey, Greater Puebla and Greater Toluca. These areas represent 30% of the country’s population.

     Migration patterns within the country show positive migration to north-western and south-eastern states, and a negative rate of migration to the Federal District. While the annual population growth is still positive, the national net migration rate is negative (-4.7/1000), attributable to the emigration phenomenon of people from rural communities to the United States.

     Mexico is ethnically diverse, and the constitution defines the country to be a multicultural nation. Mexican nationality is relatively young, stemming back only to 1821 when Mexico achieved independence from the Spanish Empire, and it consists of many, separate regional and ethnic groups such as the various indigenous peoples and European immigrants. The majority of Mexicans are Mestizos which makes up the core of the Mexican cultural identity.

     In 2004, the Mexican government founded the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN) which launched the Mexican Genome Diversity Project. In May 2009, the Institute issued a report on a major genomic study of the Mexican population. Among the findings, it was reported that of the 80% of the population that is mestizo, the proportions of European and indigenous ancestry are approximately even, with the indigenous component slightly predominating overall. The proportions of admixture were found to vary geographically from north to south, as previous pre-genomic studies had surmised, with the European contribution predominating in the north and the indigenous component greater in central and southern regions. One of the significant conclusions of the study as reported was that even while it is composed of diverse ancestral genetic groups, the Mexican population is genetically distinctive among the world’s populations. They include:

Mestizos

      Those of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry form the largest group, comprising up to 60-80% of the total population.

            Amerindians

     Descendants of the Native American peoples who inhabited Mesoamerica comprise around 15%-30% of the population. The CDI identifies 62 indigenous groups in Mexico, each with a unique language.

            Whites

     Around 9-16% of the population is of white European descent. Whites are mostly descendants of the first Spanish settlers; although there are Mexicans of French, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, German, Irish, Polish, Romanian, Russian, and British descents from contemporary migration.

            Others

      Approximately 1% of Mexico’s population is composed of other types of ethnic groups. These include Asian-Mexicans and Afro-Mexicans. They are descendants of slaves brought to Mexico. They live in the coastal areas of the states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Guerrero and are mostly of mixed ancestry.

 The Economy of Mexico 

      Although the Mexican Peso has historically been a relatively unstable currency, it has in recent years become a secure stable currency and has maintained a low inflation rate becoming increasingly prominent on the international level.

     The economy of Mexico is the 11th largest in the world. Since the 1994 crisis, administrations have improved the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals. Mexico was not significantly influenced by the recent 2002 South American crisis, and has maintained positive rates of growth after a brief period of stagnation in 2001. Moody’s  (in March 2000) and Fitch IBCA (in January 2002) issued investment-grade ratings for Mexico’s sovereign debt.

      In spite of its unprecedented macroeconomic stability, which has reduced inflation and interest rates to record lows and has increased per capita income, enormous gaps remain between the urban and the rural population, the northern, central, and southern states, and the rich and the poor although there has been a large growing middle class since the mid 1990’s. Some of the government’s challenges include the upgrade of infrastructure, the modernization of the tax system and labor laws, and the reduction of income inequality.

     The economy contains rapidly developing modern industrial and service sectors, with increasing private ownership. Recent administrations have expanded competition in ports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution and airports, with the aim of upgrading infrastructure. As an export-oriented economy, more than 90% of Mexican trade is under free trade agreements (FTAs) with more than 40 countries, including the European Union, Japan, Israel, and much of Central and South America.

     The most influential FTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into effect in 1994, and was signed in 1992 by the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico. In 2006, trade with Mexico’s two northern partners accounted for almost 50% of its exports and 45% of its imports. Recently, the Congress of the Union approved important tax, pension and judicial reforms, and reform to the oil industry is currently being debated. According to the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world’s largest companies in 2008, Mexico had 16 companies in the list.

     Mexico has a free market mixed economy, and is firmly established as an upper middle-income country. It is the 11th largest economy in the world as measured in gross domestic product in purchasing power parity. According to the latest information available from the International Monetary Fund, Mexico had the second-highest Gross National Income per capita in Latin America in nominal terms, at $9,716 in 2007, and the highest in purchasing power parity (PPP), at $14,119 in 2007.

     After the 1994 economic debacle, Mexico has made an impressive recovery, building a modern and diversified economy. Oil is Mexico’s largest source of foreign income. According to Goldman sachs, BRIMC review of emerging economies, by 2050 the largest economies in the world will be as follows: China, India, United States, Brazil and Mexico. Mexico is the largest North American auto producing nation, recently surpassing Canada and the United States.

     Mexico is the first and only Latin American country to be included in the World Government Bond Index or WGBI, which list the most important global economies that circulate government debt bonds.

     According to the director for Mexico at the World Bank, the population in poverty has decreased from 24.2% to 17.6% in the general population and from 42% to 27.9% in rural areas from 2000 to 2004. As of January 2009 4.6% of the population is impoverished if measured by food based poverty and 15% of the population is considered to be impoverished by asset based measurments (living on less than $10,000 per year).

     Nonetheless, income inequality remains a problem, and huge gaps remain not only between rich and poor but also between the north and the south, and between urban and rural areas. Sharp contrasts in income and Human Development are also a grave problem in Mexico. The 2004 United Nations Human Development Index report for Mexico states that Benito Juarez, a district of Mexico City, and San Pedro Garza, in the State of Nuevo Leon, would have a similar level of economic, educational and life expectancy development to Germany or New Zealand. In contrast, Metlatonoc, in the state of Guerrero, would have an HDI similar to that of Syria.

     Electronics now play an important role in the Mexican economy, with over 600 new electronics related companies formed since 2000.

     GDP annual average growth for the period of 1995–2002 was 5.1%. The economic downturn in the United States also caused a similar pattern in Mexico, from which it rapidly recovered to grow 4.1% in 2005. Inflation has reached a record low of 3.3% in 2005, and interest rates are low, which have spurred credit-consumption in the middle class. Mexico has experienced in the last decade monetary stability: the budget deficit was further reduced and foreign debt was decreased to less than 20% of GDP. Along with Chile, Mexico has the highest rating of long-term sovereign credit in Latin America.

     The remittances from Mexican citizens working in the United States account for only 0.2% of Mexico’s GDP which was equal to US$20 billion dollars per year in 2004 and is the tenth largest source of foreign income after oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services. According to Mexico’s central bank, remittances fell 3.6% in 2008 to $25bn.

     Ongoing economic concerns include the commercial and financial dependence on the US, low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution (the top 32% of income earners account for 55% of income), and few advancement opportunities for the largely Mayan population in the southern states.

     Now that we have a view of a very prosperous Mexico, and understand Mexico’s very diverse culture, it’s time to look at the very ugly side of this country. 

 Human Rights Abuses in Mexico 

     All human rights abuses are criminal acts whether one is discussing kidnapping, murder, torture, unjust imprisonment, or simple intimidation and scare tactics. However, there is no perfect way to classify different human rights abuses. So, I’ve elected to classify and discuss this issue along the following victim-related dimensions and categories involving the Mexican people: (1) Human Rights Defenders and Workers, (2) Indigenous People and Migrant Workers, (3) Journalists, (4) Police and Corrections Staff, (5) Politicians, (6) Children, and (7) Women in general.

 Human Rights Defenders and Workers

      One of the most horrendous abuses of the last three years in Mexico was the wanton murder of Fernando Mayen. Mayen was shot in the head three times, and his body was found in his car on a highway. He was a lawyer from the San Luis Ayucan community in Mexico who was leading a campaign to suspend work on a local landfill project. Fernando’s neighbors were concerned that the toxic waste being illegally dumped into the landfill would leak poison into their water supply—and risk their health and lives. Soon after Fernando won a court order to suspend work on the landfill he began to receive death threats. Eight months later he was murdered. To date, no one has been charged with the crime and, according to relatives, few steps have been taken to investigate it.

Indigenous People and Migrant Workers

      Two leaders from the Organization for the Future of Mixtecos Indigenous Peoples in Guerrero State were abducted during a public event. The two leaders were Raul Lucas Lucia and Manuel Ponce Rosas. Some 30 minutes later, the wife of Raul Lucas Lucia received a phone call. The caller warned her: “Keep quiet or we’ll kill your husband. This is happening to you because you’re defending Indians.” She immediately filed a report about the abduction, but no investigation was opened and no one took steps to locate the two men. A week later, the bodies of both men were found in Tecoanapa, a 30-minute drive from where both were grabbed. Relatives who identified the bodies said that both bore injuries and their hands and feet were tied together behind their backs.

     One of the greatest social tragedies in Mexico today is the ongoing widespread abuse of migrants who transit the country. There is a bit of irony in what is happening. Mexican authorities are very vocal in criticizing the new strict immigration law in Arizona. Yet, they are disingenuous and relatively mute on the abuse of thousands of undocumented migrants who transit through Mexico, including women and children, who fall victim to beatings, abduction, rape and even murder. Criminal gangs are reportedly responsible for the majority of these crimes, but there are also reports of abuses by state officials. Evidently, migrants who suffer these abuses rarely file criminal complaints because they fear being deported. Most irregular migrants are from Central America and many start the perilous Mexican passage of their journey by crossing into the border states of Chiapas or Tobasco from Guatemala. 

     In August, 2010 72 migrants were summarily lined up—and then gunned down in cold blood. In all, 58 men and 14 women were murdered. Suspected in this massacre was the Zetas cartel, a group of former Mexican army special forces known to extort migrants who pass through its territory. This massacre occurred at a ranch in San Fernando, a town in the northern state of Tamaulipas about 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas.

     The Zetas brutally control some parts of the Tamaulipas that even many Mexicans do not dare to travel on the highways in the state. Many residents in the state tell of loved ones who have disappeared from one town to the next. Many of these kidnappings are never reported for fear that police are in league with the criminals. Of the 72 migrants who were killed, 27 had been identified and their bodies returned to their home countries in Honduras and El Salvador.

     Later, in early September 2010, six of the gunmen responsible were identified. According to Alejandro Poire, a spokesman for Mexico’s president on security measures, all of the suspects are dead. Of these, three were killed in confrontation with the Mexican navy after the bodies were discovered, and three others were found dead inside a vehicle on the side of the highway.

 Journalists

 Lydia Cacho is a journalist and activist. She has been attacked, harassed, threatened and arbitrarily detained for highlighting the problems of child pornography and trafficking of women in Quintana Roo State. She received a death threat in which the one making the threat sent to her Blog said: “Dear lidia cacho [sic] get ready to have your throat cut, your lovely head will be left outside your apartment, let’s see how brave you are.” Despite promises of security measures, none have been implemented, no investigations initiated, and no one has been brought to justice. 

Police and Corrections Staff

      Following the mass murder of 72 migrant workers in Mexico, the lead investigator and a second investigator of these crimes disappeared. President Filipe Calderon said a body of one of the men had been found. Later he corrected himself and said the lead investigator was missing but that there was no information about his death. However, the Mexican media reported two bodies had been found and that one of them belonged to Roberto Jaimie Suarez Vasquez. The other investigator wasn’t named by the media but they said it was most likely that of a municipal police officer in San Fernando.

     In another incident the government-run Notimex agency reported that Luis Navarro Casteneda, director of the Atlacholoaya Prison in the Mexican state of Morelos, was abducted as he reported to work on a Saturday morning. Later his dismembered body was found in four locations in the city of Cuernavaca. There were written messages left with the body remains and Navarro’s abandoned Toyota truck was found near the prison. No arrests have been made in the case.

Politicians

      A former Mexican presidential candidate who has remained a power broker in the ruling party was missing amid signs of violence, according to the federal Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors said that the car of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos “Jefe Diego” was found near his ranch in the central state of Queretaro. It said some of his belongings were found inside the car as well as unspecified “signs of violence.” It is unconfirmed that traces of blood and two bullet impacts were found in his vehicle.

      The Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that federal sources said Fernandez de Cevallos had been kidnapped, but a federal prosecutor’ spokeswoman said she couldn’t confirm that.

     According to information revealed by Panista Manuel Espino through his Twitter account the body of former presidential candidate Diego Fernandez was found in a military camp in Queretaro. “They are telling me that he is in fact dead and his body was found in a military camp in Queretaro,” reads one of the posts in Espino’s social network. Minutes later, through the same medium, the Panista clarified that this is the information that he has but can not be confirmed. “The Public Ministry is the only one who can confirm this, but I share what I am being told by friends who have spoken with a family of DFC (sic).”Fernandez de Cevallos, 69, was the 1994 presidential candidate of the National Action Party that now governs Mexico and he has continued to be an influential figure, as well as one of Mexico’s most successful attorneys.

      The bearded, cigar-chomping candidate jumped out of obscurity during Mexico’s first televised debate by presidential candidates in 1994, striking a chord with the middle class with his calls to topple a party that had held power since 1929. He finished second to Ernesto Zedillo that year, but his party finally won the presidency six years later when Vicente Fox was elected.

      Fernandez de Cevallos served as a senator and congressman while also winning some of the country’s largest court judgments, often in suits against government agencies.

Kidnapping and Murder of Children

MEXICO
Children in the Line of Fire in Ciudad Juárez
By Daniela Pastrana
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico, May 10, 2010 (IPS) – In Ciudad Juárez, the most violent city in Latin America, Mexico’s war on drugs has left at least 110 children dead in the past three years, and over 10,000 have lost parents. Civil society organizations are urging the authorities elected in an upcoming ballot to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.

     An air of despair hangs over this border city. Deserted streets and empty houses — about 100,000 of them — testify to the defeat of a society that has gone through horror, indignation, rage and exhaustion in the past two decades.

     When night falls there is a kind of voluntary curfew, in contrast to the lively night life that used to animate the city centre. Few people walk the streets, even in daylight, and most people think twice before answering phone calls from numbers they do not recognize. One-third of the shops are closed in this northern Mexican city across the border from El Paso, Texas.

     Verito is seven years old. In December, her school teachers were forced to hand over their extra month’s salary, paid before Christmas, in “protection money” to an organized crime group so that the pupils would not be harmed.

“They say they threatened the head teacher with putting bombs in the school, and that’s why they cancelled classes,” she says.

She knows that there are people in her city who kidnap and kill children. And that “all” adults “pay their dues” to drug mafias: “They have to pay money,” she explains, before talking about her dream of a city “that is the same, but without violence, without the news.” Her account is part of “Un, dos, tres, por mí y por todos mis amigos” (One, two three, for me and all my friends), a project that includes a book and a DVD recording voices, drawings and photographs of Ciudad Juárez four-to-eight-year-olds, compiled between 2008 and 2010 by civil society organizations belonging to the “Infancia en Movimiento” (Childhood in Movement) initiative.

     The strategy against drug trafficking adopted by the Mexican government has in the last three years led to the deaths of at least 110 children who were caught in the crossfire between federal police, the armed forces and drug cartels in this city in the state of Chihuahua.

     Non-governmental organizations estimate that about 10,000 children have lost at least one parent in the war on drugs, on the basis that each of the 5,000 murder victims of reproductive age probably had two children, in line with demographic statistics. But there are no official figures.

     “It’s tragic that there isn’t even an official estimate of the number of children who have lost a parent to the violence,” Lourdes Almada, the technical secretary of the Children’s Board of the Citizens’ Council for Social Development, told IPS. “Children who have suffered violence in their families or close circles are not receiving assistance from anyone,” she added.

     Since 1993, when the ongoing wave of murders of factory women began in Ciudad Juárez, the city has earned a world reputation for gender violence, which has claimed over 1,000 women’s lives so far, and for the entrenchment of criminal organizations. “Ciudad Juárez is different from other places in the country because the drug traffickers here have overstepped all the boundaries. It’s very difficult to react to the violence against children,” Juárez filmmaker Ángel Estrada, who directed the documentary film “Escenarios de guerra” (Scenes of War) told IPS. The film, which premièred here Apr. 28, is about the impossibility of doing theatre in such a violent city.

     In 2005, Ciudad Juárez was in an uproar over the deaths of two girls: seven-year-old Airis Estrella Enríquez, whose body was found in a barrel filled with cement, and 10-year-old Anahí Orozco, whom a neighbour raped and killed before setting fire to her body, while her mother was working in a “maquiladora”, a factory that assembles goods for export.

     That same year, six other children were murdered, but still no funds were made available for protecting children. Now local newspapers are reporting news like the murder of a family while they were at a wake for a teenager killed in Parral, a city in southern Chihuahua.

     The murders of 16 young people at a party in the neighbourhood of Villas de Salvárcar in February brought a flurry of federal officials to the city where they spent many hours in meetings, but with no results.

     “Underneath all this there are decades of neglect and of a lack of efforts towards human and social development,” said Almada. “The explosion of violence in Juárez is the result of an economic model that does not take people into account.” Another form of violence in Ciudad Juárez is reflected by the fact that in the course of 2008 and 2009, 300,000 direct, indirect and temporary jobs were lost, among a population of just over 1.2 million.

     Lay-offs have been heavy at the maquiladoras, a mainstay in Ciudad Juárez, which employ mostly women. These factories, which enjoy tax breaks and other benefits, have shed 120,000 jobs, for each of which an estimated 1.5 jobs are lost in the informal economy.

     “What is happening in Ciudad Juárez is an expression of social exclusion,” Nashieli Ramírez, head of Ririki Intervención Social, a social organization, and coordinator of Infancia en Movimiento, told IPS. “It is going to happen all over the world, not just in Mexico, with this rush to urbanization that cannot be understood except from the marginalization and social exclusion that we will all experience.” And so we go on, “without any options for young people, with children who can’t play in the streets, isolated families and single mothers,” she added.

     It is an enormous challenge. Ciudad Juárez has one of the highest proportions of children in this country of over 107 million people, and yet it has the lowest indicators of care and protection. The infant mortality rate is over 25 per 1,000 live births, while the index for countries like Costa Rica or Cuba is below 10 per 1,000.

     The city holds the national record for women’s participation in the workforce, and one-quarter of working mothers leave their children alone for three or four hours a day.

     Children in Ciudad Juárez candidly say they have seen three, four or five people killed on the streets. Seven-year-old Alicia says she feels unsafe in public places, and eight-year-old Irving Leonardo draws a picture of himself “in a drug traffickers’ hotel with gold taps.”

     Faced with this situation, organizations devoted to children’s welfare are launching a campaign, Hazlo Por Juárez (Do It for Juárez), financed by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, aimed at influencing the political platforms of candidates running for the Juárez mayor’s office and the Chihuahua state government in the upcoming Jul. 4 elections.

     “We are going to launch a social movement in Juárez, and we want it to have an impact across the country,” Ramírez said. “We cannot lose another generation. We have to open the door to a different future,” said Almada.

Mexico kidnap gang kills boy, 5, with acid

     Mexican gangsters who kidnapped a five-year-old boy killed him by injecting sulphuric acid into his heart after his mother publisized his abduction, police said last week.

     The brutal murder of Javier Morena, snatched from his family’s fruit stand in a working-class district of Mexico City, marks a horrific escalation in the terror tactics employed by kidnappers. They have increasingly switched their attention to the poor as the wealthy protect their families with squads of armed guards.

     Miguel Mancera, Mexico City’s attorney-general, displayed the syringe said to have been used by five gangsters under arrest over Javier’s death. They allegedly confessed that they had wanted to be known as the “Vitriol Gang”, after an alternative name for sulphuric acid, to distinguish themselves from dozens of others. The acid was siphoned off from old car batteries.

     The boy vanished two weeks ago while playing at the central market in Iztapalapa, a “barrio” or slum of more than 1m people. His mother, Laura Vega, who lives in a breeze-block house with a corrugated iron roof, feared he had been kidnapped but realized she would be unable to afford a ransom. After a frantic three-day search through the alleys and child brothels of Iztapalapa, she broke the barrio code of silence and reported Javier’s disappearance to the police. His picture was broadcast on television, prompting a taxi driver to say he had driven the tearful boy and a teenager claiming to be his brother to a house outside the city. Police raided the building but it was too late. Mancera said that the moment Javier’s picture had been shown, the kidnappers plunged the needle into the boy’s heart killing him instantly. They buried him on a hill outside the city. The police recovered his body hours later. Police said the gang had been preparing to demand a £12,000 ransom, but did not know where to send their demand as the boy was too terrified to speak.

     Last Monday Javier was reburied in a white coffin near his home. His mother told reporters she did not know why the gang had targeted her family, as they had little money. “He didn’t have to die like that, so far from his family,” she said. She added that the kidnappers should face the death penalty so that they would suffer “the way my son suffered”. However, capital punishment was abolished in Mexico three years ago.

     In 2003, when the British director Tony Scott came to Mexico City to film Man on Fire, in which Dakota Fanning plays a kidnapped child, the abduction rate was 20 victims a month, largely children. Police now put the rate at 65 a month. The Citizens’ Institute for Crime Studies says that this is an underestimate because few families call in the police. It puts the true figure at closer to 500 a month.

     Experts say the crime wave reflects increased violence in the drug trade, in which 4,000 have died in battles between cartels and the police this year.

     Although the rich may be protected, they are not immune. Javier Morena’s death recalled the recent kidnapping of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a sports equipment tycoon, who was snatched at a police checkpoint while being driven to school. It prompted a 100,000-strong protest march at the government’s inability to protect children.

     The family paid a £1m ransom but the boy’s decomposing body was found days later in the boot of a car. It now appears that the police uniforms worn by the gang were genuine: the plot is alleged to have been organized by a Mexico City police commander.

Women

     The phenomenon of the female homicides in Ciudad Juárez, called in Spanish the feminicidios (“femicides”) and las muertas de Juárez (“The dead women of Juárez”), involves the violent deaths of hundreds of women since 1993 in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, a border city across the Rio Grande from the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas. The estimated homicide toll is speculated by authorities to be about 400, but many local residents believe that the true count of los feminicidios stands at an estimated 5,000 victims. Most of the cases remained unsolved as of 2003, and are still unsolved today.

According to the Organization of American State’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

     The victims of these crimes have preponderantly been young women, between 12 and 22 years of age. Many were students, and most were maquiladora workers. A number were relative newcomers to Ciudad Juarez who had migrated from other areas of Mexico. The victims were generally reported missing by their families, with their bodies found days or months later abandoned in vacant lots, outlying areas or in the desert. In most of these cases there were signs of sexual violence, torment, torture or in some cases disfigurement. According to Amnesty International as of February 2005 more than 370 young women and girls had been murdered in the cities of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua.

     In November 2005 BBC News reported Mexico’s human rights ombudsman Jose Luis Soberances as saying that 28 women had been murdered so far in 2005. Despite past and current unsolved murders in August 2006 the federal government dropped its investigation, concluding that no federal laws had been violated.

     The most prominent suspects in the Juarez serial case were arrested, following the discovery of body clusters in the areas noted in parentheses.

1995 – Abdul Latif Sharif was arrested, charged, and convicted of the 1995 murder of Elizabeth Castro Garcia (Lote Bravo).

1996 – Several members of Los Rebeldes, a Juarez street gang, were arrested (Lote Bravo).

1999 – Los Choferes, bus drivers on routes between the maquiladoras and residential districts, were arrested (Lomas de Poleo).

2001 – García Uribe and González Meza were arrested for the murder of eight victims found in a cotton field near the Association of Maquila Workers in East Juarez (Cotton Field).

Protest by the families of some of the victims, demanded the punishment of the killers.

     A group of mothers, families, and friends of the victims, called Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa A.C. (“Civil Association for the Return Home of Our Daughters”) was formed to raise awareness about the situation and put pressure on the Mexican government to pay attention to these cases, some of which have gone unsolved for 13 years. Members of the group, including co-founder Norma Andrade, demand that proper investigations be carried out.

     Another family organization, Voces sin Eco (“voices without echo”) was founded in 1998. They painted pink crosses on black telephone poles to draw attention to the problem and align themselves with family values.

     Pink crosses and offerings for the murdered women of Juárez at Olvera Street,Los Angeles, on the Day of the Dead.

     In 1999, Stephen L. Rush founded a non-profit organization to establish a base for Human Rights in Mexico and to find a way to stop the sexual murders, for what would come to be known as the Save Juarez Project.

     In 1999, singer Tori Amos reacted to the accounts of the murders with her song “Juárez” on the album To Venus and Back.

     In 2000, El Paso post-hardcore band At the Drive-In released a music video for their song “Invalid Litter Dept. ” that details the deaths. The video features several photos of newspaper clippings and articles about the murders.

     In 2001, filmmaker Lourdes Portillo released one of the first documentaries dedicated to the victims of the murders, Senorita Extraviada.

     An informal group, which the press named Las Mujeres de Negro (“the women in black”), originated in November 2001 in the city of Chihuahua, following the discovery of eight corpses together. They attended the protest, which interrupted the celebration of the Mexican Revolution, wearing black tunics (as a sign of mourning) and pink hats. Since then, they have marched across the desert from Chihuahua to Juárez and planted crosses (sometimes with plastic limbs attached) in prominent places.

     In 2001 Gabriella “Azul Luna” Parra founded Las ViejasKandalosas, a collective of artists with a mission to denounce the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico through art. She organized various multimedia shows, the first being EsesKandalo in 2001 at Self-Help Graphics & Art in East Los Angeles. In February 2002 she and Lorena Mendez-Quiroga led a caravan (from Los Angeles to Ciudad Juarez) to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) Museum in Ciudad Juarez for a ViejasKandalosas three-day protest event that included a bi-national exhibit, a press conference with Diana Washington Valdez, and a candlelight procession through the streets with community and visiting artists.

     In 2002, Mexican journalist, novelist and essayist Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez published Huesos en el Desierto, (“Bones in the Desert”) one of the most comprehensive researchs on these murders and its social and political causes in book form. Sergio González Rodríguez claims that, during the course of his research for the book, which discovered links between organized crime, local entrepreneurs and local and federal authorities, he suffered death threats, and was kidnapped and tortured.

     In 2002, U.S. border journalist Diana Washington Valdez published an investigative newspaper series in the El Paso Times about the murders titled “Death Stalks the Border.”

     In 2002, as part of the art activists from Los Angeles that caravanned to Ciudad Juarez for the INBA protest exhibit, Rigo Maldonado and Victoria Delgadillo, co-curated the first internationally acknowledged exhibit on these femicides at the Social & Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice, California. The exhibit was called Hijas de Juarez, and included 45 major artists from the Los Angeles area. In 2002, details and images of victims were not readily available via the internet or libraries prompting both curators, the SPARC gallery coordinator Jennifer Araujo, artist/filmmaker Patricia Valencia and her friend/writer Max Blumenthal to regroup in Ciudad Juarez to collect data and interview victim families. In 2003, Victoria Delgadillo & Rigo Maldonado’s written account on the curatory process for this exhibit was published in Aztlán an Academic Chicano Journal, through the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) press.

     The article was entitled “Journey to the Land of the Dead: A Conversation with the Curators of the Hijas de Juárez Exhibit” [Volume 28, Number 2 / Fall 2003]. For their work on the Hijas de Juarez exhibit and for creating public awareness through art, Rigo Maldonado and Victoria Delgadillo received awards from the Instituto Cultural de León, Guanajuato (Mexico) in 2003, La Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa (Mexico) in 2003, and the Los Angeles City Council (United States) in 2002.

     In the same year Polish journalists Eliza Kowalewska and Grzegorz Madej released a TV series about crimes in Juárez. Journalists cooperated with crime experts Robert Ressler and Candace Skrapec. This series was shown on Polish television TVN in 2003.

     In 2003, journalist Max Blumenthal won the Online News Association independent feature award for his investigative article in Salon.com, “Day of the Dead”, which examined the murders and the connection between them and the policies of the corporations with factories in the border city.

     In November 2003, UCLA Chicano Studies Professors Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Chon Noriega organize a conference called “The Maquiladora Murders, or who is Killing the Women of Juárez?” at the University of California, Los Angeles, bringing victim families, and other notable guest speakers to present to students and community members.

     In 2003, Eve Ensler demanded justice from the Special Prosector and vowed to return with support from around the world, and established a V-Day march in February 2004 with over 7,000 participants including actresses Sally Field and Jane Fonda.

     In 2004, Roberto Bolario’s’s novel 2666 (transl. to English 2008) centered around the horrible murders in a fictitious town called Santa Teresa, widely acknowledged as an alias for Ciudad Juarez.

     In 2004, Mexican norterio group Los Tigres del Norte released a song called “Las Mujeres de Juárez” (The Women of Juárez) on their Pacto de Sangre album. Juarez mayor Hector Murguia denounced the song, saying that it painted a false picture about the “real face of Juárez.”

     In 2004, Greek documentary team Exandas, released a production titled “Juárez, City of the Dead, women” featuring interviews with several relatives, maquiladora workers and owners and showcasing police corruption, evidence tampering practices and collaboration with one of the Mexican drug cartels, whose members emerge as the most likely culprits.

     In 2004, USA musician Bugs Salcido released a concept album titled “The Juarez Murders” featuring David Lowery, David Immergluck, Martin Pradler, Jeff Trott, & Alan Weatherhead. Proceeds from sales of the album and from his live concerts have gone to aid the families of the victims and the rape crisis center in Juarez. “. . .I do hope that ultimately, people are left with a feeling of hope after hearing this music,” says Salcido.

     In 2005, native of the El Paso/Juárez border, Alicia Gaspar de Alba author of various works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and artist in Las Hijas de Juarez exhibit publishes her novel “Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders”, which she had been researching since 1998.

     In 2005, Diana Washington Valdez published “Cosecha de Mujeres: Safari en el desierto Mexicano” [Oceano/Mexico/Spain], an investigative book in Spanish exposing the murders. It was a finalist for the Ulysses Lettre Award for international reportage.

     To protest the lack of progress in the cases, a huge free concert was held by famous Latin artists such as Alejandro Sanj, Alex Ubago, Manu Chao, Lila Downs and others on September 18, 2005 in Mexico’s City’s central Zocalo square.

     On May 30, 2005, President Vicente Fox told reporters that the majority of the Juárez killings had been resolved and the perpetrators placed behind bars. He went on to criticize the media for “rehashing” the same 300 or 400 murders, and said matters needed to be seen in their “proper dimension”.

     In 2006, Diana Washington Valdez published The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women [Peace at the Border/California/First Ed.], an investigative book in English about the Juárez women’s murders, drug cartels and government corruption in Mexico. The ebook version was titled Harvest of Women: Safari in Mexico.

     In 2006, Los Angeles filmmaker Lorena Mendez produced Border Echoes, a documentary about the Juárez women’s murders based on nearly 10 years of investigation. She collaborated with Diana Washington Valdez for the film. Azul Luna co-produced.

     In 2006, Gregory Nava directed a movie called Bordertown with Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas. As a blogger I saw this movie and highly recommend it to others. Basically, A journalist investigates a series of murders near American-owned factories on the border of Juarez and El Paso.  Lauren, an impassioned American reporter for the Chicago Sentinel heads to Juarez, a Mexican border town, in order to investigate a series of mysterious slayings involving young factory women from all over Mexico. As she discovers hundreds of victims, she gains the trust of local factory workers but falls into danger. Written by Jlo-fan

     In 2006, a book of poems on the Juárez women’s murders was published by White Pine Press: Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez by Marjorie Agosin

     In 2007 The Daughters of Juárez by 11-time Emmy award-winning journalist Teresa Rodriguez was published, the most recent book on the murders. Teresa Rodriguez is a reporter for Univision, the largest Spanish-language television network in the United States. There, she co-anchors the critically acclaimed and award winning news magazine Aqui y Ahora. She has been investigating and reporting on the Juárez murders for over 13 years.

     In 2007, Toronto filmmakers Alex Flores and Lorena Vassolo released Juarez, a documentary film about the murders.

     In 2008, the artist Swoon displayed a paper-cutout memorial of victim Silvia Elena in the Chelsea art gallery Honeyspace. She displayed another version of the piece on a wall in San Francisco’s Mission District.

     In 2009, Backyard (El traspatio) was released in Mexico. Directed by Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amaro) and screenwritten by Sabina Berman. This film was part of the 2009 Vancouver International Film Festival, where an extra screening had to be scheduled because of the interest it generated.

     In 2010, a book of poems on the Juárez women’s murders was published by University of Arizona Press: Each and Her by Valerie Martinez.

     In the Juarez newspaper NORTE, for the date of January 4, 2010, a special report/section was included “Informe Anual Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua ” by the government, with a subsection at page 2 on “Murders of Women” from 10-2004 through 11-2008, during which period there were 53 victims, with 36 cases resolved with convictions or detention, or order of arrest. Most of these murders were by persons with a connection to the victim. This represents the results of enhanced investigation and prosecution since the 1990s.

Unfortunately many websites and publications, including the book Daughters of Juarez, deal (when they deal with facts and not merely rumours) with the earlier years. Of course, meanwhile, Juarez is suffering from other murders. The same newspaper, on the same date, reported 2660 murders during 2009, mostly drug war related. Norte, on page 3, for January 5, 2010, reports already 37 murders for the first four days alone of 2010.

Summary

     This Five-Part Series started out to look at the problem of illegal immigration and all its complexity. It is my hope that the reader will come away, after reading this series, with an honest and  comprehensive understanding of this troubling issue. Covered were topics like the policy debate, the causes and impact of illegal immigration, the new Arizona law SB 1070, and this article on human rights abuses in Mexico.

     I do not know how the carnage going on in Mexico with kidnappings, murders, and other human rights abuses has influenced millions of people to flee their country, and to seek employment and safe refuge away from all the violence in Mexico. Most of the violence occurring in Mexico is due to the Mexican drug cartels. The corruption of some mexican officials in both high and low social positions has made it an almost impossible situation to rectify.

     I am reminded of a drastic solution that was fictiously carried out in the 1994 Movie, A Clear and Present Danger. The cartels in that movie were the Columbian drug cartels. In a nutshell a Black-ops team is assembled to start taking down the drug cartels, their equipment, and drugs. Missiles were used to destroy a family estate where many members from different cartels and their families had assembled. There is much collateral damage due to this covert secret operation ordered by the President of the United States and his administrative types.

     I’ll leave it to you movie watchers to see what else happens, but the movie does raise an interesting question. If the Mexican government can’t deal with the intimidation, threats and violence perpetrated by the drug cartels could the United States government today successfully work out a secret agreement with the Mexican government to take down the Mexican Drug Cartels? I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do have many other related questions.

For example, if  assassination squads and Black ops were coupled along with strategic pinpoint missile attacks by the United States, would the threat of drug cartels diminish? Could the CIA assist the U.S. military by providing intelligence information as to the location or whereabouts of those involved in the drug trade? Would Mexico instituting martial law help? Would high six figure bounties placed on the heads of these cartel leaders help bring them down? The Mexican government has invited the FBI into their country before when special investigative help was needed. The American DEA has worked in joint drug operations with Mexican police and Mexico’s equivalent of their DEA on many an occasion.

     However, the Mexican government does not want American troops on Mexican soil under any circumstances. They respect their own country’s soverignty. Problem is they don’t seem to respect ours. We can help the Mexican government and its people only if they really care enough to seriously address their own problems. It seems every other week I hear of a Mexican mayor in some city or community that was assassinated. Let that happen in this country and our police would be on top of the situation in no time. Extra resources would be allocated because media and political pressure would be brought to bear on local law enforcement.   

     Perhaps the greatest contribution the Mexican government can make in stemming the outflow of illegal immigrants to the United States is to seriously address its underemployment problem which affects 21% of their population. Their entire educational system in Mexico needs to be radically overhauled. Enough said on Mexico’s inadequacies. What can the United States do to prevent the impact of Mexico’s Drug Cartels and what can the U.S. do to end illegal immigration to this country? The demand side of drug abuse must be addressed at some point even if it’s treated as a long term priority. But a primary top priority now must be to secure our own borders, no matter what it takes. Any effort to do less is pure “stupidity”.

     The soverignty of the United States is our most important priority. The American people are telling our government through surveys, time and time again, that this is really important. It’s time for the U.S. government to start listening to the American people, and then take effective action. America may have the best politicians money can buy. But it’s long overdue for politicians to do their job. It is only then that the problem of illegal immigration will finally disappear from the American conscience.        

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     Part IV of this series looks at the new Arizona law on immigration. Its basic provisions are described as well as some difficulties and legal issues attendant to it. Since most Americans are only aware of “rhetoric-plaqued” information and mis-information promulgated by the media, it is important that the reader be given an honest, accurate portrayal of the facts.

What is the Arizona Law all about?

     The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (introduced as Arizona Senate Bill 1070, often referred to simply as Arizona SB 1070) is a legislative act in the state of Arizona. It is the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in decades.

     The act makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents required by federal law, authorizes state and local law enforcement of federal immigration laws, and cracks down on those sheltering, hiring and transporting illegal aliens. The paragraph on intent in the legislation says it embodies an “attrition through enforcement” doctrine.

     Critics of the legislation say it encourages racial profiling, while supporters say the law simply enforces existing federal law. The law was modified by Arizona House Bill 2162 within a week of its signing with the goal of addressing some of these concerns. There have been protests in opposition to the law in over 70 U.S. cities, including boycotts and calls for boycotts of Arizona. Polling has found however that the law has widespread majority support in Arizona and nationwide.

     U.S. federal law requires aliens 14 years old or older who are in the country for longer than 30 days to register with the U.S. government, and to have registration documents in their possession at all times. The Act makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying the required documents, and obligates police to make an attempt, when practicable during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest”, to determine a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien.

       Any person arrested cannot be released without confirmation of the person’s legal immigration status by the federal government pursuant to § 1373(c) of Title 8 of the United States Code. A first offense carries a fine of up to $100, plus court costs, and up to 20 days in jail; subsequent offenses can result in up to 30 days in jail (SB 1070 required a minimum fine of $500 for a first violation, and for a second violation a minimum $1,000 fine and a maximum jail sentence of 6 months). A person is “presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States” if he or she presents any of the following four forms of identification: a valid Arizona driver license; a valid Arizona nonoperating identification license; a valid tribal enrollment card or other tribal identification; or any valid federal, state, or local government-issued identification, if the issuer requires proof of legal presence in the United States as a condition of issuance.

     The Act also prohibits state, county, or local officials from limiting or restricting “the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law” and provides that any legal Arizona resident can sue such agencies or officials to compel such full enforcement. If the person who brings suit prevails, that person may be entitled to reimbursement of court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

     In addition, the Act makes it a crime for anyone, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, to hire or to be hired from a vehicle which “blocks or impedes the normal movement of traffic.” Vehicles used in such manner are subject to mandatory immobilization or impoundment. Moreover, for a person in violation of a criminal law, it is an additional offense to transport an alien “in furtherance” of the alien’s illegal presence in the U.S., to “conceal, harbor or shield” an alien, or to encourage or induce an alien to immigrate to the state, if the person “knows or recklessly disregards the fact” that the alien is in the U.S. illegally or that immigration would be illegal.

     Violation is a class 1 misdemeanor if fewer than ten illegal aliens are involved, and a class 6 felony if ten or more are involved. The offender is subject to a fine of at least $1,000 for each illegal alien involved. The transportation provision includes exceptions for child protective services workers, and ambulance attendants and emergency medical technicians.

     On April 30, the Arizona legislature passed, and Governor Brewer signed, House Bill 2162, which modified the Act that had been signed a week earlier, with the amended text stating that “prosecutors would not investigate complaints based on race, color or national origin.” The new text also states that police may only investigate immigration status incident to a “lawful stop, detention, or arrest”, lowers the original fine from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $100, and changes incarceration limits for first-time offenders from 6 months to 20 days.

Why Arizona felt the Need to Pass SB 1070

     One of the basic assumptions people make is that people from Arizona were fed up with the U.S. government’s inability to get the job of immigration reform going. Consequently, this served as the state’s primary motivation for passing SB 1070. Too many felt the federal government had been “impotent/and or incompetent ” for decades when it came to either enforcing or reforming federal immigration laws. This assumtion is in fact true. However, the motivations to pass SB 1070 run deeper than that. Arizona is the first state with such a law as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. Prior law in Arizona, and the law in most other states, does not mandate that law enforcement personnel ask about the immigration status of those they encounter. Many police departments discourage such inquiries to avoid deterring immigrants from reporting crimes and cooperating in other investigations.

     Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants, a figure that has increased fivefold since 1990. As the state with the most illegal crossings of the Mexico-United States border, its remote and punishing deserts are the entry point for thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans. By the late 1990s, Tucson Border Patrol Sector had become the location for the most number of arrests by the United States Border Patrol.

     Whether illegal immigrants commit a disproportionate number of crimes is uncertain, with different authorities and academics claiming that the rate for this group was the same, greater, or less than that of the overall population. Perception bias leads many on both sides of the debate to reject, not recognize, or rationalize crime rate statistics.

     There was also anxiety that the Mexican Drug War, which had caused thousands of deaths, would spill over into the U.S. Moreover, by the late 2000s, Phoenix was seeing an average of one kidnapping per day, earning it the reputation as America’s worst city in that regard.

     Arizona has a history of passing restrictions on illegal immigration, including legislation in 2007 that imposed heavy sanctions on employers hiring illegal immigrants. Measures similar to SB 1070 had been passed by the legislature in 2006 and 2008, only to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano. She was subsequently elevated to Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration and was replaced by Republican Secretary of State of Arizona, Jan Brewer. There is a similar history of referenda, such as the Arizona Proposition 200 (2004) that sought to restrict illegal immigrants’ use of social services. The ‘attrition through enforcement’ doctrine is one that think tanks such as the Center for Immigration Studies have been supporting for several years.

Launching of SB 1070

     Impetus for SB 1070 is attributed to shifting demographics leading to a larger Hispanic population, increased drugs-and human smuggling-related violence in Mexico and Arizona, and a struggling state economy and economic anxiety during the late-2000s recession. State residents were also frustrated by the lack of federal progress on immigration, which they viewed as even more disappointing given that Napolitano was in the administration.

     The major sponsor of and legislative force behind the bill was State Senator Russell Pearce, who had long been one of Arizona’s most vocal opponents of illegal immigration. He had successfully pushed through several prior pieces of tough legislation against those he termed “invaders on the American sovereignty”.

     Much of the drafting of the bill was done by Kris Kobach, a professor at the University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Law and a figure long associated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He had written immigration-related bills in many other parts of the country. Pearce and Kobach had worked together on past legislative efforts regarding immigration, and Pearce contacted Kobach when he was ready to pursue the idea of the state enforcing federal immigration laws. The Arizona State Senate approved an early version of the bill in February 2010. Saying, “Enough is enough,” Pearce stated figuratively that this new bill would remove handcuffs from law enforcement and place them on violent offenders.

     The killing of 58-year-old Robert Krentz and his dog, shot on March 27, 2010, while doing fence work on his large ranch roughly 19 miles (31 km) from the Mexican border, gave a tangible public face to fears about immigration-related crime. Arizona police were not able to name a murder suspect, but traced a set of footprints from the crime scene south towards the border, and the resulting speculation that the killer was an illegal alien increased support among the public for the measure. For a while, there was talk of naming the law after Krentz. Some state legislators (both for and against the law) believed, however, that the impact of the Krentz killing has been overstated as a factor in the bill’s passing.

     The bill, with a number of changes made to it, passed the Arizona House of Representatives on April 13 by a 35–21 party-line vote. The revised measure then passed the State Senate on April 19 by a 17–11 vote that also closely followed party lines. All but one Republican voted for the bill, ten Democrats voted against the bill, and two Democrats didn’t vote.

Opinion polls

     A Rasmussen Reports poll done nationally around the time of the signing indicated that 60 percent of Americans were in favor, and 31 percent opposed, to legislation that allows local police to “stop and verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.” The same poll also indicated that 58 percent are at least somewhat concerned that “efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will also end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens.”

     A national Gallop Poll found that more than three-quarters of Americans had heard about the law, and of those who had, 51 percent were in favor of it against 39 percent opposed. An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll indicated that 71 percent of Americans said they supported the notion of requiring their own police to determine people’s status if there was “reasonable suspicion” the people were illegal immigrants, and arresting those people if they could not prove they were legally in the United States.

     A nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll found similar results to the others, with 51 percent of respondents saying the Arizona law was “about right” in its approach to the problem of illegal immigration, 36 percent saying it went too far, and 9 percent saying it did not go far enough. Another CBS News poll, conducted a month after the signing, showed 52 percent seeing the law as about right, 28 percent thinking it goes too far, and 17 percent thinking it does not go far enough. A 57 percent majority thought that the federal government should be responsible for determining immigration law.

     A national Fox News poll found that 61 percent of respondents thought Arizona was right to take action itself rather than wait for federal action, and 64 percent thought the Obama administration should wait and see how the law works in practice rather than trying to stop it right away. Experts caution that in general, polling has difficulty reflecting complex immigration issues and law.

     Another Rasmussen poll, done statewide after several days of heavy news coverage about the controversial law and its signing, found a large majority of Arizonans still supported it, by a 64 percent to 30 percent margin. Rasmussen also found that Brewer’s approval ratings as governor shot up, going from 40 percent of likely voters before the signing to 56 percent after, and that her margin over prospective Democratic gubernatorial opponent, State Attorney General Terry Goddard (who opposes the law) widened.

     A poll done by Arizona State University researchers found that 81 percent of registered Latino voters in the state opposed SB 1070. This would suggest that race is a more important factor among some groups in society than is the fact that the law applies only to illegals who break our laws. Every time an illegal enters this country he is violating the soverign territory of the United States.

Opinions Expressed by Mexico Government

     Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s office said that “the Mexican government condemns the approval of the law [and] the criminalization of migration.” President Calderón also characterized the new law as a “violation of human rights”. Calderón repeated his criticism during a subsequent state visit to the White House.

     The measure was also strongly criticized by Mexican health minister Jose Angel Cordova, former education minister Josefina Vazquez Mota, and Governor of Baja California Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, with Osuna saying it “could disrupt the indispensable economic, political and cultural exchanges of the entire border region.” The Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory for its citizens visiting Arizona, saying “It must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time.”

     In response to these comments, Chris Hawley of USA Today said that “Mexico has a law that is no different from Arizona’s”, referring to legislation which gives local police forces the power to check documents of people suspected of being in the country illegally. Immigration and human rights activists have also noted that Mexican authorities frequently engage in racial profiling, harassment, and shakedowns against migrants from Central America.

Reaction Among U.S. Government Officials

     In the United States, supporters and opposers of the bill have roughly followed party lines, with most Democrats opposing the bill and most Republicans supporting it. The bill was criticized by President Barack Obama, who called it “misguided” and said it would “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” Obama did later note that the HB 2162 modification had stipulated that the law not be applied in a discriminatory fashion, but the president said there was still the possibility of suspected illegal immigrants “being harassed and arrested”.

     He repeatedly called for federal immigration reform legislation to forestall such actions among the states and as the only long-term solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Governor Brewer and President Obama met at the White House in early June 2010 to discuss immigration and border security issues in the wake of SB 1070; the meeting was termed pleasant, but brought about little change in the participants’ stances.

Legal Challenges to SB 1070

     I think it’s fair to say that the initial reaction to the Arizona law has bordered on hysteria. This hysteria was reinforced by the media in such a way as to bring out rhetoric , but nothing approximating a well-reasoned concrete analysis of the facts.

     Many organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced their intention to file legal action against the Arizona Statute based on constitutional grounds. The ACLU criticized the Arizona Statute as a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, which gives the federal government authority over the states in immigration matters and provides that only the federal government can enact and enforce immigration laws.  

     Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law says that “The law is clearly pre-empted by federal law under Supreme Court precedents.” However, that legal argument is countered by one of the bill’s author, Kobach, who says the law embodies the doctrine of “concurrent enforcement” – i.e., that the state law parallels applicable federal law without any conflict – and he believes it would thus survive any challenge: “There are some things that states can do and some that states can’t do, but this law threads the needle perfectly…. Arizona only penalizes what is already a crime under federal law.” State Senator Pearce noted that some past state laws on immigration enforcement had been upheld in federal courts. In Gonzales v. City of Peoria (9th Cir. 1983), the Court held that the Immigration and Naturalization Act precludes local enforcement of the Act’s civil provisions but does not preclude local enforcement of the Act’s criminal provisions. The U.S. Attorney General may enter into a written agreement with a state or local government agency, under which that agency’s employees perform the function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States; however, such an agreement is not required for the agency’s employees to perform those functions.

     However, various legal experts were divided on whether the law would survive a court challenge, with one law professor saying it “sits right on that thin line of pure state criminal law and federally controlled immigration law.” Past lower court decisions in this area were not always consistent and a decision on the bill’s legality from the U.S. Supreme Court is one possible outcome. Other lawsuits have been filed over the new Arizona law, many involving many other legal issues such as racial profiling, local police responsibility in immigration laws, resource issues, Fourteenth Amendment and Equal Protection Law, First Amendment (free speech), and the  Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure).

     It is possible that all the suits would be combined into one case for the courts to hear. Kobach remained optimistic that the suits would fail, saying “I think it will be difficult for the plaintiffs challenging this. They are heavy on political rhetoric but light on legal arguments.” In late May 2010, Governor Brewer issued an executive order to create a legal defense fund to handle suits over the law. Brewer got into a dispute with Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard over whether he would defend the law against legal challenges, as a state attorney general normally would. Brewer accused Goddard, who opposed the law personally and was one of Brewer’s possible rivals in the gubernatorial election, of colluding with U.S. Justice Department as it deliberated whether to challenge the law in court.

Discussion and a Suggestion

     In its final form, HB 2162 limits the use of race. It states: “A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution.”

      The U.S. and Arizona supreme courts have held that race may be considered in enforcing immigration law. In United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, the U.S. Supreme Court found: “The likelihood that any given person of Mexican ancestry is an alien is high enough to make Mexican appearance a relevant factor.” The Arizona Supreme Court agrees that “enforcement of immigration laws often involves a relevant consideration of ethnic factors.” Both decisions say that race alone, however, is an insufficient basis to stop or arrest.

     Every year in the United States millions upon millions of people fill out two important legal documents: (1) Federal Income Tax Form 1040, and (2) their respective State Income Tax forms. Anyone who fails to either pay their taxes or file correct income tax forms is already under the watchful eye of both federal and state governments. Everyone is required to sign their tax forms, creating the conditions for checking the truthfulness of the statements signed off on.

     Consequently, it would be useful as an investigatory tool if both federal and state individual income tax forms were modified to include a section verifying country of origin, hospital where born including address or midwifery verifications, photocopy evidence of a legitimate birth certificate, and a box to be checked indicating US citizenship/non-citizen status. Those tax returns that are deemed suspicious could then be further investigated.

     State governments could take a leadership role here and start modifying its individual income tax forms accordingly. Getting the federal government to modify the individual federal income tax form 1040 will take (no pun intended) an act of Congress. Where state governments are concerned, perhaps Arizona could be the first state in the nation to modify its individual state income tax laws to incorporate the changes I’ve recommended.

Note: Much of the material written in this Blog was obtained from Wikipaedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

 

 

 

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INTRODUCTION

     This is the second of a five-part series on the complex issue of Immigration. The purpose of Part II will be to describe the many causes of  illegal immigration and its definition. In Part I a cursory look at what illegal immigration is was described. In Part II more detail is provided. The independent variables presented as causal factors are not exhaustive or part of some controlled laboratory experiment; they represent instead current assumptions or hypotheses about “What” causes illegal immigration from a sociological point of view. In my research I discovered quite a number of assumptions and some data to support them. What follows are the results of my research.

     It is important to define our dependent variable of interest. Only in this instance the dependent variable is a legal status that had been codified into law. As every sociologist who has ever studied deviant behavior knows, “deviance legally defined” is as much as the product of the rule-makers as it is the rule-breakers. One must study the creation process of rule-making as well as the behavior of those who break those rules once created.

     Before proceeding to the causes (independent variables for all you social scientists) one needs a firm grip on understanding the deviant status of the behavior one calls illegal immigration. So what is illegal immigration?

WHAT QUALIFIES A PERSON AS AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT?

     People become illegal immigrants in one of three ways: by entering without authorization or inspection, by staying beyond the authorized period after legal entry, or by violating the terms of legal entry. Their mode of violation breaks down as follows: If the suspect entered legally without inspection, then the suspect would be classified as either a “Non-Immigrant Visa Overstayer” (4 to 5.5 million) or a “Border Crossing Card Violator” (250,000 to 500,000). If the suspect entered illegally without inspection, then the suspect would be classified as having “evaded the Immigration Inspectors and Border Patrol” (6 to 7 million).

     Many people are charged with illegally re-entering the United States after being previously deported. The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines prescribe up to a 16-level offense level increase, potentially causing more than a quadrupling of one’s sentence, for illegal re-entry of certain felons into the U.S. The PROTECT Act instructed the U.S. Sentencing Commission to authorize four-level “fast-track” downward departures in illegal-reentry immigration cases upon motion of the prosecutor.

Illegal entry

     There are an estimated half million illegal entries into the United States each year.

     A common means of border crossing is to hire professionals who smuggle illegal immigrants across the border for pay. Those operating on the US-Mexico border are known informally as “coyotes”.

Visa overstay

     A tourist or traveler is considered a “visa overstay” once he or she remains in the United States after the time of admission has expired. The time of admission varies greatly from traveler to traveler depending on what visa class into which they were admitted. Visa overstays tend to be somewhat more educated and better off financially than those who entered the country illegally.

     To help track visa overstayers the US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) program collects and retains biographic, travel, and biometric information, such as photographs and fingerprints, of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States. It also requires electronic readable passports containing this information.

     Visa overstayers mostly enter with tourist or business visas. In 1994, more than half of illegal immigrants were Visa overstayers whereas in 2006, about 45% of illegal immigrants were Visa overstayers.

Visa fraud

     A common method of illegal immigration is visa fraud: obtaining a visa on false pretenses. The most common form is a so-called “green card marriage”, whereby a foreign national marries for purposes of avoiding immigration law, a crime in the United States, rather than to build a life together. These marriages offer the opportunity of a person who might otherwise not obtain a visa to obtain permanent residency, and potentially citizenship, by virtue of laws allowing spouses of citizens and permanent residents to obtain visas.

     According to a 2008 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, there were a number of different types of green card marriages. Among others:

  • mail-order bride arrangements;
  • phony arranged marriages (as opposed to legitimate arranged marriages in cultures that practice them);
  • arrangements in which the American resident is paid;
  • human trafficking or other exploitation of the new immigrant by the American partner; and
  • “heartbreaker” partners who trick American spouses into believing a marriage is genuine, when their true intention is to obtain a green card.

 

CAUSES

Economics and Labor Markets

     A Neo-Classical Economic Model

     The net flow of illegal immigration pattern is almost entirely from countries of lower socioeconomic levels to countries of higher socioeconomic levels, and particularly from developing countries to developed countries. While there are other causes associated with poorer countries, the most common motivation for illegal immigrants is the pursuit of greater economic opportunities and quality of life in the destination state.

    Many believe there is a basic cost/benefit argument for illegal immigration. That is,  potential migrants believe the probability and benefits of successfully migrating to the destination country are greater than the costs. These costs may include restrictions living as an illegal immigrant in the destination country, leaving family and ways of life behind, and the probability of being caught and resulting sanctions. Proposed economic models, based on a cost/benefit framework, have varying considerations and degrees of complexity. For example, the neoclassical economic model looks only at the probability of success in immigrating and finding employment, and the increase in real income an illegal immigrant can expect. This explanation would account for the economies of the two states, including how much of a “pull” the destination country has in terms of better-paying jobs and improvements in quality of life. It also describes a “push” that comes from negative conditions in the home country like lack of employment or economic mobility.

     Neoclassical theory also accounts for the probability of successful illegal emigration. Factors that affect this include: geographic proximity, border enforcement, probability and consequences of arrest, ease of illegal employment, and chances of future legalization. This model concludes that in the destination country, illegal workers tend to add to and compete with the pool of unskilled laborers.

     Illegal workers in this model are successful in finding employment by being willing to be paid lower wages than native-born workers are, sometimes below the minimum wage. Economist George Borjas supports aspects of this model, calculating that real wages of US workers without a high school degree declined by 9% from 1980-2000 due to competition from illegal immigrant workers. If these assumptions are true it implies that illegal immigrants harm some lower-income Americans (presumably a younger population of citizens just starting out in life) by taking their jobs and under-cutting the wages of such workers. However, this theory may be contradicted in the section below on Structural Demand in Developed States.

     Large scale economic evidence supports neoclassical theory, as may be seen in the long-term correlation of relative wages/unemployment and illegal immigration from Mexico to the US. However, immigration scholars such as Gordon Hanson and Douglas Massey have criticized the model for being oversimplified and not accounting for contradictory evidence, such as low net illegal immigration from Mexico to the US before the 1980s despite significant economic disparity.

Trade Liberalization

     In recent years, developing states are pursuing the benefits of globalization by joining agreements to liberalize trade. But rapid opening of domestic markets may lead to displacement of large numbers of agricultural or unskilled workers, who are more likely to seek employment and a higher quality of life by illegal emigration. This is a frequently cited argument to explain how the North American Free Trade Association may have impoverished Mexican farmers who were unable to compete with the higher productivity of US agriculture, especially for corn. NAFTA may have also unexpectedly raised educational requirements for industrial jobs in Mexico, since the new maquiladoras produced export products requiring skills and education that many unskilled workers did not have.

 Structural Demand in Developed States

     Douglas Massey argues that a bifurcating labor market in developed nations creates a structural demand for unskilled immigrant labor to fill undesirable jobs that native-born citizens do not take, regardless of wages. This theory states that postindustrial economies have a widening gap between well-paying, white-collar jobs that require ever higher levels of education and “human capital”, which native-born citizens and legal immigrants can qualify to take, and bottom-tier jobs that are stigmatized and require no education. These “underclass” jobs include harvesting crops, unskilled labor in landscaping and construction, house-cleaning, and maid and busboy work in hotels and restaurants, all of which have a disproportionate number of illegal workers.

     Since the decline of middle-class blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and industry, younger native-born generations have chosen to acquire higher degrees now that there are no longer “respectable” blue-collar careers that a worker with no formal education can find. The majority of new blue-collar jobs are the “underclass” work mentioned above, which suffer from unreliability (i.e. temporary jobs versus a career in a factory), subservient roles, and, critically, a lack of potential for advancement. At the same time, entry-level white-collar and service jobs are much more appealing. These they offer advancement opportunities for native-born workers to enter the dominant educated class, even if they currently pay the same or less than manual labor does.

     Hence, this theory holds that in a developed country like the US, where now only 12% of the labor force has less than a high school education, there is a lack of native-born workers who have no choice but to take undesirable manual labor jobs. Illegal immigrants, on the other hand, have much lower levels of education (about 70% of illegal workers in the US from Mexico lack a high school degree). They are still willing to take “underclass” jobs due to their much higher relative wages than those in their home country. Since illegal immigrants often anticipate working only temporarily in the destination country, the lack of opportunity for advancement is less of a problem. Evidence for this can be seen in one Pew Hispanic Center poll of over 3,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico in the US, which found that 79% would voluntarily join a temporary worker program that allowed them to work legally for several years but then required them to leave.

     The structural demand theory posits that simple willingness to work undesirable jobs, rather than for unusually low wages, is what gives illegal immigrants their employment.

     Structural demand theory argues that cases like this show that there is no direct competition between unskilled illegal immigrants and native-born workers. This is the concept that illegal immigrants “take jobs that no one else wants”. Massey argues that this has certain implications for policy, as it may refute claims that illegal immigrants are “lowering wages” or stealing jobs from native-born workers.

 Poverty

     While economic models do look at relative wealth and income between home and destination countries, they do not necessarily imply that illegal migrants are always impoverished by standards of the home country. The poorest classes in a developing country may lack the resources needed to mount an attempt to cross illegally, or the connections to friends or family already in the destination country. Studies from the Pew Hispanic Center have shown that the education and wage levels of illegal Mexican immigrants in the US are around the median for Mexico, and that having family who have emigrated or being from a community with many emigrants is a much better predictor of one’s choice to emigrate.

     Other examples do show that increases in poverty, especially when associated with immediate crises, can increase the likelihood of illegal migration. The 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, subsequent to the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was associated with widespread poverty and a lower valuation for the peso relative to the dollar. It also marked the start of a massive swell in Mexican emigration, in which net illegal migration to the US increased every year from the mid-1990s until the mid 2000s.

     There are also examples where natural disasters and overpopulation can amplify poverty-driven migration flows.

Overpopulation

     Population growth which exceeds the carrying capacity of an area or environment results in overpopulation. Spikes in human population can cause problems such as pollution, water crisis, and poverty.  World population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to an estimated 6.7 billion today. In Mexico alone, population has grown from 13.6 million in 1900 to 107 million in 2007.

     In 2000, the United Nations estimated that the world’s population was growing at the rate of 1.14% (or about 75 million people) per year. According to data from the CIA’s 2005–2006 World Factbooks, the world human population currently increases by 203,800 every day. The United States Census Bureau issued a revised forecast for world population that increased its projection for the year 2050 to above 9.4 billion people, up from 9.1 billion people. We are adding a billion more every 12 years. Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions.

Family reunification

     Some illegal immigrants seek to live with loved ones, such as a spouse or other family members. Family reunification visas may be applied for by legal residents or naturalized citizens to bring their family members into a destination state legally, but these visas may be limited in number and subject to yearly quotas. This may force their family members to enter illegally to reunify. From studying Mexican migration patterns, Douglas Massey finds that the likelihood of a Mexican national to emigrate illegally to the US increases dramatically if they have one or more family members already residing in the United States, legally or illegally.

     Due to inability to marry, same-sex couples in which one member has an expiring visa may face an “unpalatable choice between leaving and living with the person they love in violation of U.S. immigration laws”. Also, it is possible that binational same sex couples granted a legal marriage in one spouse’s state may face difficulty and even higher likelihood of deportation if they try to move to the other spouse’s home country and that state does not recognize the marriage. This may be the case if a Canadian marries an American of the same gender and tries to have the marriage recognized after moving to the US.

Wars and asylum

     Illegal immigration may be prompted by the desire to escape civil war or repression in the country of origin. Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, and genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows – to escape dictatorship for instance.

     It is important to note that the status of “illegal immigrant” may coincide with or be replaced by the status of “asylum seeker” for emigrants who have escaped a war or repression and have illegally crossed into another state. If they are recognized as “legitimate” asylees by the destination state, they will then gain legal status. However, there may be numerous potential asylees in a destination state who are unwilling to apply or have been denied asylum status, and hence are categorized as “illegal immigrants” and may be subject to punishment or deportation. There are numerous cases of mass emigration from poor or war-stricken states. These include examples from Africa, Colombia, and El Salvador.

     After decades of armed conflict, roughly one of every 10 Colombians now lives abroad. For example, Colombians emigrating to Spain have “grown exponentially, from a little over 7,000 in 1993 to more than 80,000 in 2002 and 244,000 in 2003.” This is equivalent to 124,000 Colombian immigrants in year 2003 into Spain alone. Also, figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate that Colombia is the fourth-leading source country of unauthorized immigration to the United States. According to its estimates, the number of unauthorized Colombian residents in the United States almost tripled from 51,000 in 1990 to 141,000 in 2000. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of authorized Colombian immigrants in the United States in 2000 was 801,363. Census data are important because, as the Department of Homeland Security states, [U.S.] “census data are more complete and reliable [than INS’s data] because of the national scope of the data collection, the vastly larger data sample, and the extensive preparation and follow-up activities involved in conducting the decennial census.”

     El Salvador is another country which experienced substantial emigration as a result of civil war and repression. The largest per-capita source of immigrants to the United States comes from El Salvador. Up to a third of the world’s Salvadoran-born population lives outside the country, mostly in the United States. According to the Santa Clara County, California, Office of Human Relations.

Despite the fact that the U.S. government’s role in the Salvadoran conflict was unique in sustaining the prolongation of the civil conflict, the government and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) extended little sympathy to the people affected by the war. In the 1980s, the INS granted only 2% of political asylum applications, claiming that democracy existed in El Salvador and that reports of U.S. and government-sponsored “death squads” were overblown. As a response to what they considered a failure of the U.S. government to address the situation of Salvadoran refugees in the country, American activists established a loose network to aid refugees. Operating in clear violation of U.S. immigration laws, these activists took refugees into their houses, aided their travel, hid them and helped them find work. This became known as the “sanctuary movement”.

     The continuing practice of hiring unauthorized workers has been referred to as “the magnet for illegal immigration.” As a significant percentage of employers are willing to hire illegal immigrants for higher pay than they would typically receive in their former country, illegal immigrants have prime motivation to cross borders.

     In 2003, then-President of Mexico, Vicente Fox stated that remittances “are our biggest source of foreign income, bigger than oil, tourism or foreign investment” and that “the money transfers grew after Mexican consulates started giving identity cards to their citizens in the United States.” He stated that money sent from Mexican workers in the United States to their families back home reached a record $12 billion. Two years later, in 2005, the World Bank stated that Mexico was receiving $18.1 billion in remittances and that it ranked third (behind only India and China) among the countries receiving the greatest amount of remittances.

Chain immigration

     According to demographer Jeffery Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center, the flow of Mexicans to the U. S. has produced a “network effect” – furthering immigration as Mexicans moved to join relatives already in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center describes that the recent dramatic increase in the population of illegal immigrants has sparked more illegal immigrants to cross borders. Once the extended families of illegal immigrants cross national borders, they create a “network effect” by building large communities.

Other Contributing Causal Factors to Illegal Immigration

     Analysts believe that costs, delays, and inefficiencies in processing visa applications and work permits contribute to the number of immigrants who immigrate without authorization. As of 2007 there was a backlog of 1.1 million green card applications, and the typical waiting time was three years.

Trade agreements and government failures

     The Rockridge Institute argues that globalization and trade agreement affected international migration, as laborers moved to where they could find jobs. Raising the standard of living around the world, a promise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, would reduce the economic incentive for illegal immigration. However, governments have not followed through on all of these programs.

     The Mexican government failed to make promised investments of billions of dollars in roads, schooling, sanitation, housing, and other infrastructure to accommodate the new maquiladoras (border factories) envisioned under NAFTA. As a result few were built, and China surpassed Mexico in goods produced for the United States market. Instead of the anticipated increase, the number of manufacturing jobs in Mexico dropped from 4.1 million in 2000 to 3.5 million in 2004. The 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, which occurred the year NAFTA went into effect, resulted in a devaluation of the Mexican peso, decreasing the wages of Mexican workers relative to those in the United States. Meanwhile, more efficient agricultural operations in the United States and the elimination of tariffs under NAFTA caused the price of corn to fall 70% in Mexico between 1994 and 2001, and the number of farm jobs to decrease from 8.1 million in 1993 to 6.8 million in 2002.

     Corruption hurts the economy of Mexico, which in turn leads to migration to the United States. Mexico was perceived as the 72nd least corrupt state out of 179 according to Transparency International’s 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, a survey of international business (for comparison, the United States ranked as the 20th least corrupt). Global Integrity estimates that in 2006 corruption cost the Mexican economy $60 billion per year. A survey by the Mexican research firm, Centro de Estudios Económicos del Sector Privado, found that 79 percent of companies in Mexico believe that “illegal transactions” are a serious obstacle to business development.

Mexican federal and state government assistance

     The US Department of Homeland Security and some advocacy groups have criticized a program of the government of the state of Yucatan and that of a federal Mexican agency directed to Mexicans migrating to and residing in the United States. They claim that the assistance includes advice on how to get across the U.S. border illegally, where to find healthcare, enroll their children in public schools, and send money to Mexico. The Mexican federal government also issues identity cards to Mexicans living outside of Mexico.

  • In 2005 the government of Yucatan produced a handbook and DVD about the risks and implications of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The guide told immigrants where to find health care, how to get their kids into U.S. schools, and how to send money home. Officials in Yucatan said the guide is a necessity to save lives but some American groups accused the government of encouraging illegal immigration.
  • In 2005 the Mexican government was criticized for distributing a comic book which offers tips to illegal aliens emigrating to the United States. That comic book recommends to illegal immigrants, once they have safely crossed the border, “Don’t call attention to yourself…. Avoid loud parties…. Don’t become involved in fights.” The Mexican government defends the guide as an attempt to save lives. “It’s kind of like illegal immigration for dummies,” said the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, Mark Krikorian. “Promoting safe illegal immigration is not the same as arguing against it.” The comic book does state on its last page that the Mexican Government does not promote illegal crossing at all and only encourages visits to the U.S. with all required documentation.

     Groups in favor of strict immigration enforcement oppose Matrícula Consular (“Consular Registration”), an identification card issued by the Government of Mexico through its consulate offices. The purpose of the card is to demonstrate that the bearer is a Mexican national living outside of Mexico. Similar consular identification cards are the Guatemalan CID card and the Argentinian CID card as well as a number of other CID cards issued to citizens of Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras. The document is accepted at financial institutions in many states and, in conjunction with an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number, allows illegal immigrants to open checking and saving accounts. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former President Bill Clinton promote the use of foreign government CID cards in U.S. financial institutions. In December 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger launched Bank on California which calls on California mayors to specifically encourage the use of the Mexican CID and Guatemalan CID card by banks and credit unions as a primary identification when opening an account.

SUMMARY

     The causes presented above cover the entire gamut of political, social, and economic reasons there is illegal immigration to the United States. Both “push” and “pull” factors operate in all three areas of reasons or causes. In this (Part II) the definition and causes of illegal immigration have simply been presented. What hasn’t been described is the push factor of drug violence and human rights abuses (including kidnapping and murder) currently going on extensively in Mexico. This factor will be covered by itself in (Part V) of this five-part series. In the next article (Part III) the impact of these causes will be evaluated. While not knowing the actual goals and objectives of an American policy on immigration right now, I will nonetheless endeavor to present its impact in a sociological opinion format. Accordingly, I will present, based on survey research, public opinion on the issue of illegal immigration. In that way the reader of my blog can better form his or her own opinion on this complex and, at times, troubling issue. This issue of illegal immigration is one where the U.S. Congress ought to follow the lead of the American public rather than the other way around.

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PREFACE

     The immigration issue currently being debated in the United States is indeed complex with many variables and diverse stakeholders. Consequently, as part of that debate, it is important for the American people to collectively understand all sides of the issue and its multi-faceted nature. It is incumbent upon all of us to understand why it is some people want to risk their lives while trying to come in to the United States illegally. It is also important to understand why anyone taking such risks would be willing to also dessert their native country. No immigration policy can be viably developed unless a comprehensive approach is undertaken to understanding all aspects and sides of this issue.

     Consequently, I am initiating a five part series on the nature of the complex issue of Immigration. My next four blogs (one-a-month) will run through to November 20, 2010. Part I through Part V includes:

 Immigration Policy Debate in America

The Causes of Illegal Immigration

The Multi-faceted Impact of Illegal Immigration

The New Arizona Law and Legal Issues Involved in Immigration Policy

Illegal Immigration’s Hidden Side: Crime and Human Rights Abuses in Mexico

      It is hoped that the reader will come away with a more well-rounded perspective on the immigration issue, but also a more in-depth understanding of the violence and human rights abuses that are currently plaguing a troubled Mexico. I cannot measure the impact such later events as violence and human rights abuses are having on motivating people to cross the border into the United States from Mexico—but rest assured, such factors are motivating some individuals not to have second thoughts about leaving their native country.  Perhaps people lose pride in their native country when they’re sitting on a powder keg and someone is aiming a gun at their head. Like every other issue in life, conservatives want the luxury of simple answers in “Black and White.” And, liberals only prefer to see things in shades of “gray.”  But black, white and gray aren’t the only colors of the rainbow. Black, white, and shades of gray are simply too limiting a palette for human understanding. Understanding the complex issue of immigration requires a comprehensive realistic approach with all the colors of the rainbow. So, hold on to your seats as this complex issue is now explored.     

 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

       At the congressional level two things must occur before public policy is created, or legislation is enacted by the U.S. Congress on immigration. One, the congress must start by holding House and Senate hearings to collect facts and opinions from all sides on this issue. Seems like a simple matter; but let’s see if they actually do it.

     All questions on immigration should be addressed. What specifically do we want, as a nation, to achieve with immigration policy? For example, should there be any policy restricting anyone from anywhere to the United States? Or, should America, once and for all,  end all immigration to the United States? If some sort of limited middle-ground restrictive immigration policy is desired, then should there be a quota system of some kind? And if so, what kind of quota system? 

     Should there be immigration restrictions with primarily Homeland Security needs kept in mind? Should temporary visas be the only form of entry into the United States while permanent citizenship would no longer be allowed? And, once and for all, should English be declared the official language of the United States as an aspect of any immigration policy? Should amnesty be declared for the millions of illegals already here? Should the human rights needs of illegals, based on their native countries’ human rights record, be a consideration for any proposed amnesty?  

     Should illegals from Mexico be treated any differently than illegals coming from any other country (e.g., Cuba) since both the public perception and data suggest that Mexico comprises the biggest illegal immigration problem as measured by estimated number of illegals coming into the country? The last question is somewhat philosophical. That is, if law is so important to a democracy, then shouldn’t we be enforcing all earlier passed laws on immigration? Why aren’t we enforcing current immigration law? Who within the United States has benefited from a weak law enforcement stance on illegal immigration? Why aren’t Mexico and other Latin American countries creating the financially rewarding incentives to create the positive conditions where by no citizen would ever want to leave their native country? And, above all, if your native country fails you, why aren’t you trying to change your country for the better rather than desserting it? These are tough questions to answer but they must be asked.

     All of these questions should be explored in great detail including many questions I haven’t thought of. Many of these questions raised must be answered before any viable immigration policy is created, and the values underlying each answer should be honestly articulated.

     One could argue, of course, that there are no real answers to immigration, only decisions rendered by value judgments politicians and their constituents hold. None of us are so naïve as to believe that decision making and values can be separated in deference to pure reason and logic.

      Collective values of a nation are very important to any nation’s sense of itself, its defining characteristics. No one should dismiss the relevance of making value judgments. But when logic and reason find their way back into the process of evaluating public policy, we must ask ourselves these guiding questions: whose values and what values should predominate where public policy on immigration is concerned? And, once decisions are made does one know what values led to what decisions?  

      It is, of course, the political process that translates diverse values and the values of diverse groups into political action. Perhaps it’s too intellectual to hope that once decisions of the U.S. Congress are rendered on immigration policy, the values underlying those policy decisions would be spelled out for all to see (i.e., real transparency, not lip-service transparency). In practical terms, it is important for those in Congress to explain why decisions are made as well as what decisions are made on immigration.

     Said again, the Congress must decide what the goals of an American policy on immigration should be. Given the current climate in Washington, I suspect both Republicans and Democrats will have a difficult time creating immigration reform goals. If a bi-partisan compromise is reached on goals, then it is incumbent on all parties to create a workable process to collect data on the complex interrelated variables before developing specific objectives.   

     It seems with passage of a new law in Arizona, and legislation pending in Texas, the conscious focus of the current debate is more about “illegals” coming from Mexico than anything else. If Mexico is the primary topic of debate it is important, more than ever, to explore what our neighbors to the south are all about. Approximately 11 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States; due to the clandestine nature of illegal immigration, the exact number is unknown. Therefore, you will observe some contradictions in the numbers ahead depending upon who is doing the estimating.

      It is true, however, that the majority of illegal immigrants are from Latin America. Illegal immigration has been a longstanding issue in the United States, creating immense controversy. Harvard economist George J. Borjas explains that the controversy centers around the “huge redistribution [of wealth] away from [unskilled American] workers to [American employers] who use immigrants.”

     In 2007, President Bush called for Congress to endorse his guest worker proposal, stating that illegal immigrants took jobs that Americans would not take.

     The Pew Hispanic Center notes that while the number of legal immigrants (including LPRs, refugees, and asylees) arriving has not varied substantially since the 1980s, the number of illegal aliens has increased dramatically and, since the mid 1990s, has surpassed the number of legal immigrants.

      Penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants range from $2,000-$10,000 and up to six months’ imprisonment. Political groups like Americans for Legal Immigration PAC have been formed to fight what they perceive as the threat of illegal immigration by demanding that the US enforce immigration laws and secure the borders. Several counties throughout the United States have chosen to deputize police officers as immigration officials.

 WHAT IS ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION?

      Illegal immigration to the United States refers to the act of foreign nationals violating U.S. immigration policies and national laws by entering or remaining in the United States without proper permission from the United States government.

  • The illegal immigrant population of the United States in 2008 was estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to be  about 11 million people, down from 12.5 million people in 2007. According to a Pew Hispanic Center report, in 2005, 57% of illegal immigrants were from Mexico; 24% were from other Latin American countries, primarily from Central America; 9% were from Asia; 6% were from Europe; and 4% were from the rest of the world.

     Illegal immigrants continue to outpace the number of legal immigrants—a trend that’s held steady since the 1990s. While the majority of illegal immigrants continue to concentrate in places with existing large communities of Hispanics, increasingly illegal immigrants are settling throughout the rest of the country.

     An estimated 13.9 million people live in families in which the head of household or the spouse is an unauthorized immigrant. Illegal immigrants arriving in recent years tend to be better educated than those who have been in the country a decade or more. A quarter of all immigrants who have arrived in recent years have at least some college education. Nonetheless, illegal immigrants as a group tend to be less educated than other sections of the U.S. population: 49 percent haven’t completed high school, compared with 9 percent of native-born Americans and 25 percent of legal immigrants.

     Illegal immigrants work in many sectors of the U.S. economy. According to National Public Radio, about 3 percent work in agriculture; 33 percent have jobs in service industries; and substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (16 percent), and in production, installation, and repair (17 percent).

      According to USA Today, about 4 percent work in farming; 21 percent have jobs in service industries; and substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (19 percent), and in production, installation, and repair (15 percent), with 12% in sales, 10% in management, and 8% in transportation. Illegal immigrants have lower incomes than both legal immigrants and native-born Americans, but earnings do increase somewhat the longer an individual is in the country.

     A percentage of illegal immigrants do not remain indefinitely but do return to their country of origin; they are often referred to as “sojourners: they come to the United States for several years but eventually return to their home country.”

Breakdown by State

     As of 2006, the following data table shows a spread of distribution of locations where illegal immigrants reside by state:

State of Residence of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: January 2000 and 2006
State of residence Estimated population in January Percent of total Percent change Average annual change
All states 11,555,000 100 37 515,000
California 2,930,000 25 13 53,333
Texas 1,640,000 14 50 91,667
Florida 980,000 8 23 30,000
Illinois 550,000 5 25 18,333
New York 540,000 5
Arizona 500,000 4 52 28,333
Georgia 490,000 4 123 45,000
New Jersey 430,000 4 23 13,333
North Carolina 370,000 3 42 18,333
Washington 280,000 2 65 18,333
Other states 2,950,000 26 69 200,000

 

 Present-day Countries of Origin

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the countries of origin for the largest numbers of illegal immigrants are as follows:

For 2005

Country of origin Raw number Percent of total Percent change 2000 to 2005
Mexico 7,000,000 57 65%
El Salvador 470,000 4 9%
Guatemala 370,000 4 21%
India 280,000 3 3%
People’s Republic of China 230,000 2 2%

For 2006:

Country of origin Raw number Percent of total Percent change 2000 to 2006
Mexico 6,570,000 57 69%
El Salvador 510,000 4 9%
Guatemala 430,000 4 8%
Philippines 280,000 2 4%
Honduras 280,000 2 5%
India 270,000 2 5%

The Urban Institute estimates “between 65,000 and 75,000 undocumented Canadians currently live in the United States.”

TIMELINE OF DEBATE

     It has taken decades for the U.S. Congress to come to grips with having to “do something” about immigration. My best guess is the U.S. Congress won’t begin serious debate on immigration until after the mid-term elections coming in November 2010. In Part II ahead the causes of illegal immigration will be described in some detail. Please stay tuned for next month’s blog.

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