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A Few New Ideas for the Immigration Policy Debate

[A Two-part Series]

Part II

Shedding Light on the Issue of Immigration and Crime, and a Novel Proposal for a Humanitarian Approach to Immigration Policy

 

Do Immigrants (legal or illegal) commit a lot of Crime?

Where immigration is concerned most rule-making as laws are simply arbitrary beliefs of what is valued as a society depending upon which group is in power—in this case whites with a slim majority over minorities. And, solving the problem of immigration may simply mean reversing the creation of deviance through over-criminalization of people coming across the border.

    It is a fact that both legal immigrants and illegal immigrants commit less crime than do native born in the United States. The Cato Institute has done some remarkable research on the issue of immigrants and crime.

The following is a research article written by Alex Nowrasteh and published for the Cato Library. The study is dated July 14, 2015. The title of the article is “Immigration and Crime – What the Research Says.”

“The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants. However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder.  It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the U.S. crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates.  As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.

There are two broad types of studies that investigate immigrant criminality.  The first type uses Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data from the institutionalized population and broadly concludes that immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population.  It is important to note that immigrants convicted of crimes serve their sentences before being deported with few exceptions.  However, there are some potential problems with Census-based studies that could lead to inaccurate results.  That’s where the second type of study comes in.  The second type is a macro level analysis to judge the impact of immigration on crime rates, generally finding that increased immigration does not increase crime and sometimes even causes crime rates to fall.

Type 1: Immigrant Crime – Censuses of the Institutionalized Population

Butcher and Piehl examine the incarceration rates for men aged 18-40 in the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses.  In each year immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives with the gap widening each decade.  By 2000, immigrants have incarceration rates that are one-fifth those of the native-born.  Butcher and Piehl wrote another paper focusing on immigrant incarceration in California by looking at both property and violent crimes by city.  Between years 2000 and 2005, California cities with large inflows of recent immigrants tended to  have lower violent crimes rates and the findings are statistically significant.  During the same time period, there is no statistically significant relationship between immigration and property crime.

Ewing, Martinez, and Rumbaut summarize their findings on criminality and immigration thusly:

“[R]oughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18-39 are incarcerated compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.  The disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial census.  In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.”

They continue by focusing on immigrant incarceration rates by country of origin in the 2010 Census.  Less educated young Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men (poorly educated young men are most likely to be incarcerated) make up the bulk of the unlawful immigrant population but have significantly lower incarceration rates than native-born men without a high-school diploma.  In 2010, 10.7 percent of native-born men aged 18-39 without a high school degree were incarcerated compared to 2.8 percent of Mexican immigrants and 1.7 percent of Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants.  These are similar to Rumbaut’s older research also based on Census data from 2000.  Controlling for relevant observable factors, young uneducated immigrant men from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala are less likely to be incarcerated than similarly situated native-born men.

However, studies of immigrant criminality based on Census data alone could fail to give the full picture.  First, many of the answers given to the Census may have been educated guesses from the Census workers and not the inmates.  Second, the government has done a very poor job of gathering data on the nationality and immigration status of prisoners – even when it has tried.  That biases me against the accuracy of prison surveys by the Census Bureau.  Third, incarceration rates may better reflect the priorities of law enforcement than the true rates of criminal activity among certain populations.

Type 2: Macro Level Analysis of Immigrant Criminality

To avoid the potential Census data problems, other researchers have looked at crime rates and immigration on a macro scale.  These investigations also capture other avenues through which immigration could cause crimes – for instance, by inducing an increase in native criminality or by being easy targets for native criminals.

The phased rollout of the Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program provided a natural experiment.  A recent paper by Thomas J. Miles and Adam B. Cox used the phased rollout to see how S-COMM affected crime rates per county.  If immigrants were disproportionately criminal, then S-COMM would decrease the crime rates.  They found that S-COMM “led to no meaningful reduction in the FBI index crime rate” including violent crimes.  Relying on similar data with different specifications, Treyger et al. found that S-COMM did not decrease crime rates nor did it lead to an increase in discriminatory policing that some critics were worried about.  According to both reports, the population of immigrants is either not correlated, or negatively correlated, with crime rates.

Ousey and Kubrin looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated.  They conclude that “[v]iolent crime is not a deleterious consequence of increased immigration.”  Martinez looked at 111 U.S. cities with at least 5,000 Hispanics and found no statistically significant findings.  Reid et al. looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.  They wrote, “[i]t appears that anti-immigrant sentiments that view immigrants as crime prone are not only inaccurate at the micro-level, they are also inaccurate at the macro-level … increased immigration may actually be beneficial in terms of lessening some types of crimes.”  Wadsworth found that cities with greater growth in immigrant or new immigrant populations between 1990 and 2000 tended to have steeper decreases in homicide and robbery rates.

Using panel data on U.S. counties, Spenkuch finds that a 10 percent increase in the share of immigrants increases the property crime rate by 1.2 percent.  In other words, the average immigrant commits roughly 2.5 times as many property crimes as the average native but with no impact on violent crime rates.  He finds that this effect on property crime rates is caused entirely by Mexican immigrants.  Separating Mexicans from other immigrants, the former commit 3.5 to 5 times as many crimes as the average native.  However, all other immigrants commit less than half as many crimes as natives.  This is the most deleterious finding that I discovered.

Stowell et al. looks at 103 different MSAs from 1994-2004 and finds that violent crime rates tended to decrease as the concentration of immigrants increased.  An immigrant concentration two standard deviations above the mean translates into 40.5 fewer violent crimes per 100,000 compared to a decrease of 8.1 violent crimes in areas that experienced a change in immigration concentration two standard deviations below the mean.  It is easy to focus on the horrible tragedies when somebody is murdered by an immigrant but it’s very hard to imagine all of the people who weren’t murdered because of the lower crime rates created by increased immigration.  In their summary of the research on this topic, they write:

“[T]he weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime.  To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.

Some immigrants from certain countries of origin may be more crime prone than others, as Spenkuch finds above.  To test this, Chalfin used rainfall patterns in Mexico to estimate inflows of Mexican immigrants.  The idea is that lower rainfall and a decrease in agricultural productivity in Mexico would push marginal Mexican immigrants out of Mexico and into the U.S. labor market.  Mexican rainfall patterns and the subsequent immigration had no effect on violent or property crime rates in major U.S. metropolitan areas.

These trends have also been found on the local level.  Davies and Fagan looked at crime and immigration patterns at the neighborhood level in New York City.  They find that crime rates are not higher in areas with more immigrants.  Sampson looked at Chicago and found that Hispanic immigrants were far less likely to commit a violent criminal act then either black or white native Chicagoans.  Lee et al. found that trends in recent immigration are either not correlated with homicides or are negatively correlated in Miami, San Diego, and El Paso.  The only exception is that there is a positive relationship between immigration and black homicide rates in San Diego.

Numerous studies also conclude that the high immigration rate of the 1990s significantly contributed to the precipitous crime decline of that decade.  According to this theory, immigrants are less crime prone and have positive spillover effects like aiding in community redevelopment, rebuilding of local civil society in formerly decaying urban cores, and contributing to greater economic prosperity through pushing natives up the skills spectrum through complementary task specialization.

Note on Illegal Immigration

The public focus is on the crime rates of unauthorized or illegal immigrants.  The research papers above mostly include all immigrants regardless of legal status.  However, every problem with gathering data on immigrant criminality is multiplied for unauthorized immigrants.  There is some work that can help shed light here.

With particular implications for the murder of Kate Steinle, Hickman et al. look at the recidivism rates of 517 deportable and 780 no deportable aliens released from the Los Angeles County Jail over a 30-day period in 2002.  They found that there is no difference in the re-arrest rate of deportable and no deportable immigrants released from incarceration at the same place and time.  Their paper is not entirely convincing for several reasons, the most important being that their sample does not include the higher risk inmates who were transferred to state prison and were subsequently released from there.  There are also findings in their paper that seem to contradict their conclusion that isn’t adequately accounted for.  This is only one study of one sample in one city, but the results should be incorporated into any argument over sanctuary cities.

Conclusion

Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions.  There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality.  One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law.

Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes.  According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals. This could explain why immigrants are less likely to engage in “anti-social” behaviors than natives despite having lower incomes.  It’s also possible that more effective interior immigration enforcement is catching and deporting unlawful immigrants who are more likely to be criminals before they have a chance to be incarcerated.

The above research is a vital and missing component in the debate over the supposed links between immigration and crime.”

This alone is sufficient to ask the following question: If immigrants are more law-abiding as people than those who were born in the United States, then why is the government working to over-criminalize everyone who comes across our borders? The motivation is the same as before. That is, people who are already citizens by being second, third or fourth generation immigrants seem to have no qualms about casting aspersions at newcomers like Hispanics or Muslims. The new kid on the block has always been treated suspiciously. In addition, the psychological and sociological nature of “White Fright”/”White Flight” appears to show its ugly face again as to why such a large portion of a largely white electorate wants to discriminate against Hispanics, and the Muslim population of refugees who want to settle in the United States.

The belief that Donald Trump will better protect the United States through a ban of immigrants from Mexico/South America or from Muslim countries has not been well thought out, is discriminatory, and goes against the very laws (like the U.S. Constitution) he swore at inauguration he would uphold.

A Novel Proposal for a Humanitarian Approach to Immigration Policy—Basic Ideas

What is the basic program overall?

The operation of passports, visas and green cards should probably remain the same. However, whether one is already inside the country or outside, the issue of people wanting to seek full American citizenship is a separate issue altogether. There needs to be a re-definition or new definition of citizenship. It is my idea that two levels of citizenship should exist.

The first level would be called Temporary Citizenship, granted to all for 2 years while they relocate within the United States, seek jobs, receive humanitarian aid, and vetted initially in one of two locations (to be described in detail shortly).

The first location will require staffing and resources to open. But the original Ellis Island in New York needs to be re-opened. Both Ellis Island locations will need the resources of the United States government. Since American business owners are the beneficiary of this new untapped source of labor, they will be asked to contribute their fair share to this immigration plan.

The second level of citizenship would be called Full Citizenship and would occur after a temporary citizen passes the current requirements for Full- Citizenship.

Most naturalization applicants are required to take a test on:

  • English
  • Civics (U.S. history and government)

If these requirements are met, the vetted new immigrants would be given official notice that they are now a citizen of the United States of America.

It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island (the one in New York). Trump’s plan to simply build a wall between Mexico and the United States is “not too bright” and won’t achieve its objectives.

A much better way to achieve this goal is both humanitarian and intelligent: (1) Enact amnesty as the policy of the United States in order to encourage, not discourage, people who want to become American citizens, (2) establish a new singular entry point along our southern border similar to the original “Ellis Island” that operated between 1892 and 1954. The new “Ellis Island” would function to welcome people from Mexico as well as South American countries, (3) in addition to opening a new “Ellis Island” along our southern border (soon to be called The Freedom Bridge), there needs to be a re-opening of the original Ellis Island for immigrants wanting to come into the country from elsewhere in the world, and (4) reduce the many hurdles and obstacles reflected in prior amnesty programs. Amnesty needs to be simplified not encumbered with needless over-regulation.

Once released to enter American soil, immigrants would all be given assistance in relocating across the country with federal, state and local job counseling, employment services and temporary housing and some monetary assistance, and offered educational programs and family services. County health departments would initially serve to provide health care to all newly arriving immigrants and their family members.

I am recommending that the federal government set aside, in the annual federal budget, an investment in helping newly vetted immigrants. Investing in people rather than wasting taxpayer money on some worthless, ineffectual wall, will generate over the long haul, a real return on one’s investment such as more people succeeding and paying federal, state and local taxes. Immigrants represent a real and potential source for expanding our economy and well-being. Where would the money for assistance come from?

The current 2017 fiscal year budget for the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department is 48.9 billion in discretionary funding, and 11.3 billion in mandatory funding over the next ten years. A modest annual investment of $2 billion dollars from this federal agency could be allocated each year to help provide newly entering immigrants to have all the services needed to give them a leg up on becoming a fully functioning American citizen.

Should there be amnesty? The answer is absolutely yes. But it still needs to be a program that facilitates rather than throws up unnecessary and capricious roadblocks all along the way. This mercurial and temperamental inclination of our nation’s representatives is to over-control people. It smacks of an authoritarian regime rather than a country bent on helping our citizens (or to be citizens) achieve the American dream.

What I did not like about the Amnesty proposals of 2012 by the Obama administration is that there were still too many hurdles or hoops to jump through to become a citizen of this great country of ours.

Paying the U.S. supposedly $5000 in back taxes, for those already illegally in the country, seemed like an unnecessary and somewhat arbitrary notion of creating hurdles that really block, rather than facilitate, becoming a citizen who will, in short order, be paying taxes anyway. So, what do I propose that would make sense?

What about El Paso, Texas

Under my system, one of the border agent’s duties would be to provide transportation to newly arriving immigrants from Mexico and/or South America. Instead of arresting people coming across the border they would be assisted by the border patrol in their journey to peacefully reach El Paso, Texas. This would mean helping people trying to cross the border anywhere along the way between El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California.

Instead of calling it Ellis Island II—– I think a more appropriate name would be “The Freedom Bridge.” What kind of city is El Paso, Texas?

“El Paso, Texas is about 300 miles south of Albuquerque and 300 miles east of Tucson. The metropolitan population of the city is about 830,000 and the 2010 US Census Bureau reports a population of about 650,000. Major industries in El Paso include manufacturing, cold storage, and call centers.

The El Paso economy is largely based on how well and how safe Ciudad Juarez is at any time. El Paso also benefits from its vicinity to the border and despite its rowdy neighbor Juarez; El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States.

Recent trends in El Paso include a new triple-A baseball team with a new ballpark downtown. The triple-A team was previously in Tucson. The new ballpark has spurred some new development downtown including two proposed hotels. The office and industrial markets are currently steady with a few projects under construction. The multi-family and retail markets are doing well around Fort Bliss, which recently received a large influx of personnel returning from missions. New single-family residential projects are at the lower end of the price range and are building on the existing finished lot inventory. Overall, the market appears to be steady and recovering slowly from the long recession.”

All crossing the border into the United States would be shown respect and dignity and afforded common humanitarian aid. Arrival at the new Ellis Island”  would be the beginning of their journey toward citizenship. The new Ellis Island would not be a detention facility, but like its predecessor of 1892 to 1954, it would be a processing facility.

     Any decisions to deport someone could only come from legal due process with the right of any arriving immigrant to receive legal counsel. A lot of legislation will have to be passed before this plan can take effect.

The perfect city, in my opinion, for such an “Ellis Island facility,” is El Paso Texas with its bridge separating Juarez, Mexico from the city of El Paso. Juarez could be a staging area to ready tired travelers prior to their journey across the bridge (The Freedom Bridge) to the United States.

Crossing the bridge itself will have symbolic significance all by itself. The bridge to freedom will soon have as much significance as those passengers, back at the beginning of the 20th Century, who embraced the view of the Statute of Liberty as their ships docked in New York so long ago.

Mexico is not going to pay for the wall; perhaps however, they might be willing to assist this transition by providing much humanitarian aid to those who show up in Juarez as a staging area with food, water, sleeping bags, and written material to let them know what to expect once they cross the bridge.

Every potential citizen from Mexico or South America who goes through the new Ellis Island would be issued a red, white, and blue card as proof that they had come through the new Ellis Island in El Paso, Texas.

Each card would have a thumbprint and a one-of-a-kind identification number on the card besides full name, and city of origin. This would all be part of the vetting process. The green card system that currently exists could and should continue to operate for those immigrants who desire only a temporary stay in the United States. Passports and Visa’s would also continue to operate as they had in the past.

The “Ellis Island” card would be carried on the person to offer up should they be (legally or illegally) stopped by any law enforcement agency. After two years the card would simply be a souvenir to keep after full citizenship is achieved. Those who fail to meet full citizenship requirements by two years would be allowed to receive a one-time additional two year extension of temporary citizenship. Therefore, full citizenship would have to be earned in four years from date of vetting completion.

What about illegals who are already here in America?

With Amnesty the law of the land, former illegals would be free to come out of the shadows. Instead of a few U.S. cities being a sanctuary, the entire country would become a sanctuary welcoming all to our shores, the only restriction being they must be vetted and not exceed in total 1 million a year.        .

It should be pointed out that the number of illegals coming to the United States each year from south of the border has been dropping for several years (Trump gives himself credit for this) even though the decline in people coming across our southern border preceded his even becoming a candidate for the highest office in the land.

In addition, there are some walls erected along the southern border already. Tunnels have been created in various spots to go under the walls, rendering wall structures practically worthless. The new Trump plan to put concrete 6 feet below the wall won’t work either. This is because people will simply dig holes below the concrete plus the cost of such use of concrete along a 2,000 mile border would be astronomical.

Every sociologist knows that deviance, legally defined, is as much the product of the “rule–makers” as it is the “rule-breakers.” This notion is based on Labeling Theory in sociology. One day an illegal alien is a violator of immigration laws, but just as easily could be a non-violator without the stigma of a label defining that person as a rule-breaker. It all depends on who sets the rules and the defining of a behavior (with value judgments like “good” or “bad”) as such in the first place. By analogy it is no different in concept than to define the Japanese or Germans as our enemy but, since the end of WWII, they have become our ally.

Paying for a Humanitarian Approach to Immigration Policy    

As mentioned earlier $2 billion dollars would be needed annually (a modest investment by comparison to the total 2017 Fiscal Year Budget proposed). It should come from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on an annual basis. So, how do we pay for the construction of a new Ellis Island and refurbishing and re-tooling of the original Ellis Island in New York?

The cost of creating, re-creating and operating two Ellis Island facilities on an annual basis is estimated to be, as a minimum, about 500 million dollars.  The cost of Trump’s wall has been estimated to be, at a minimum, about 25 billion dollars. The cost of two Ellis Island facilities would be 1/50 the cost of building a wall under the Trump plan. What this means is that the total cost of my idea would be approximately, $2.5 billion dollars a year. Once again, total cost of my proposal is 1/10 the cost of Donald Trump’s proposed wall. In terms of cost effectiveness my plan is significantly better and more cost effective.

Final Thoughts

People of every group in America believe in the value of every human being, no matter what their social status in life. Consequently, the whole concept of Amnesty needs desperately to be implemented in the United States. It is what a civilized people would do.

By accepting the 11 million undocumented people, predominantly from Mexico and South America, then ICE resources currently dedicated to removing illegals who are already in the country  would be better spent providing backup to overworked, underappreciated border patrol officers. A comprehensive immigration plan has been absent from the American consciousness for a very long time.

Both Presidents Bush and Obama wanted a comprehensive immigration plan but were unsuccessful in getting it legislatively passed. The current President has no interest in a comprehensive immigration plan. Until the current president is impeached, leaves office, or dies in office, it is unlikely a comprehensive immigration plan will ever become a reality.

Read Full Post »

     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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