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Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


 

 

Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


 

 

Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


 

 
Latin America
Women & Children at Risk
 
Title: Mexico, U.S. to tighten border, send migrants home
Publisher: (c) 2004 Rueters
Publish Date: 2004-02-20

Mexico and the United States agreed to tighten security along their border and start sending illegal immigrants caught sneaking across the frontier back home by bus or plane. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Mexican Interior Minister Santiago Creel signed an accord to step up cooperation on security on the border, seen by some as the soft underbelly for the U.S. war on terror. The agreement includes a controversial plan to start repatriating illegals to their hometowns rather than simply dumping them on the Mexican side of the frontier. The two countries have yet to work out details of the repatriation plan, a touchy issue for Mexicans sensitive to any sign of U.S. interference in their internal affairs. "Together we need to reinforce secure and orderly repatriation of migrants to their places of origin," Ridge told a news conference in Mexico City.

Mexico is also keen to ramp up security on the 2,000-mile border to cut the deaths of hundreds of Mexicans who perish every year making the dangerous illegal crossing in search of a higher standard of living in the United States. Creel tried to calm fears that a forced repatriation inside Mexico would be against Mexican law. "Our constitution guarantees free movement inside our territory and of course we are going to comply strictly and exactly with the constitution," Creel said.

Mexican President Vicente Fox's government was criticized for allowing U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents to direct some security operations at Mexico City airport during increased vigilance of U.S.-bound flights in January. Ridge said there was no evidence of terrorists entering the United States from Mexico but warned that networks of drug smugglers and people traffickers in Mexico could be used by terrorists. "We recognize, from the president on down, that there is no more important homeland security relationship than the one we have with Mexico," he said. With the U.S. presidential election looming, the border security accord also seeks to stem fears among the U.S. electorate that White House proposals to legalize millions of Hispanic guest workers could prompt tens of thousands more to pour over the border.

"We are having some discussions about the president's initiative," said Ridge deputy Asa Hutchinson. "And it's going to be rough sailing unless members of Congress and the American public understand that we have the capability of securing our border." President Bush is proposing to grant work permits to millions of mainly Latin American immigrants under a three-year visa program which his critics see as an attempt to win Hispanic votes in the upcoming presidential election. The accord, which critics may also view as a vote-grabbing maneuver, proposes deploying more security staff along the border and starting an information campaign to deter would-be migrants. It paves the way for U.S. border patrols to send arrested illegals home -- possibly by force --- rather than simply dumping them in Mexican territory where they can remain stranded or immediately try to cross the border again. At least 346 Latinos died in the year to September 2003 crossing the U.S. border, the highest in three years. Most deaths occur in the searing heat of summer when conditions are harsh for migrants stranded in the desert.