Migration Controls Tighten in Mexico; More
22 October 2001
MIGRATION CONTROLS TIGHTEN IN MEXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA
Also in this issue:
Border Activists Go to the UN; Alcoa Fires 186 Protesting Workers;
Border and U.S.-Mexico Headlines of Interest
News, Opinion, and Analysis from the U.S.-Mexico Dividing Line
Managing Editor: Talli Nauman
Co-editor: George Kourous
An occasional email publication of BIOS ~ Border Information and Outreach Service. For more information on BIOS read the footer of this message, visit our website at www.us-mex.org, or email borderlines@....
BIOS ~ A Project of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC), online at www.us-mex.org.
c o n t e n t s :
1. Sept. 11's Impact on Migrants in Mexico and Central America [ analysis ]
2. Border Rights Activists Go to the UN [ news ]
3. Alcoa Fires 186 Maquiladora Workers in Ciudad Acuña [ border report ]
4. Sources for More Information [ contacts and links ]
5. Border and U.S.-Mexico Headlines of Interest [ links ]
6. About BIOS
a n a l y s i s
[ Editors' note: We would like to thank the Mexico-U.S. Advocates Network for permission to publish the following excerpts of this article it recently distributed to network members. ]
SEPT. 11's IMPACT ON MIGRANTS IN MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
On Sept. 19, at a special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C., the foreign ministers of most Latin American countries invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (commonly known as the Río Treaty) to express their support for the U.S. campaign against terrorism. The Río Treaty is a cold war pact that deems an attack on one member is an attack on all and calls for mutual assistance in the case of an act of military aggression initiated outside the hemisphere against a member country.
The OAS pronouncement marked the first time the treaty has been invoked since the 1960s. Just one week before the attack, President Vicente Fox of Mexico publicly labeled the 1947 treaty "obsolete" and called for its replacement with regional mechanisms to address economic underdevelopment, poverty, environmental destruction, and organized crime.
This abrupt turnaround reveals how profoundly the events of Sept. 11 have transformed the hemispheric policy environment; it will be up to advocates to monitor closely the impact of the new reality on migrants throughout the region.
Over the last decade, the U.S. government has put pressure on the governments of Mexico and, increasingly, Central America, to align their immigration, border, and law enforcement policies and practices with U.S. interests in controlling the flow of illegal drug and human traffic through the region.
Realigned priorities since the Sept. 11 attacks seem to have provided a new impetus for the dominance of U.S. interests in regional migration and border-control efforts: national security.
Indeed, U.S. officials said after the Río Treaty was invoked last month that the pact's members would not be asked to become militarily engaged in the fight against terrorism, but instead would be pressed for greater intelligence sharing and cooperation in border control. Additionally, the notion of a "North American Security Perimeter" has popped up frequently in recent weeks.
It will be a while before changes in migration and border control policies and practices can be developed, consolidated, and implemented, but a cursory overview of what has been happening in Mexico and Central America over the past several weeks reveals that the governments of the region seem quick to respond to intensified U.S. concerns about migration and border control.
Not surprisingly, the Sept. 11 attacks have had a significant impact on Mexico.
As in the United States, airport security has been greatly intensified, with more identification required for passengers on both domestic and international flights; stepped-up security screening for airline passengers, employees, and airport workers; and the installation of more electronic security equipment.
The Mexican military has been put on high alert, and there is increased vigilance and security of sensitive areas such as petroleum drilling zones and nitrogen plants.
The Mexican intelligence service (CISEN) has committed to a greater exchange of intelligence information with other countries and carried out field research in Mexico relating to the New York and Washington terror attacks.
Migration control has been reinforced on the northern and southern borders, airports, ports, and roads. On the northern border, crossing official checkpoints is considerably slower due to the application of much stricter security measures and checks.
The more stringent border inspections coincide with the expiration of approximately 2 million Mexican citizens' border crossing cards.
Congress had placed an Oct. 1 deadline for the conversion of the old border crossing cards into new high-tech laser visas, but 3.5 million of the 5.5 million total card holders have yet to receive their new visas.
These cards give their holders permission to enter the United States and travel within 25 miles of the border for up to 72 hours.
Residents and business owners along the border are reporting major disruption of daily life and loss of business due to the expiration of the cards.
Several weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the government began replacing migration officials along its southern border with Guatemala with military personnel who have received special training to combat terrorism and organized crime, according to the Mexican press.
The National Migration Institute (NMI) system for processing the visas of nationals of Cuba, Colombia, Taiwan, Turkey, and the Ukraine has been changed since the attacks. Nationals of these countries must now have their visa applications reviewed and approved by NMI before Mexican consulates in these countries can give individuals visas to enter Mexico.
This information has come out officially in the press; however, these more stringent procedures are also being applied to Central Americans and most nationals of countries in Asia and the Middle East.
The NMI, in coordination with the CISEN, has undertaken a systematic review of the files of migrants from countries in the Middle East and South Asia, including Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Palestine. This review includes the files of refugees recognized by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In fact, since Sept. 11, CISEN has ordered a suspension of the processing of all refugee cases as a "security check."
The detention situation of migrants - particularly those from the Middle East - has been significantly altered since Sept. 11.
The increased detention of undocumented migrants from countries such as Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, and India has led to a crisis situation in the migration station and detention center in Mexico City. The detention center has become more overcrowded than ever since the attacks, and federal police had to be called in several weeks ago to maintain order in the station.
Both detained migrants and migration station staff consider the migrants from Iraq to be the cause of the situation. These Iraqi migrants were accused of being "bad" people and were separated from other detainees because of xenophobia and a lack of space in the center. They were housed in the kitchen in absolutely inadequate conditions.
Because of this situation, migration authorities decided to transfer these Iraqi detainees, along with other detainees who were Islam or of Arab descent, to a naval base in the state of Campeche. UNHCR officials in Mexico have organized missions to evaluate the conditions in which these detainees are being kept, and also to carry out asylum eligibility interviews for those who are interested.
Migration officials deny that they are targeting people of Middle Eastern descent, and attribute any mistreatment of these people to xenophobia amongst the Mexican population. While public sentiments of xenophobia are real, migration authorities are certainly being especially aggressive in their efforts to arrest and detain Middle Easterners and Muslims at this time.
There has been much discussion of the possibility of a massive return to Mexico of migrants in the United States. No such movement has yet been confirmed, and it is important to note that this is typically a time of year when many Mexican migrants come back to visit their local communities and families for the holidays.
There have also been predictions that the remittance flow from Mexicans in the United States. to their families at home will decline significantly. Though the job losses in heavily immigrant sectors of the economy make such an eventual decline likely, there is no evidence of one to date.
Although some elements of the Mexican government and media are presenting the current situation in the United States in a way that could alarm Mexican migrants and provoke them to return home, there is no comprehensive plan for their reintegration.
In Central America, which has seen the numbers of migrants from outside the region passing through its borders (primarily in an effort to reach the United States) increase dramatically over the last decade, police and political leaders are asserting a new commitment to tighten border security and crack down on human trafficking.
On Sept. 23, all Central American national police directors met to discuss security issues in the region. They resolved to facilitate better information sharing between police, intelligence, and migration offices within and between countries. They also resolved to ask the parliamentary bodies in each of their countries to enact stricter laws against people who associate with terrorist groups, so that they will have the authority to apprehend and extradite such persons.
Additionally, there is concern in all of these countries about the future of their national economies. Because of a prolonged drought in the region and worldwide drops in coffee prices, Central American economies are already in a dire situation. According to a July assessment of the United Nations World Food Program, more than 1 million rural Central Americans are currently facing severe food shortages.
The Mexico-U.S. Advocates Network is a program of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. For more details, please see Sources for Additional Information, below.
n e w s
BORDER RIGHTS ACTIVISTS GO TO THE UN
by Kent Paterson
Mario Cruz says he wants justice.
In early January 2000, Cruz recalls, El Paso city police stopped his vehicle, roughed up his passengers, and got away with it unpunished, despite his attempts to bring them to task.
While impunity persists in the case, Cruz now has hope that international pressure will bring redress.
His is one of 64 documented complaints of human rights abuses in the Paso del Norte border area presented to delegates at the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was held Aug. 27 through Sept. 7 in Durban, South Africa.
The complaints were compiled by the Immigration Law Enforcement Project of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC-ILEMP), and they were presented together with a national report authored by the California-based National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) called "From the Borderline to the Colorline: A Report on Anti-Immigrant Racism in the United States."
Accompanying the reports of abuse were recommendations for measures that can help guarantee immigrants rights and secure the kind of justice Cruz seeks.
Participants in the world conference have observed that governmental reaction to the Sept. 11 terror attacks that came on its heels is a deterrent to the application of the recommendations. Nonetheless, the groundwork for future progress has been laid.
Documentation of Cruz' case and others alleging abuses against immigrants and Latinos by the El Paso Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Ciudad Juárez Municipal Police and other local law enforcement authorities in the tri-state border area of El Paso, Juárez, and southeastern New Mexico took place during a three-day period in December 2000.
Several cases came from outside that study area but were included in the AFSC-ILEMP project. All the complaints date from 1985 to 2000, with the majority occurring in 1999 and 2000.
Alleged, specific abuses include denial of liberty, wrongful detention, endangerment; physical, psychological and verbal abuse; confiscation or damage of property; denial of basic necessities; and wrongful confiscation of property. Twenty of the victims were females, 33 males.
Alma Maquitico, assistant coordinator of the ASFC-ILEMP's El Paso office, says the documentation showed certain patterns distinguished human rights violations on the U.S. side from those in Mexico's border zone.
In the U.S., victims often complained of physical or verbal mistreatment by law enforcement authorities. In Mexico, Juárez police were identified as targeting for robbery and extortion migrants from southern Mexico or Central America, many of whom arrive in the city to work in the maquiladora industry or to cross the border into the United States. According to Ester Camargo, who helped assemble the report, most undocumented migrants are afraid to render declarations due to their status.
However, unlike a 1998 AFSC-ILEMP study in south Texas, in which the majority of complainants were undocumented immigrants, 71% of the people in the Paso del Norte study were U.S. citizens or lawful residents. All were Latino.
"We see that there is a lot of racial profiling in this area," contends Maquitico. "It's very important to prevent the abuse. And we can see that whenever the constitution weakens for some people, the constitution weakens for all."
One 1999 complaint claimed that an entire El Paso neighborhood had to be evacuated because a speeding Border Patrol car crashed into a gas meter. Other accusations against law enforcement officers allege beatings, aggressive searches and questionings, frequent checkpoints, denial of food and water, insults and sexual harassment.
"I was with my wife and children going down El Paso Street when two agents stopped us. We were asked for our papers, and we answered that we are American," states one complainant. "I took out my identification. They asked where the children were from and said that they did not believe that they were U.S. citizens. I got angry and told them they were, indeed, U.S. citizens. I was upset. The agents threatened me with arrest and said that the reason for stopping us [was] the way I dress, like a 'cholo'."
In another incident, a woman accused Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) border inspectors of being responsible for her 5-month-old son's death in 1998, when they prevented her husband from following a doctor's recommendation to take the baby, who was gravely ill, to El Paso from Juárez.
"The agents accused him of kidnapping Isaac and, instead of calling the ambulance, they proceeded to interrogate him," said the woman. "My son got worse, though, and by the time the officers finally called the ambulance, the paramedics couldn't save him. My son died on the bridge."
UPDATER's phone calls to the El Paso Police Department and U.S. Justice Department seeking comment were not returned.
In compiling the cases, AFSC-ILEMP cooperated with a new network of local border activists formed in 2000, The Regional Community Council. The AFSC trained volunteers from the group in human rights guarantees as defined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and prepared them to gather basic documentation from community residents. Representatives of more than two dozen groups participated in the training, including the Association of Border Workers, the Colonias Development Council and the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project-Border Agricultural Workers Union.
At follow-up meeting convened by AFSC-ILEMP and other community organizations prior to the South Africa conference, involved activists and residents debated the issues outlined in the human rights report and considered strategies for action.
Based on those discussions, ASFC-ILEMP, NNIRR and border rights activists with Paso del Norte's Regional Community Council issued recommendations not only to the UN, but also to U.S. and Mexican federal authorities, and state and local law enforcement agencies. Among them are the following:
* a new amnesty for undocumented workers,
* formation of citizens' committees on both sides of the border to monitor law enforcement agencies,
* establishment of an immigration review commission at the federal level
* requiring UN member states to issue country reports on the human rights status of international migrants,
* amending the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to cover discrimination based on national origin,
* improving public education and the complaint process against the INS, and
* separating law enforcement from immigration enforcement functions.
The organizers hope their documentation and recommendations will result in concrete action by potential victims as well as perpetrators.
"We're not only trying to report abuses. I think that the only way we can [make changes] is by training the community about its human and civil rights, in order that these abuses stop and in order that the people know their rights," says Maquitico. "But we also want there to be a consciousness raising among the agents of the Border Patrol and among the local agencies. There should be very strong and broad trainings with regard to human rights and their relations with the community."
The Regional Community Council has also called for the cancellation of Border Patrol operations such as "Hold the Line" that have assigned agents to seal off easily crossed sections of the border. The activists argued that these operations channel migrants to more dangerous crossing points, with resulting loss of life. In the El Paso sector alone, at least 53 migrants died trying to cross the border between fiscal years 1999 and 2001, according to the Border Patrol's own statistics.
When discussing the current border policing situation, Maquitico emphasizes the contradiction between the widespread political support of free trade and the simultaneous suppression of free movement. "For one part, you have free flow of capital, goods and services, but then the migration of workers, the mobility of workers is not contemplated in this globalization," she notes.
Migration is perceived as a threat to the globalized economy, rather than a part of it, resulting in the abuses of discrimination and militarization, she says. "We're using technology that was used in Desert Storm. We see helicopters, infra-reds and we see that has been increasing the number of deaths on the border."
Kent Paterson is a freelance journalist based in Albuquerque and a frequent contributor to the borderlines UPDATER.
b o r d e r r e p o r t
[ Editors' note: We would like to thank Ricardo Hernández of the American Friends Service Committee for permission to excerpt this action alert he recently shared with us. Another version of the article also appeared in the most recent issue of Mexican News and Labor Analysis, available online at www.ueinternational.org. ]
ALCOA FIRES 186 MAQUILADORA WORKERS IN CIUDAD ACUÑA
by Julia Quiñonez
On Aug. 21, Arneses y Accesorios de México, a maquiladora subsidiary of Alcoa Fujikura Ltd., fired 186 workers involved in a work stoppage at the company's "Plant 5" in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila. Among them were nine members of a rank-and-file committee recognized by Arneses.
In October of 2000, that committee achieved important victories for the 11,000 Alcoa workers in Ciudad Acuña, including a raise of up to 30% in benefits and real wages.
Members of the committee have also participated for many years in the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO), a workers' organization that defends labor rights in several border cities.
With the support of responsible Alcoa shareholders, individuals and unions, Alcoa workers and the CFO have met several times since 1996 with the company's top executives, including Paul O'Neill (former CEO and now U.S. Secretary of Treasury), Alain Belda (CEO), and Robert S. Hughes (CEO of Alcoa Fujikura).
In the last five years, as a result of their efforts, Alcoa workers have obtained two wage increases, more safety equipment, improvements in facility hygiene, and the recognition in July of 2000 of the above-mentioned workers committee.
The committee was created in negotiations between the CFO and Alcoa executives as a compromise mechanism for airing workers' concerns with plant managers.
Given the absence of a union in Alcoa plants, the committee filled the role of a real union, negotiating benefits for workers and deterring abuses by supervisors, managers and foremen.
Although some top executives encouraged their Acuña management to engage in dialogues with the workers' committee, members say that management never demonstrated a real desire to engage on issue but instead, always tried to delay meetings, disregard past agreements, and antagonize committee members.
The main demands raised during the recent work stoppage at Plant 5 were: 1) improving treatment of pregnant workers; 2) stopping harassment by supervisors and managers; and 3) continuing talks between the committee and Arneses general manager.
Alcoa justifies the firing of the 186 workers by saying the stoppage was illegal. Based on that assertion, Alcoa has refused to pay severance to the fired workers.
However, Alcoa also was acting illegally when it called in city police without a warrant to force involved workers out of Plant 5 a day after the stoppage without a warrant.
Labor stoppages have been customary for many years in Ciudad Acuña. If they are technically illegal, it is also true that they represent an expression of dissatisfaction with existing labor conditions in the maquiladoras and with the absence in that city of unions, a labor and conciliation board, or other formal channels through which to redress labor issues.
Since Aug. 21, the fired from Plant 5 have remained mobilized in Ciudad Acuña. For almost a month they camped at the city's main plaza, organizing 12 marches that crossed the city and passed by the 11 Alcoa plants in Acuña. From Sept. 25 through Oct. 2, three dismissed workers held a hunger strike outside Plant 5.
Various community groups and local public leaders, including the city's parish priest and a former city mayor, have been highly supportive of the workers, and on Aug. 31, 500 Acuña residents participated in a pro-worker "March for Dignity."
At the same time, however, some area business and maquiladora associations have paid for newspaper ads and utilized the radio and television to accuse the workers of "destabilizing" the maquiladora industry.
Around 100 of the dismissed workers are demanding that they be reinstated by Alcoa. They have filed a lawsuit and continue to put pressure on the Coahuila state government and labor authorities and on the Alcoa management.
At the same time, many of these workers are having difficulties finding another job because Alcoa, in complicity with maquiladora owners and the city government, has circulated black lists with the names of those involved in the struggle.
Meanwhile, at least 50 more workers were fired by Alcoa in the weeks following the stoppage because they were perceived by management as sympathetic to the workers committee. The rest of the work force inside the Alcoa plants faces new restrictions, like not being able to leave the cafeteria area during lunch-time.
The dismissed Alcoa workers and the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s are alerting national and international labor organizations of these events so that they may remain attentive to the development of the struggle, including the lawsuit for reinstatement; inform their constituents; and, if necessary, lend solidarity to CFO and worker efforts. .
Julia Quiñonez, a former maquiladora worker, is coordinator of the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras and has lived in Piedras Negras, Coahuila for almost 30 years.
SOURCES FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
*** IMPACT ON MIGRANTS ***
Mexico-U.S. Advocates Network
Tel: (312) 660-1300
Tel: +(525) 554-6335
Fax: +(525) 554-7180
*** BORDER RIGHTS ***
American Friends Service Committee/Immigration Law Enforcement Monitoring Project
El Paso, Texas
Tel: (915) 577-0724
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Tel: (510) 465-1984
Fax: (510) 465-1885
*** ALCOA ***
American Friends Service Committee Maquiladora Project/
Comité Fronterizo de Obreras
Tel: (215) 241-7000
Fax: (215) 241-7275
BORDER & U.S.-MEXICO HEADLINES OF INTEREST FROM AROUND THE WEB
"IMMIGRATION FOCUS SHIFTS FROM ECONOMICS TO SECURITY"
Christian Science Monitor, October 22, 2001
"TIGHTENING THE RULES ON LEGAL IMMIGRANTS"
Christian Science Monitor, 22 October 2001
"REACTIVARÁN MÉXICO Y EU LAS PLÁTICAS SOBRE MIGRACIÓN"
Milenio, 22 October 2001
"SHARED BORDERS, SHARED SECURITY; FOX SEEKS TO MODERNIZE NATION'S BORDER CHECKPOINTS"
Dallas Morning News, 21 October 2001
"CHRETIEN, FOX WANT TO LOOK AT NAFTA SECURITY"
Toronto Star, 20 October 2001
"BORDER DELAYS LENGTHY, DISRUPTIVE"
San Diego Union Tribune, 19 October 2001
"ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FEEL ATTACKS' ECONOMIC FALLOUT"
Washington Post, 19 October 19 2001
"NAFTA DISPUTE IS IN COURT ONCE AGAIN"
New York Times, 19 October 2001
"NEW POWER PLANTS IN BAJA DRAW HEAVY FIRE"
San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 October 2001
"COLORADO CONGRESSMAN SAYS GUEST WORKER PROGRAM 'DEAD IN THE WATER'"
States News Service/Hispanic Online Magazine, 18 October 2001
"INS BEGINS TOUGHER CHECKS AT MEXICAN BORDER"
Los Angeles Times, 18 October 2001
"PHOTO ID NOW NECESSARY TO CROSS BORDER INTO THE U.S. "
San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 October 2001
"PRESSURE IS ON TO MAKE U.S. BORDERS LESS OPEN"
The Arizona Republic, 18 October 2001
"U.S., MEXICAN BISHOPS TAKING LOOK AT MIGRATION, PLAN PASTORAL STATEMENT"
San Diego Union Tribune, 18 October 2001
"ARIZONA MAY SEND NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS TO BORDER"
Associated Press/Arizona Republic, 17 October 2001
"CARD ISSUE IS STILL UP IN THE AIR ON BORDER"
Gannett News Service/Arizona Republic, 17 October 2001
"U.S., MEXICO TEAM UP ON HEALTH CARE"
Los Angeles Times, 17 October 2001
"MEXICAN LEADER WANTS NAFTA SECURITY PLAN"
Toronto Star, 16 October 2001
"TIGHTENING OF BORDER PINCHES LOCAL ECONOMY"
New York Times, 16 October 2001
"ATTACKS ALTER POLITICS, SHIFT FOCUS OF IMMIGRATION DEBATE"
Washington Post, 15 October 2001
"MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS FACE NEW SET OF FEARS"
New York Times, 15 October 2001
"SECURITY PUTS STRAIN ON NAFTA PARTNERS"
Financial Times, 15 October 2001
"DESALTING PLANT MAY REOPEN TO MEET WATER OBLIGATIONS TO MEXICO; MARSH'S HABITAT MAY BE AT RISK"
Associated Press/Dallas Morning News, 14 October 2001
"KYL FAULTS SYSTEM FOR BORDER 'LAPSES'"
Gannett News Service/Arizona Republic, 13 October 2001
"INS CULLS FOREIGN STUDENT INFO"
Wired News, 8 October 2001
San Antonio Express-News, Special Five Week Series, 9 September - 7 October, 2001.
"SE MANDARÁ AGUA A EU SEGÚN EXISTENCIAS; YA SE LE PAGÓ LA MITAD DEL ADEUDO DE LÍQUIDO, REITERA CNA"
La Jornada/RBRG Web, 21 September 2001
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