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Mexico Harsh to Undocumented Migrants

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060418/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/mexico_mistreating_migrants;_ylt=AoA8g34SvbMdSVcmkWF6fQus0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3ODdxdHBhBHNlYwM5NjQ- Mexico
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 18, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060418/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/mexico_mistreating_migrants;_ylt=AoA8g34SvbMdSVcmkWF6fQus0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3ODdxdHBhBHNlYwM5NjQ-

      Mexico Harsh to Undocumented Migrants

      By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 18,
      6:08 PM ET

      TULTITLAN, Mexico - Considered felons by the
      government, these migrants fear detention, rape and
      robbery. Police and soldiers hunt them down at
      railroads, bus stations and fleabag hotels. Sometimes
      they are deported; more often officers simply take
      their money.

      While migrants in the United States have held huge
      demonstrations in recent weeks, the hundreds of
      thousands of undocumented Central Americans in Mexico
      suffer mostly in silence.

      And though Mexico demands humane treatment for its
      citizens who migrate to the U.S., regardless of their
      legal status, Mexico provides few protections for
      migrants on its own soil. The issue simply isn't on
      the country's political agenda, perhaps because
      migrants make up only 0.5 percent of the population,
      or about 500,000 people — compared with 12 percent in
      the United States.

      The level of brutality Central American migrants face
      in Mexico was apparent Monday, when police conducting
      a raid for undocumented migrants near a rail yard
      outside Mexico City shot to death a local man,
      apparently because his dark skin and work clothes made
      officers think he was a migrant.

      Virginia Sanchez, who lives near the railroad tracks
      that carry Central Americans north to the U.S. border,
      said such shootings in Tultitlan are common.

      "At night, you hear the gunshots, and it's the
      judiciales (state police) chasing the migrants," she
      said. "It's not fair to kill these people. It's not
      fair in the United States and it's not fair here."

      Undocumented Central American migrants complain much
      more about how they are treated by Mexican officials
      than about authorities on the U.S. side of the border,
      where migrants may resent being caught but often
      praise the professionalism of the agents scouring the
      desert for their trail.

      "If you're carrying any money, they take it from you —
      federal, state, local police, all of them," said
      Carlos Lopez, a 28-year-old farmhand from Guatemala
      crouching in a field near the tracks in Tultitlan,
      waiting to climb onto a northbound freight train.

      Lopez said he had been shaken down repeatedly in 15
      days of traveling through Mexico.

      "The soldiers were there as soon as we crossed the
      river," he said. "They said, 'You can't cross ...
      unless you leave something for us.'"

      Jose Ramos, 18, of El Salvador, said the extortion
      occurs at every stop in Mexico, until migrants are
      left penniless and begging for food.

      "If you're on a bus, they pull you off and search your
      pockets and if you have any money, they keep it and
      say, 'Get out of here,'" Ramos said.

      Maria Elena Gonzalez, who lives near the tracks, said
      female migrants often complain about abusive police.

      "They force them to strip, supposedly to search them,
      but the purpose is to sexually abuse them," she said.

      Others said they had seen migrants beaten to death by
      police, their bodies left near the railway tracks to
      make it look as if they had fallen from a train.

      The Mexican government acknowledges that many federal,
      state and local officials are on the take from the
      people-smugglers who move hundreds of thousands of
      Central Americans north, and that migrants are
      particularly vulnerable to abuse by corrupt police.

      The National Human Rights Commission, a
      government-funded agency, documented the abuses south
      of the U.S. border in a December report.

      "One of the saddest national failings on immigration
      issues is the contradiction in demanding that the
      North respect migrants' rights, which we are not
      capable of guaranteeing in the South," commission
      president Jose Luis Soberanes said.

      In the United States, mostly Mexican immigrants have
      staged rallies pressuring Congress to grant amnesty to
      millions of illegal immigrants rather than making them
      felons and deputizing police to deport them. The
      Mexican government has spoken out in support of the
      immigrants' cause.

      While Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal said Monday
      that "Mexico is a country with a clear, defined and
      generous policy toward migrants," the nation of 105
      million has legalized only 15,000 immigrants in the
      past five years, and many undocumented migrants who
      are detained are deported.

      Although Mexico objects to U.S. authorities detaining
      Mexican immigrants, police and soldiers usually cause
      the most trouble for migrants in Mexico, even though
      they aren't technically authorized to enforce
      immigration laws.

      And while Mexicans denounce the criminalization of
      their citizens living without papers in the United
      States, Mexican law classifies undocumented
      immigration as a felony punishable by up to two years
      in prison, although deportation is more common.

      The number of undocumented migrants detained in Mexico
      almost doubled from 138,061 in 2002 to 240,269 last
      year. Forty-two percent were Guatemalan, 33 percent
      Honduran and most of the rest Salvadoran.

      Like the United States, Mexico is becoming reliant on
      immigrant labor. Last year, then-director of Mexico's
      immigration agency, Magdalena Carral, said an
      increasing number of Central Americans were staying in
      Mexico, rather than just passing through on their way
      to the U.S.

      She said sectors of the Mexican economy facing labor
      shortages often use undocumented workers because the
      legal process for work visas is inefficient.
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