LatinaLista — It's always amazed me that as many Central and South American migrants make it as far north as they do — especially after having to cross through Mexico.
As Latina Lista reported last spring, Los Angeles Times' reporter Sonia Nazario chronicled in her Pulitzer prize-winning series "Enrique's Journey" how these non-Mexican migrants face frightening danger from corrupt Mexican officials, ruthless gangs and the trains they hop in their journeys to get here.
Central American migrants headed for the United States
ride in railroad cars through southern Mexico.
(Source: LA Times)
It's long been a sore spot for Mexican officials demanding humane treatment for undocumented Mexicans when their own country fails so miserably in their treatment of undocumented Central and South Americans.
Now, it seems that Mexico's new President, Felipe Calderon, wants to show the U.S. they mean business when it comes to immigration reform.
The Associated Press is reporting that Calderon announced today that his country is not just going to start treating the undocumented immigrants more fairly but Mexico will be establishing a guest worker program.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon
Calderon also will push Mexicoâ€™s Congress to make being undocumented a civil violation, rather than a crime, Salazar said. By contrast, Republicans in the U.S. Congress have sought to treat undocumented migrants as felons.
The president also has promised a more formal guest-worker program for Central Americans.
"Just as we demand respect for the human rights of our countrymen, we have the ethical and legal responsibility to respect the human rights and the dignity of those who come from Central and South America and who cross our southern border," Calderon has said.
It's an agressive move but one where only time will tell if this announcement is solely a political ploy to be used as some kind of leverage for when Bush visits Mexico later this month.
It would make sense for Mexico to set the example and succeed with their reforms if they want the United States to follow suit.
Yet, there is something that is bothersome about their reform measures.
According to the article:
Details have not been released, but experts expect an expansion of Mexicoâ€™s seasonal farm-worker program, which issues at least 40,000 temporary visas a year, mostly to Guatemalans. Most work on coffee plantations in southern Chiapas state, and many face problems over pay, medical care and housing.
Migration experts say Calderon wants to stop those abuses while also allowing Central Americans to work in the construction and service industries in the south.
If these are industries that can support, in some small way, a foreign workforce, then why can't it support a native workforce?
Grant it, the state of Chiapas is far from the northern regions of the country where most of the undocumented in the United States come from, and the wages would certainly be much lower in Mexico than what they can make here, but it's obvious there is a need for workers there.
Their economy just needs to be stimulated.
With this week's stock market scare and a new realization of how tied in we're becoming to China, doesn't it make sense to pull back some investment in that part of the world to build up our neighboring countries, so that these workers don't have to ignore the available jobs in their own country just to come to the United States for the higher wages?
It's often said by short-sighted people that it's not the responsibility of the United States to take care of our neighbors.
When will the lesson be learned: Taking care of our neighbors is really taking care of ourselves.