Mexican authorities are distributing more than 1 million copies of an illustrated handbook that gives migrants illegally crossing the U.S. border safety tips, suggesting that they carry enough water, follow railroad tracks and utility lines if they get lost and wear clothing that will protect them from the elements.
The new handbooks, the latest effort by the Mexican government to educate people about the dangers of unsanctioned crossings, has angered some anti-immigrant groups that say parts of it read like a how-to manual.
“It’s an encouragement that will lead to more illegal aliens coming,” said Rick Oltman, a spokesman for the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It is going to result in more tragic deaths as people risk their lives in swollen rivers and burning deserts.”
The Mexican government has produced similar booklets before. But officials said they consider this edition, which is being distributed at government offices and inside magazines across Mexico, to be especially important given the rising number of border deaths. About 400 immigrants died along the border in 2003—a 10% increase from 2002.
Along the Mexican side of the border, agents of Grupos Beta, the humanitarian arm of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, flag down dozens of vehicles each day crammed with migrants bound for drop-off points to illegal footpaths into the United States. The agents lecture the occupants to carry enough water to get through several days in the desert, to wear protective clothing against the sun, to look for help if they feel tired and cannot continue, and to be aware of their legal options if stopped by the Border Patrol.
Grupos Beta, founded in 1989, defines its mission as minimizing harm to U.S.-bound migrants without explicitly discouraging their exodus. The lecture ends with such send-offs as, “Have a safe trip, and God bless you.”