White House Slams Mexico for Aid Maps

Nicholas Kralev and Jerry Seper, Washington Times, Jan. 26, 2006

The Bush administration yesterday accused the Mexican government of facilitating illegal entry into the United States after Mexican officials said they would distribute maps of dangerous border areas and posters with safety instructions and other tips.

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said the maps, which would provide details of the terrain, cell-phone coverage and water stations set up by the U.S. charity Humane Borders, would help to save lives.

“We oppose in the strongest terms the publication of maps to aid those who wish to enter the United States illegally,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “It is a bad idea to encourage migrants to undertake this highly dangerous and ultimately futile effort.

“This effort will entice more people to cross, leading to more migrant deaths and the further enrichment of the criminal human trafficking rings that prey on the suffering of others,” he said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would “take whatever steps it deems necessary to protect its own borders.”

“No government, including the government of Mexico, should facilitate or encourage its citizens to try to enter the United States outside established legal procedures,” he said.

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Mexican officials also said that the posters would warn potential emigrants not to believe promises of an easy journey from smugglers. “Don’t Do It,” the posters say. “It’s Hard. There’s Not Enough Water.”

At the same time, they advise migrants to travel with someone they trust and bring enough water and food, phone numbers of relatives, identification, and shoes adequate for a long and difficult journey.

Last year, the Mexican government issued a comic-style book as a guide to migrants on how to cross the border and avoid detection. It included “practical advice” on when and where to enter and what to wear and other instructions, including a tip to avoid sending children with strangers.

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MEXICO CITY—President Vicente Fox’s government on Tuesday distanced itself from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission after the agency announced it will give at least 70,000 maps of the Arizona desert to potential migrants.

The commission said it will begin distributing the maps throughout Mexico beginning in March, a delicate time for U.S.-Mexican relations because the U.S. Senate is expected to soon begin debating immigration reforms that Fox has been championing.

“The National Human Rights Commission is an autonomous commission,” Fox spokesman Rubén Aguilar said Tuesday after The Arizona Republic broke the news of the maps.

“(The commission) operates with funds that Congress assigns it, not with funds that the executive branch assigns it,” Aguilar said. “Within that framework, it has decided to take this action.”

The commission said it will distribute the full-color, poster-size maps through human rights offices, civic groups and migrant-affairs agencies in Mexican states. The posters were designed by a Tucson-based group, Humane Borders.

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