Stephen Dinan and Jerry Seper, Washington Times, July 20, 2007
Mexico’s ambassador to the United States yesterday said previous Mexican officials made a “dumb mistake” by issuing comic books to aid illegal aliens crossing the border, and said his government cannot criticize U.S. treatment of illegal aliens as long as Mexico has harsh laws on its books.
“It’s very hard for Mexico to preach to the north what it does not do to the south,” Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, referring to Mexico’s felony penalties for, and sometimes cruel treatment of, those caught crossing its southern border.
“Unless we correct the fundamental challenge of the violation of human rights of Latin American or Central American migrants crossing the border into Mexico, it’s very hard for me to come up and wag a finger and say you guys should protect the rights of my citizens in this country,” he said, adding that changes to the Mexican law are now pending.
“The debate over immigration is an internal debate of the United States, and as such, I hope, this house noted a dramatic shift in the positioning of the Mexican government as of Dec. 1,” Mr. Sarukhan said. “I think the previous Mexican government did itself and those that believe in comprehensive immigration reform a lot of damage by the way it tried to position itself publicly in an internal debate in the United States.”
In 2005, the Mexican government’s foreign ministry distributed 1.5 million comic books giving tips to would-be migrants, and last year Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission planned to distribute maps to migrants showing water sites they could use during their crossing. The commission scrapped the plans after a U.S. protest.
“That was not my government, and I would say that in hindsight, or even without hindsight—I was consul general of Mexico in New York at the time these guidelines were delivered—and I saw this and I said, ‘What a dumb mistake,’” the ambassador said, adding that the human rights commission was a nongovernmental body.
That’s not to say Mr. Calderon didn’t want Congress to pass Mr. Bush’s immigration bill, which would have created a new guest-worker program and given citizenship rights to the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens already here, a majority of whom are Mexicans. Mr. Calderon called the bill’s failure a “grave mistake.”
But Mr. Sarukhan said Mexican officials understand Americans’ trepidation and desire for a secure border, and he said they are well aware of the consequences if a breach of the U.S.-Mexican border were to be involved in a future attack on U.S. security.
“The day that happens, this relationship as we have known it, is over,” he said. “I would say Mexico and the United States are working extremely well in trying to ensure that border is not used to underpin or challenge the national security of the United States.”
He defended remittances, the $23 billion sent back home by Mexicans working legally or illegally in the United States, saying they play “a key role in this stage of Mexican economic development.” He pointed to the role of remittances in other nations such as Ireland and Spain when those countries were trying to extend their links to the European Community.
But he said remittances are not the long-term solution for sustained growth in Mexico, particularly because it’s an indicator that many of Mexico’s best workers have fled the country to find jobs.
“No country can grow if it is not able to hold onto its women and men. Some of them, I don’t know if they’re talented or not, but they’re certainly bold,” he said.