Jon Gambrell, AP, August 1, 2007
Mexican immigration experts visiting the United States to see how this country deals with illegal immigrants say the U.S. is not the only country with a porous southern border.
In Mexico, immigration officials struggle to handle a growing number of immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and other countries who seek low-wage Mexican jobs that have been abandoned for better-paying jobs in the United States.
In part to learn and critique, a group of Mexican governmental officials and academics visited Arkansas as part of a three-city tour of how the United States handles immigration enforcement. The group traveled to El Paso, Texas, to see how officers patrol the border and to visit a jail for those arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
However, Mexican President Felipe Calderon acknowledges the need to provide better treatment to the migrants, said Ana Cecilia Oliva Balcarcel, director of international affairs for Mexico’s National Institute of Migration. Oliva acknowledged many of those migrants end up staying in Mexico’s southern states, working construction jobs and other menial labor.
Mexico created a program to provide documentation for those working in the southern state and is working to decriminalize being an illegal immigrant, Oliva said. However, she said police and labor abuses do continue.
“It’s important to regulate immigration through our country,” Oliva said. “We can’t put up walls. We’re never going to put them up.”