OCTOBER 2002

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September11th Also Hurt Mexican Immigrants
From Ecuador News
Sept 10-16, 2002

By Jesús Aznares

September 11th ended the hopes of more than three-and-a-half million undocumented Mexicans in the United States, as priorities changed and the war on terrorism became the primary focus for the Bush administration, pushing an amnesty with Mexico onto the back burner.

"Mexico lost a year in the negotiations of the amnesty," recognized Chancellor Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s foreign relations minister and the man in charge of getting the agreements established. The delay is likely to be even longer.

The political affinities of both presidents, Vicente Fox and George Bush, didn’t help Mexicans when the war drums started beating. "They just want us to put a policeman behind every immigrant at the frontier," lamented a Mexican official.

Bilateral relations are stronger than ever, as spokesmen from both countries declare, and almost 90 per cent of Mexican exports come to the north. However, the fact is, the situation for Mexican immigrants in the United States is unstable and most of them are frequently abused as workers.

This year, on March 27, the Supreme Court decided that illegal workers do not have the right to sue their employers when they get fired, or to claim compensations. "It’s a new form of slavery," agreed the Mexican analysts. One of them added "If, being their allies, we are treated like this, imagine if we were their enemies."

The deaths that occur while undocumented immigrants cross the 3,200 kilometer U.S.-Mexico border are alarming. It is calculated that more than a million Mexicans try to cross the border each year, and many do not make it to the other side. U.S. vigilance of the easiest routes is greater after Sept. 11, and has obligated poverty-stricken Mexicans to lead an uncertain adventure on very dangerous paths.

Negotiations in the amnesty are barely progressing, and benefits from the so-called program for guest workers, which would have allowed for hundreds of thousands of labor contracts, still appear far off. "We need to take this up again, but without a doubt, we have lost at least a year," declared Castañeda. "This is a reality we have to face. It is due, largely, to Sept. 11. It is due, not so much to a change of sentiments by the United States as to a change of priorities."

Little after bilateral conversations began, Castañeda had called attention to the fact that Mexico wanted "the whole enchilada," in reference to the many factors of an agreement that was destined to benefit all of his compatriots without papers. Sarcasm suggested that he had better get ready to be content with some "chilaquiles" (fried strips of corn tortillas with a topping) instead. The joke was not lost on the chancellor.

President Fox, in a speech before congress on September 6, 2001, asked the North American legislators to pass, before the year was through, an agreement that would legalize the situation for those workers who were already in the United States. The Sept. 11 attacks instead pushed the White House into an unprecedented global fight, with politicians now focusing on securing U.S. borders.

Each border police watches, on average, some five of the 3,200 kilometers along the border between Mexico and the United States, according to a university investigation. The officers now have greater mobility, radars and resources to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country. Many from Mexico and Central America continue to attempt to make the trip.

Translated From Spanish by Jonathan Charnay

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