Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Deportees Fill up Mexicsn Border Towns

The American tourists are gone from the restaurants and souvenir shops of Mexican border towns -- driven off by recession, drug violence and new passport regulations. Taking their place are deportees left off on the U.S. side and then marched across the border. They are no substitute for the Yankee dollar. They come already impoverished and in need of assistance from the Mexican government.

These are "voluntary deportees. Rather than challenge the deportation order and risk losing any future hope of return to the States, they agree to go quietly. Some are recent border-jumpers -- picked up by the border patrol in the desert, often arriving only with the ragged clothing on their backs, sometimes victims of violence and theft in their journey north. Others arrive well dressed and with a little money that doesn't last long. These latter are those who had been in the country some time -- often decades -- but picked up on the streets of Chicago or Los Angeles. Some come not knowing much Spanish, totally unfamiliar with the country. They were brought to the U.S. as children and have never been in Mexico. Some, usually women, arrive with children who have a right to stay as U.S. citizens.

The hard pressed border towns try to provide some help and the federal government provides some. But most of the caring for the deportees, feeding and sheltering them is left to the churches and caring citizens -- sometimes even former deportees. The Arizona Republic has a touching article on the impact of deportees on Nogales, Mexico.

Some advocates of immigration reform are arguing to separate the "legalization process" from the future "flow of workers". Their reasoning is that, while we can't really deport 12 million, we can reduce the flow of temporary workers till the economy improves. That way we can take away an argument being used effectively by nativists -- "the illegals are taking jobs away from Americans'. Also it would cement the support of the labor unions. Later the country can fashion a workers' program that responds to real needs.

Two prominent immigrant advocates, Carlos G. Castaneda and Tamar Jacoby, argue in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, it won't work. The two elements must hang together, otherwise important Republican and Democratic support will slip away. Sen. John McCain (R. AZ) had warned as much last month.

There are more issues to immigration reform, but a separation of legalization and temp workers will surely kill the bill. The authors do not address, however, the grievance of the labor unions to the abuses of the temp worker program in the Bush administration. Nor do they address the argument that the nativists have been exploiting with the country's rising unemployment. If the two elements are held together, the temp working program has to be reformed as well.

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