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by Diego Cevallos
(IPS) MEXICO CITY --
day, Mexican migrants perish in their attempt to cross the border into the United States, and those who succeed may still fall prey to a virtual manhunt or abuse at the hands of police or immigration agents.
"The macabre policies of the manhunt of undocumented aliens" in U.S. territory was the focus of debate at last week's 39th US-Mexican inter-parliamentary meeting.
The meeting comes in response to the action of some U.S. ranchers last March, who distributed flyers and posted messages on the Internet in March, urging people to "hunt down" immigrants. The messages drew an outcry from human rights groups. The Clinton administration promised to investigate and do something to stop the practice.
Shortly after the hate messages became news, an undocumented Mexican immigrant was shot and wounded near the border by a U.S. rancher, who argued in his defense that he was chasing a dog.
The case was just one example of the persecution of Mexican immigrants in the United States, Julio Faesler, chair of the international affairs committee of the Mexican Congress, told IPS, adding that "we must protest against this." In the United States there is a "climate of xenophobia," and a large part of the responsibility for that lies with the U.S. Congress, said Faesler.
Mexican delegates have protested U.S. immigration policies at previous inter-congressional meetings, but to no effect, he pointed out.
To the contrary, the U.S. Congress has passed laws in the past few years "that foment anti-immigrant sentiments, and violate the dignity and human rights" of immigrants, he maintained.
An article in the May 6 London Independent reported that flyers invite tourists to hunt human beings for recreation. Potential hunters are told to bring infrared binoculars, dogs, ammo, and sun screen lotion.
The article quoted Roger Barnett, a former deputy sheriff who is now a cattle rancher in southern Arizona. "Humans. That's the greatest prey there is on earth. They're your equal." The newspaper said that Barnett and his brother were involved in at least half of the 25 encounters discussed at the conference.
than 315,000 undocumented Mexicans make it across the border every year and find work. But the number of immigrants who die in the attempt has climbed in the past few years. According to government statistics, 129 died in 1997, 323 in 1998 and 356 in 1999, while 105 had died by Apr. 17 this year.
Beefed-up controls along the border and a stiffening of U.S. immigration policy, sponsored by the Clinton administration and backed by Congress, have driven illegal immigrants to seek ever-more dangerous routes into the United States, generally through desert areas.
The United States has 7,705 immigration agents posted along its 2,000 mile border with Mexico, nearly double the number assigned to the area in 1994.
It has also installed radar, infrared cameras, special movement and heat sensors and video cameras, while throwing up long fences at certain points along the border.
But while the controls have failed to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants, they have led to "more deaths and abuses," said Faesler.
In 1999, 70 cases of human rights abuses against Mexican immigrants were reported, mainly committed by police, said the director of protection and consular affairs at the Mexican foreign ministry, Carlos Felix.
The issue will also be discussed by Mexican and U.S. officials on May 18 in Washington and by Clinton and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo at a meeting scheduled for the first week of June -- their last meeting, as this is an election year in both countries.
U.S. and Mexican authorities say ties between the two partners in NAFTA are closer than ever. But they admit their failure to make significant headway on the thorny issue of migration.
Mexico accuses the United States of treating undocumented immigrants as criminals, pointing out that they are workers who contribute to the U.S. economy.
May 8, 2000 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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