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No Solution to US Illegal Migration Including Residents of Arizona

While others describe a sense of tranquility on either side of the border, there is an underlying tension, too. Drug trafficking is of particular concern, but not everyone wants to talk about it.

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A long line of people, winding past a chain-link fence and a turnstile, distinguishes the boundary separating San Luis, in the U.S. state of Arizona, and San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. Otherwise, it would just appear to be desert.
US illegal Migration, VOA

A long line of people, winding past a chain-link fence and a turnstile, distinguishes the boundary separating San Luis, in the U.S. state of Arizona, and San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. Otherwise, it would just appear to be desert.

At the U.S. port of entry, temporary farm workers leave their families and queue up daily before dawn to catch a bus to the fields, just outside town. Residents from Arizona join them.

On one nearby date palm farm, men and women wear handkerchiefs to protect themselves from the fine desert sand and temperatures that reach 41 degrees Celsius; but, Mexican farmworker Juán González voices few complaints. The work is steady for 11 months of the year, he says, and the border is calm.“There aren’t many problems,” González said. “There’s crime, but not like in other large cities.”

While others describe a sense of tranquility on either side of the border, there is an underlying tension, too. Drug trafficking is of particular concern, but not everyone wants to talk about it.

It’s complicated

A mix of workers on temporary visas, permanent residents, and U.S. citizens with Mexican family members, residents of San Luis, Arizona, say it’s normal to have a foot on both sides of the border.

Among the Latino-majority population, residents quietly acknowledge that the deployment of the Arizona National Guard to the area — to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in monitoring illegal activity — isn’t the worst idea but has a caveat: “if it’s for narco-trafficking and trafficking of persons.”

“It’s good to end that because it’s dangerous for anyone here along the border,” said Candelario Vizcarra, a San Luis farmworker who lives in Mexico.

A mix of workers on temporary visas, permanent residents, and U.S. citizens with Mexican family members, residents of San Luis, Arizona, say it’s normal to have a foot on both sides of the border.
Desert from where migration is happening, VOA

“They don’t go and attack nobody,” added Greg, a U.S. citizen who works in sales. “It’s just to protect the borders, and I agree.”

Others with business ties in San Luis agreed with Greg, who didn’t want to share his last name with VOA. But they were careful not to voice their opinions out of concern they might appear to be anti-immigrant.

María Herrera, a minimum-wage farmworker, mother, and permanent resident in Arizona, agrees that drug trafficking is a problem and that it is affecting the town’s children, some as young as 12.

“They don’t have work, there is no work, there’s nothing,” Herrera said. “And their best option a lot of times is to go the easy route: rob, use drugs, or act as drug mules (carry drugs) across the border.”

Creating more well-paying jobs would be her suggestion. Absent that, Herrera is skeptical of the National Guard troops’ presence. She worries about the effect of a militarized border on the undocumented.

“Like all Latinos, we worry about what happens to other families like our own, because one way or another, many are family or relatives of some friend of ours that we have in common.

“In the worst cases, they’ll deport the father,” Herrera continued, “and the mother and kids remain here — protected by whom?”​

Common ground

In Calexico, California, 127 kilometers northwest of San Luis, across subtropical desert, a section of 9-meter bollard-style replacement fence towers over the palms and brush to its south. Border Patrol sector supervisor Jorge Rivera says he is grateful for the upgrade because of another issue: the safety of his agents.

“Criminal organizations come over and they attack us with rocks; they throw any type of object toward us to avoid us apprehending any type of illegal activity,” Rivera told VOA.

In fiscal 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol in the El Centro Sector of southern California reported 21 assaults against agents and seized more than 200 kilos of cocaine, 690 kilos of methamphetamine and 70,000 grams of heroin.

But unlike San Luis, some residents concerned about illegal immigration in El Centro bring up a line of reasoning more in tune with pro-Trump areas of the country, including the narrative that those crossing the border illegally are an economic burden on society.

At the U.S. port of entry, temporary farm workers leave their families and queue up daily before dawn to catch a bus to the fields, just outside town. Residents from Arizona join them.
Residents of Arizona are joining migration, VOA

“They are leeching our system, and I pay so much (in) taxes every month,” said Steve Andrade, who runs a security management company. “It … (makes me angry) that all my money goes to those people. … I get nothing out of it!”

Ironically, Andrade admits to once being homeless and an undocumented immigrant himself, crossing multiple times from Mexicali until he successfully evaded the U.S. Border Patrol and settled in California in the early 1980s.

He maintains the Mexican border town was different then.

“In my time, there was nothing, no opportunities … to even survive Mexicali,” Andrade said. “There were no shelters to help you or anything.”

Also Read: Foreign Journalists Quit as The Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia, Fired The Top Editor

Andrade makes his stance on the wall clear — “go for it!” — but others who claim illegal immigration is a danger have other ideas.

Bill DuBois, an El Centro-area resident and owner of a local firearms store, holds firm that “if one illegal crosser gets across, the border is not secure.” But unlike Andrade, the lifelong Californian doesn’t subscribe to the idea of a wall.

“The only way to solve the problem of illegal immigration is to make things better in the other people’s home countries,” DuBois said. (VOA)

 

Next Story

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Administration Described As The “Fourth Transformation” of Mexico

With growing signs of anti-migrant sentiment in Mexico, containing migration costs Lopez Obrador little in political terms, and is balanced by his push to grant work visas for migrants.

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Mexico
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves as he arrives for a meeting with dairy farmers in La Chona de Encarnacion de Diaz, Jalisco, Mexico, March 9, 2019. VOA

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s first 100 days in office have combined a compulsive shedding of presidential trappings with a dizzying array of policy initiatives, and a series of missteps haven’t dented his soaring approval ratings.

Lopez Obrador has answered more questions from the press, flown in more economy-class flights, posed for more selfies with admiring citizens and visited more genuinely risky areas with little or no security than several combined decades of his predecessors. He’s also surprised many by maintaining a cordial relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, helping contain Central American migrant caravans while resisting U.S. efforts to oust the leftist government of Venezuela.

High ratings, many initiatives

The folksy perennial candidate took office Dec. 1 and by the end of his first month, Lopez Obrador’s approval rating surpassed 80 percent. He has taken full advantage of that mandate to move quickly on many fronts — perhaps too many.

“Every week he announces at least one or two things,” said Ivonne Acuna Murillo, a professor of political science at the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City. “Sometimes the speed of the issues he is putting on the agenda is such that an issue they put out in the morning is displaced by another in the afternoon.”

FILE - Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador greets supporters in Mazatlan, Mexico, Sept. 16, 2018.
Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador greets supporters in Mazatlan, Mexico, Sept. 16, 2018. VOA

Before Lopez Obrador had even taken office he held a referendum on the partially constructed $13 billion Mexico City airport. He used the resulting vote as a green light to cancel a project he had campaigned against.

During his first month in office, Lopez Obrador launched a military assault on the country’s fuel theft gangs, dividing the security of Mexico’s critical pipelines and refineries between the army and the navy. The hastily planned offensive created gas shortages across the country, but somehow didn’t dampen his popularity.

This month, he overrode complaints by human rights campaigners and got the Congress and state legislatures to approve constitutional reforms creating a heavily militarized National Guard that he touts as the key to getting control of Mexico’s runaway violence.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, sits with an assistant as he travels in economy class aboard a commercial flight from Guadalajara to Mexico City, March 9, 2019.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, sits with an assistant as he travels in economy class aboard a commercial flight from Guadalajara to Mexico City, March 9, 2019. VOA

Daily press conference

A typical day starts with his 6 a.m. Cabinet meeting, focusing on security, where he gets the daily crime report. At 7 a.m., he steps on the dais at the centuries-old National Palace to start a free-wheeling, open-ended press conference that often goes for 1½ hours.

From there he might hold a meeting on the initiative of the day, and then around noon he flies off — tourist class, fielding hugs and taking selfies with fellow passengers — to some provincial city, where he’ll meet with local leaders, eat at some modest local cafeteria, then hold another open-air rally and take some more hugs. Then he’ll catch another tourist-class flight to Mexico City. (He says he gets to bed early).

The part of the day he most clearly enjoys? Pressing the flesh and handing out time-tested one-liners at rallies in provincial towns, essentially, the same thing he has been doing for the last 20 years on the campaign trail as a three-time presidential contender.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center right, poses for selfies with travelers as he arrives for his commercial flight to Mexico City, at the airport in Guadalajara, Mexico, March 9, 2019.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center right, poses for selfies with travelers as he arrives for his commercial flight to Mexico City, at the airport in Guadalajara, Mexico, March 9, 2019. VOA

No imperial presidency

“He is a bit messianic, meaning evangelical. He’s out there preaching all the time,” said Federico Estevez, a political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. “He’s Bernie Sanders with power.”

“I’m not sure if this a good governance model, but it’s an exceptionally good political one,” Estevez said.

It’s easy to lose sight of how different this all is, unless you’ve lived through decades of Mexico’s distant, imperial presidency, in which the president seldom appeared beyond orchestrated speeches, or as a motorcade of luxury vehicles speeded to the president’s personal airplane hangar for flights aboard the presidential jet to carefully guarded events.

Gone are the motorcades, gone is the jet, gone is the security, gone is the official presidential residence. You’re more likely to see Lopez Obrador buying himself a $1 styrofoam cup of coffee at a convenience store or eating beans at a roadside restaurant, than to see him rubbing elbows with foreign dignitaries.

Lopez Obrador rode a wave of popular discontent with corruption in Mexico, and has attracted a near-unquestioning devotion because of his own honest, rumpled style.

“The advantage that Andres Manuel has as leader is that he arrived with a backing that no president has had in Mexico,” said Benjamin Arditi, a political science professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Lopez Obrador has already had spats with NGOs, regulators, environmentalists, outside experts and ratings agencies. His campaign against crime and violence has yielded few results. He chafes at those who ask for feasibility or environmental impact studies for his pet projects.

Results less rosy

But hardly anyone notices.“There is a devotion, something almost religious,” said Jose Antonio Crespo, a political analyst at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Training. “It makes people believe only what he says, against everything that experts or ratings agencies or international organizations say. They don’t matter, it only matters what he says.”

At least two ratings agencies have downgraded their outlook on Mexico’s debt to ‘negative’ since he took office. His decisions, like the one to cancel the airport project, “don’t generate the slightest bit of confidence,” Crespo said, “and that is going to have a cost, is having a cost, in terms of capital leaving, or money not being invested.”

For Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s foreign policy boils down to simply non-intervention, and he leaves the field to his top diplomat, Marcelo Ebrard.

Migrants from Central America line up for food at an improvised shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Feb. 21, 2019.
Migrants from Central America line up for food at an improvised shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Feb. 21, 2019.

Remain in Mexico critics

But some critics say Mexico is doing Trump’s bidding by accepting the U.S. “remain in Mexico” program and by restricting the movement of caravans of Central American migrants.“Remain in Mexico” makes Central American asylum applicants await resolution of their cases from the Mexican side of the border.

“It is a U.S. policy that once again subordinates Mexico’s immigration policy,” said Oscar Misael Hernandez, an immigration researcher at the College of the Northern Border in Matamoros.

Others saw it as a pragmatic calculation that U.S. courts will soon put a halt to the program. Allowing it in the meantime helps U.S. relations and helped Mexico win a $10.6 billion U.S. commitment for regional development, meant to create jobs in Central America and southern Mexico so fewer people feel compelled to leave.

With growing signs of anti-migrant sentiment in Mexico, containing migration costs Lopez Obrador little in political terms, and is balanced by his push to grant work visas for migrants.

The new administration’s most widely criticized misstep was Lopez Obrador’s decision to ax funds for nonprofits working on issues ranging from promoting art and culture to providing domestic abuse shelters, arguing the “intermediaries” were too often used to siphon away government funds. Lopez Obrador wants to give the money directly to the people who needed it, but experts say that won’t work for complex social services like day care and shelters for battered women.

Mariana Banos, whose Fundacion Origen offers support services to women, often through partnerships with other organizations and local governments, said many groups will have to shut down because they depend entirely on government funding.

She scoffed at the corruption allegations and urged the government to reconsider.

“You have to work hand-in-hand, not create a divide, not stigmatize,” she said.

Despite the frictions there are lighter moments to “The 4-T,” a play on Lopez Obrador’s description of his administration as the “fourth transformation” of Mexico.

Also Read: Chinese Hacking Group Targets US Universities in Search of Military Secrets: Reports

Lopez Obrador sometimes laughs at his own jokes. He posts Facebook videos from roadside restaurants, with impromptu lectures on the health benefits of coconuts or local fruits. And Mexicans crack up at his frequent, folksy catch phrases like “Me canso ganso,” equivalent to “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”

Enterprising designers have come up with a web app that allows people to make resolutions and receive a text message from an AMLO-bot saying “Monica, you’ll lose weight this year, or I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” (VOA)