The Situation Room, May 19, 2010
BLITZER: All right. Letâ€™s talk a little bit about Mexicoâ€™s laws. I read an article in â€?The Washington Timesâ€? the other day. Iâ€™m going to read a paragraph to you and you tell me if this is true or not true. This is from â€?The Washington Timesâ€?: â€?Under the Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Immigrants who are deported and attempt to reenter can be imprisoned for 10 years. Visa violators can be sentenced to six year terms. Mexicans who help illegal immigrants are considered criminals.â€?
Is that true?
CALDERON: It was true, but it is not anymore. We derogate or we erased that part of the law. Actually, the legal immigration is not a â€” is not a crime in Mexico. Not anymore, since one year ago. And that is the reason why we are trying to establish our own comprehensive public policy talking about, for instance, immigrants coming from Central Americaâ€¦ [â€¦]
BLITZER: So in other words, if somebody sneaks in from Nicaragua or some other country in Central America, through the southern border of Mexico, they wind up in Mexico, they can go get a jobâ€¦
CALDERON: No, no.
BLITZER: They can work.
CALDERON: If â€” if somebody do that without permission, we send back â€” we send back them.
BLITZER: You find them and you send them back?
CALDERON: Yes. However, especially with the people of Guatemala, we are providing a new system in which any single citizen from Guatemala could be able to visit any single border (INAUDIBLE) in the south. And even with all the requirements, he can or she can visit any parts of Mexico.
BLITZER: I ask the questions because thereâ€™s an argument that people in Arizona and New Mexico and â€” and Texas, they say theyâ€™re only trying to do in their states what Mexico itself does in the southern part of Mexico.
CALDERON: I know. And that is a very powerful argument. But that is one of the reasons why we are trying to change our policy.
And let me be frank, Wolf. In the past, Mexican authorities were in a â€” in a â€” in an unfortunate way in the treatment for immigrants. But now we are changing the policy. We changed already the law. And that is different today. We are trying to write a new story, talking about immigrants, especially coming from Central American countries.
So Mexico supposedly made its immigration laws more humane as a way to not appear a complete hypocrite in comparison with America.
It appears that the â€?reformsâ€? Calderon claims for Mexico are imaginary, according to a recent report:
Activists blast Mexicoâ€™s immigration law, USA Today, May 25, 2010So not much has changed in gentle Mexico.
TULTITLN, Mexico â€” Arizonaâ€™s new law forcing local police to take a greater role in enforcing immigration law has caused a lot of criticism from Mexico, the largest single source of illegal immigrants in the United States.
But in Mexico, illegal immigrants receive terrible treatment from corrupt Mexican authorities, say people involved in the system.
And Mexico has a law that is no different from Arizonaâ€™s that empowers local police to check the immigration documents of people suspected of not being in the country legally.
â€?There (in the United States), theyâ€™ll deport you,â€? Hector V??zquez, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, said as he rested in a makeshift camp with other migrants under a highway bridge in Tultitl??n. â€?In Mexico theyâ€™ll probably let you go, but theyâ€™ll beat you up and steal everything youâ€™ve got first.â€?
Mexican authorities have harshly criticized Arizonaâ€™s SB1070, a law that requires local police to check the status of persons suspected of being illegal immigrants. The law provides that a check be done in connection with another law enforcement event, such as a traffic stop, and also permits Arizona citizens to file lawsuits against local authorities for not fully enforcing immigration laws.
Mexicoâ€™s Foreign Ministry said the law â€?violates inalienable human rightsâ€? and Democrats in Congress applauded Mexican President Felipe Calder??nâ€™s criticisms of the law in a speech he gave on Capitol Hill last week.
Yet Mexicoâ€™s Arizona-style law requires local police to check IDs. And Mexican police freely engage in racial profiling and routinely harass Central American migrants, say immigration activists.
â€?The Mexican government should probably clean up its own house before looking at someone elseâ€™s,â€? said Melissa Vert?z, spokeswoman for the Fray Mat?as de C??rdova Human Rights Center in Tapachula, Mexico.
In one six-month period from September 2008 through February 2009, at least 9,758 migrants were kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico â€” 91 of them with the direct participation of Mexican police, a report by the National Human Rights Commission said. Other migrants are routinely stopped and shaken down for bribes, it said.
A separate survey conducted during one month in 2008 at 10 migrant shelters showed Mexican authorities were behind migrant attacks in 35 of 240 cases, or 15%.
Most migrants in Mexico are Central Americans who are simply passing through on their way to the United States, human rights groups say. Others are Guatemalans who live and work along Mexicoâ€™s southern border, mainly as farm workers, as maids, or in bars and restaurants.
The Central American migrants headed to the United States travel mainly on freight trains, stopping to rest and beg for food at rail crossings like the one in Tultitl??n, an industrial suburb of Mexico City.
On a recent afternoon, Victor Manuel Beltr??n Rodr?guez of Managua, Nicaragua, trudged between the cars at a stop light, his hand outstretched.
â€?Can you give me a peso? Iâ€™m from Nicaragua,â€? he said. Every 10 cars or so, a motorist would roll down the window and hand him a few coins. In a half-hour he had collected 10 pesos, about 80 U.S. cents, enough for a taco.
Beltr??n Rodr?guez had arrived in Mexico with 950 pesos, about $76, enough to last him to the U.S. border. But near Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, he says municipal police had detained him, driven him to a deserted road and taken his money. He had been surviving since then by begging.
Abuses by Mexican authorities have persisted even as Mexico has relaxed its rules against illegal immigrants in recent years, according to the National Human Rights Commission.
In 2008, Mexico softened the punishment for illegal immigrants, from a maximum 10 years in prison to a maximum fine of $461. Most detainees are taken to detention centers and put on buses for home.
Mexican law calls for six to 12 years of prison and up to $46,000 in fines for anyone who shelters or transports illegal immigrants. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the law applies only to people who do it for money.