December 14, 2001

U.S.-Mexico Border Enforcement Policies Need Reform, Catholic Humanitarian Groups Assert

Baltimore - A report released by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) describes the impact of U.S. border enforcement, immigration and labor policies on migrants and residents in border communities. The report, Chaos on the U.S.-Mexico Border: A Report on Migrant Crossing Deaths, Immigrant Families and Subsistence-Level Laborers, addresses migrant crossing deaths, civil rights abuses, U.S.-funded enforcement activities outside the nation's territorial limits, and the exploitation of subsistence-level laborers. Sponsored in part by Catholic Relief Services, it is the fifth in a series on at-risk immigrants in the United States.

"This report highlights the urgent need for new immigration policy and comes at a time when we must balance national security concerns with our own heritage as a country of immigrants," said Erica Dahl-Bredine, Country Manager for CRS/Mexico.

Through multiple case studies, the report puts a human face on pressing immigration issues, telling, among others, the stories of Mexican migrants who have died while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border; ranchers whose lands abut the border and regularly find migrants near death; families divided for years by border and migration policies; and workers who lost their factory jobs following passage of the North American Free Trade Act of 1993.

Additionally, the report provides detailed policy recommendations, including a proposed legalization program for undocumented laborers. "[The legalization program] would put thousands of migrants and their families beyond the reach of many of the most punitive provisions of the 1996 Immigration Act ... [and] would strengthen the ability of low-wage laborers to organize and fight for higher wages and better working conditions," the report says.

The report calls for new ways of looking at migration/development policy between the U.S. and Mexico, with emphasis not only on respecting the needs and rights of migrants and border communities but also calling for a comprehensive approach to Mexican/U.S. migration, labor, and development needs. Likewise, the report mentions the significant impact of immigrant remittances on the Mexican economy and the need to address common labor and trade issues.

The report also recommends the U.S. support the economic development of Mexico, particularly in the communities that produce the most migrants to the United States. "The success of any immigration enforcement system," the report says, "will turn in large part on a reduction in migration `push factors,' like poverty in Mexico and the significant wage differential between the countries."

CLINIC, a legal support agency for 131 Catholic immigration programs nationwide, is a subsidiary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information about Catholic Relief Services and our programs around the world, visit our website at HTTP://www.catholicrelief.org

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