January 27, 2006

Mexican migration investigator nominated for a Nobel peace prize

By Luis Alonso Pérez

The Mexican investigator Jorge Bustamante, an expert on Mexico – United States border issues, and a native of Tijuana, was recently nominated for a Nobel peace prize by members of the Mexican Congress, honoring more than thirty years of social research in this important subject, making him one of the most renowned experts and an important immigrant rights defender.

His interest in migration issues goes back to his years as a sociology doctorate student at Notre Dame. Bustamante chose migration as the main topic in his thesis investigation because he wanted to focus on Mexican social problems.

In the late 60’s Bustamante pretended to be an undocumented immigrant so he could work on the border region and investigate the migrant’s experience. For many months he worked in various agricultural fields in Texas, picking cotton, oranges and onions. His goal was to have a deep understanding of this reality.

Throughout his career Dr. Bustamante has carried out several investigation projects with diverse methods and approaches. He has published over 200 articles on migration and the border phenomenon in countries like Spain, France, Germany, Venezuela, Japan, Italy, United States and Mexico.

Bustamante directed the renowned border investigation center Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) since it was founded in 1982, until January 1998. His investigation results have served as a base for public programs like PAISANO, the BETA groups, and have helped counteract against popular misconceptions about migration from governments and societies on both sides of the border.

For Jorge Bustamante the main misconceptions government has about the undocumented population is that it affects the United States economy and society, but several studies have proved that is only a myth. The most recent investigation was done by the University of California Los Angeles and was published a few days ago. The results demonstrate the importance of the migrant’s work in the agricultural fields.

According to the investigator, the main threat for the Mexico-US immigration situation is the anti-immigrant ideologies predominating in the United States congress. For example the bill proposed by republican congressman James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin, in which he proposes a “criminalization against immigrants and allows cops to arrest and immediately expel (from the country) everyone who appears to be an undocumented alien, and that is criminalizing all of us who look Mexican just by the color of our skin.”

The most important thing Dr. Bustamante has learned throughout his career as a social investigator is understanding the factors that conform the migration phenomenon, like the workforce demand in the United States and it’s interaction with the factors that cause the offer in Mexico.

Jorge Bustamante is the only Mexican nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace prize. The award ceremony will be celebrated next December in the city of Oslo, Norway.

The investigator believes that winning this award won’t be easy, “it’s a long way to go because a lot of people usually compete for this award, but having my name nominated for this prestigious distinction is an award for me”.

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