Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another View of the Wall

One would think that a hastily drafted piece of legislation that was rammed through the House of Representatives shortly before Congress left for the holiday recess would receive scant attention in this country. James "Tex" Sensenbrenner's and Tom "Nuke Mecca" Tancredo's immigration bill did get a few headlines a day later, but the US press has been pretty silent on the bill since then. After all, the bill has little chance of passage in the Senate, especially in the bill's current state.

The foreign press, however, is still writing about it. That Mexico and Central America might be interested in the bill does make sense, since the bill is directed towards those nations' citizens. That said, that France would be covering the story at this point surprised me. Le Figaro has a story covering a diplomatic conference on the issue.

The defenders of the American Dream confront closure at the border. This is the message conveyed by the foreign ministers of Mexico, Central America, Columbia and the Dominican Republic, who met Monday in Mexico to respond together for the first time to the decision of the House of Representatives to build a steel wall along a third of U.S. southern border. In their closing statement, the representatives of these ten countries refrained from explicitly condemning the initiative, but they reaffirmed the right of emigrants not to be treated like criminals.

The United States, they added, must adopt a temporary worker program; regularize the situation of undocumented people already on its soil and guarantee the "full protection of migrants" and "compliance with labor laws." This 694-mile [1,116-kilometer] wall is part of a plan approved by the House of Representatives in December. The wall, along with other proposed anti-immigration measures such as the criminalization of undocumented visits, must win approval in the Senate to become reality. But just the possibility of their passage is enough to worry neighbors of the world's greatest power. Mexico, which shares a 1,988-mile [3,200-kilometer] border with the United States, would suffer the most from this wall: every year, 400,000 of its inhabitants illegally work and settle in the United States. The tiny countries of Central America, where money from emigrants is often the primary source of income, would also face great difficulties.

"The American government says it is Latin America’s partner, but apparently it is only interested in our money and our merchandise, considering our people to be an epidemic," said Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein before the meeting in Mexico.

According to Mexican Consulates in the United States, 441 undocumented people died between January and December 2005 while attempting to cross the border. Since 1993, the carnage has been 3,800 deaths, including an 18-year-old man killed on December 30 in Tijuana by American border guards - an incident which caused the Mexican media to compare this wall to another one, which was just as "shameful" and "murderous:" the Berlin Wall.
[Emphasis added]

The irony of the Sensenbrenner silly bill is that it was passed while the State Department and the White House continue to push CAFTA on the Central American nations. Many of those nations are struggling to meet the requirements in place to participate in the free trade program even as their citizens are now wondering why they should go along with the agreement, especially given the slap in the face the House bill just administered to them.

It's pretty hard to blame them for feeling used, abused, and discarded.

Way to go, Tex.


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