Saturday, April 22, 2006

Flow of migrants unaffected by debate in U.S.

I know I deviate from education when I cover immigration, but at least in an indirect manner, it informs trends that will certain impact our educational system. -Angela

Flow of migrants unaffected by debate in U.S.
Immigration discussion has not yet produced rush from Central America to U.S.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Saturday, April 22, 2006

MEXICO CITY — When Victor, a 20-year-old Honduran migrant, struck out from his home a month ago for the United States, he had no clue that he was trying to cross the border in the midst of a roiling debate over illegal immigration.

Upon arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, he was heartened to see massive demonstrations of undocumented immigrants on the news. But he's been more focused on trying to cross the Rio Grande.

"I've been preoccupied," said Victor, who is staying at a shelter in the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and asked that his last name not be used. "I haven't been able to pay a lot of attention."

In Mexico, experts and observers say the immigration debate in the United States and potential reforms have not yet produced what many expected to be a rush of immigrants to the border. Instead they say, the availability of jobs and weather on the border continue to have more influence on decisions to migrate.

"The flow is continuing as normal," said Fray Carlos Amado, director of a shelter for migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, across the river from El Paso. "The discussion (on immigration reform) will have an impact when they cross, depending on how it goes, but it doesn't affect the decision they take. At least the people who are passing through here, many of them don't even know about this debate."

In Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, observers say the promise of immigration reform, or the threat of more border enforcement, has yet to have an impact.

"It's definitely not changing the migratory flow," said Rebeca Rodriguez of the Center for Border Studies and Promotion of Human Rights. "This is what we see day by day."

Although it's nearly impossible to gauge with certainty the number of migrants crossing the border illegally, U.S. Border Patrol arrests can give a rough clue.

For the fiscal year starting in October, apprehensions are up 7 percent along the southern border from last year. But for the first 16 days of April, during the height of street protests and congressional discussion in the United States, apprehensions fell about 14 percent compared with 2005, from 78,379 to 67,288.

A Border Patrol spokeswoman attributed the drop to safety campaigns in Mexico. The time period also coincided with the Christian Holy Week, which may have reduced the number of migrants leaving home.

Deborah Meyers, a researcher at the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute in Washington D.C., said it's too early to conclude whether the debate is having an effect on illegal immigration. People may wait to see how things shake out or they may accelerate their journey, hoping to qualify for amnesty or arrive before a new wall is built.

"But there's a strong argument to be made that illegal immigration has little to do with American policy," Meyers said. "It's the networks that drive migration: people here telling people at home about the reform or about a job."

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1 comment:

  1. I can’t say that I was surprised or had really any reaction to the fact that the flow of immigration along the borders has been unchanged. Part of me thought there might be a rush to try to enter the US while time permitted, but I did not think that people would be rushing out due to fear. What is disturbing to me is the change that we’ve seen on the “interior”. There have been numerous reports of immigration being on patrol throughout the southwest. In my own community, I’ve heard warnings of immigration being near, in la pulga, on the streets, and other areas that the Mexican community frequent. Even more disturbing is hearing stories of APD assisting immigration in their “capturing” of illegal immigrants. If citizens are being stopped in the streets and being asked to verify their citizenship merely because they look like an immigrant, we are no longer living in a free society. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that racial profiling is being allowed to be used as a way to monitor and manage illegal immigration flows. This is completely unconstitutional and quite frankly shameful and embarrassing to our country and the institutions that are allowing this. I think our greatest fear is around the corner when we will be helpless in our own country, our rights as citizens useless to us.