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Migration & Refugees

Mexican Immigrants Help Sustain Two Economies – and Are Discarded

Ana Laura López, an activist for the rights of deportees, assists a group who have just landed at the Mexico City International Airport on one of three flights arriving each week with migrants deported from the United States. Credit: Julia Sclafani / IPS

Ana Laura López, an activist for the rights of deportees, assists a group who have just landed at the Mexico City International Airport on one of three flights arriving each week with migrants deported from the United States. Credit: Julia Sclafani / IPS

MEXICO CITY, Oct 19 2017 (IPS) - They work for years to bolster the economies of two countries. For one, the United States, they provide labour and taxes; for the other, Mexico, they send remittances that support tens of thousands of families and communities. Then they are deported, and neither government takes into account their special needs.

“These are the inconsistencies of the U.S system, which does not give you legal status, but it does give you a number to pay taxes every year,” migrant rights activist Ana Laura López told IPS.

She herself was deported in September 2016, after working for 16 years in Chicago, Illinois.

“Every two weeks they deducted retirement benefits, which remain in an account, on ‘stand by’, until you gain legal immigrant status – but that’s very hard to achieve,” she said.

"The policies of the United States now make it much more difficult to return, which means a lot of people are going to have to stay in Mexico, and that is a problem we are recognising: how the person is reintegrated into the labour market and the social fabric: these links have to be restored. These are immense challenges for society and institutions." -- Cristopher Gascón

“I was poor in Mexico, I did not have access to a visa, so I went illegally. I had just the first years of high school and I finished high school in the United States,” said 42-year-old López.

“I worked in the Mexican consulate, I was paid by a federal agency, and had a good income, I was living my ‘American dream’. I considered myself a citizen because I have a squeaky clean criminal record, but yet, I never achieved legal status. The worst crime is to be an immigrant.”

Lopez was deported on the same plane in which she was about to travel to Mexico, with a ticket she had bought. She intended to return temporarily and seek to regularise her immigration status. She believes she was deported because of her activism on behalf of migrants and workers in the United States.

In Mexico she has had to start from scratch, taking jobs where she earns eight times less than in the United States, with no social security, without a right to a pension,even though for 16 years she sent home to Mexico between 200 and 300 dollars a fortnight , as remittances to help support her family.

“Those resources that we sent to Mexico are lost because we do not have access to health or housing or to a retirement program, not even to credit. Immigration laws are terribly unjust and abusive of labour rights,” she maintains.

The U.S. government has two ways to expel undocumented immigrants: through “returns”, which are immediate removals when migrants are detained crossing the border; and “removals”, which require a judicial order of deportation and generate criminal records.

In those cases, the ban on returning to the United States ranges from 10 to 50 years.

The mass deportation of undocumented immigrants intensified during the Democratic administration of Barack Obama (2009-2017). Between 2009 and 2016, 5.2 million people were deported from the country, 65 percent of whom were Mexican, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In those same years, the “removals” surpassed the “returns”.

Since the January inauguration of Republican President Donald Trump, with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially focused on Mexicans, the crisis has gotten worse.

Although total deportations so far have not increased in relation with those of his predecessor, the number of detentions within the United States has.

Trump revived Section 287 (g) of the Immigration Act, after it was suspended by Obama, which empowers local and state police to enforce immigration law and to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

“This has driven up detentions…with the help of local and state police who have been trained as immigration agents,” said activist Luis Angel Gallegos, who works with deported migrants in the Popular Assembly of Migrant Families, an organisation that promotes reunions between separated families.

A kit with toiletries, a sandwich, a beverage and fruit received from the Mexican authorities by a deportee who just arrived to the Mexico City airport on a plane from the United States. Credit: Julia Sclafani / IPS

A kit with toiletries, a sandwich, a beverage and fruit received from the Mexican authorities by a deportee who just arrived to the Mexico City airport on a plane from the United States. Credit: Julia Sclafani / IPS

Most of the deported Mexicans are no longer considered productive because of their age, English is not their main language, their educational level is low, they work in the services sector, and their family (spouse and children) are in the United States.

The challenges posed by the deportations, Gallegos told IPS, have to do with their access to rights such as identification documents, employment, education, housing, health services and their reintegration into the country’s public life.

“This country continues implementing a policy of reception through the We Are Mexicans strategy and the Repatriation to the Interior of Mexico Programme (PRIM) rather than through an integration policy,” lamented the activist who considers these two instruments of the National Institute of Migration (INM) insufficient to address the problems faced by the deportees.

Support from the IOM

Cristopher Gascón, the representative of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) office in Mexico, agrees with the analysis of the challenges, although he is much more optimistic about the government programmes.

In fact, the IOM supports the We Are Mexicans programme and collaborates with the INM to “establish a not so formal environment, from a more neutral organisation” for the reception of migrants.

However, he explained, the deportees “are such a large group that the sheer numbers exceed the capacity of the country.”

“The policies of the United States now make it much more difficult to return, which means a lot of people are going to have to stay in Mexico, and that is a problem we are recognising: how the person is reintegrated into the labour market and the social fabric: these links have to be restored. These are immense challenges for society and institutions,” he said.

From the perspective of the IOM, the Mexican government should increase its budget and staff, as well as its capacity to address the needs of deportees and the impact on the Mexican population.

“The Consultative Council (of the INM) is a good place to begin to coordinate the organisations, but it has to be done in a more systematic way because the pressure is going to increase,” Gascon said.

Added to this phenomenon is the growing number of Central Americans, South Americans and migrants from other regions who are increasingly staying in Mexico, and decide not to continue on their way to the United States, and for whom there is no policy of reception and integration.

“This could be a major problem,” said the IOM representative.

Every day, 600 deportees

Currently, 600 people on average are returning to Mexico every day.

In Mexico City, three planes carrying migrant deportees land every week, arriving in a country that they often do not recognise anymore.

At the airport they receive a plastic bag with a sandwich, juice, fruit, toothpaste, a small bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap – a welcome package from the Mexican government.

Every Tuesday the group Deportees United in the Struggle, which was formed in January, is there to welcome them. In May, the group opened a screen-printing workshop in Mexico City to generate jobs for deportees and provide a place to receive and accommodate migrants. The group helps them contact family members and get information on paperwork such as unemployment insurance.

López, a member of that group, believes that the government programmes are not intended for workers returning after a long time away, nor to assist families that have been split up, such as in getting stable housing or in mechanisms for applying for passports for children who have been separated from their parents.

Something as simple as changing dollars for pesos is almost impossible if they do not have identity documents or if the only one they have is the deportation sheet. “If they are denied the most basic right, to an identity, because it seems that we lose our identity when we leave, all of their rights are denied,” she argued.

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  • jgarbuz

    In 1847 after a war won by the United States, a border was set down and a treaty signed between the US and Mexico, or between “Gringo land” and “Latino land.” The Hispanic culture and Spanish language are both very deep and respected, but we in the USA expect the fundamnetal Anglo_Saxon culture and English language to remain predominant and respected north of the border. Half the TV and radio channels today in large parts of the USA are Spanish language. Are half the TV and radio channels south of the border English language? How would Mexico and Mesoamerica react to 11 million English speaking caucasians sneaking in regardless of the economic benefit they might bring? Anglos did not settle in South America. Spaniards did. Go invade Spain if you have a grievance against Europeans. North America chooses not to be part of Latin America.

  • originalone

    This latest episode of the plight of undocumented workers here in the U.S.A. is sad in itself. That those from south of the border suffer this, isn’t anything new, as it has been going on for decades. We hear the cry’s from the citizens of the U.S., but not one word spoken to the business owners who employ, at cheaper wages then that which U.S.Citizens call a living wage. Yet the loudest voices to deport, come from those very citizens who wont take the jobs the illegals take. Why? In a simple word: “corruption”. Perhaps if those illegal immigrant status members were to pool the $$$$ sent back to their home countries instead and paid lobbyists, the situation wouldn’t be what it is today.

  • budhudnut

    There haven’t been any Anglo Saxons since the Dark Ages. Get over yourself. Culture changes. It’s always in flux. The English you speak today would have been unrecognisable to the Puritans who invaded New England. Not to mention your “culture”. Nobody’s trying to take you over. Latinos are just struggling to live and contribute. And by the way, learning Spanish is easy and fun. You make new friends, you lose some of your fears, and you can always reciprocate by helping them with their English. Language isn’t a barrier. It’s a meeting ground.

  • jgarbuz

    First of all, I’m Jewish not Angle or Saxon, and culture does not always change! And I was married to Argentinian who she and her family spoke Spanish all around me constantly. Also, as far back as the 1950s my family employed Puerto Ricans, Ecuadorians, Dominicans, Cubans and even Haitians in our tiny retail store over the years. But that was before half the radio and TV stations in New York were speaking Spanish. When we came to New York in 1949 there was exactly one Yiddish speaking radio channel and definitely none on TV, even thought NYC was over 1/3rd Jewish at that time, albeit many of the early TV comedians were Jews.
    I don’t want to learn Spanish; I want to forget it ,my ex wife, though my son through her speaks it fluently. Personally I prefer Italian. How come no Italian speaking radio or TV stations?
    I’ve helped plenty of them back in the day by giving them jobs. Now I’m poor and they are rich. I don’t need to help anyone but myself. And I want the Anglo_Saxon culture to be predominant in America, and not the Jewish culture, the Latino culture, Asian cultures, Arab or Muslim cultures, or anyone else’s culture. Leave your own language and culture at home, and outside be all-American, which means emulating Anglo_Saxon ways and English culture. At home be as you wish. As they used to say in the old Roman empire, “When in Rome, be as the Romans.” Once another culture predominates, the empire comes tumbling down. Each tribe, each nation to its own culture. Don’t export it to those who are really not interested.

  • budhudnut

    If you’re too afraid, worn out and bitter to live with other Americans, and you really want “English culture”, there’s a place for that. It’s called England. But like every place else on earth, it’s changing all the time, and there isn’t anything you can do about that. Why you need to impose your own limitations on everyone else in the form of something called “Anglo-Saxon ways” is the only question here. The rest of your rambling justifications are irrelevant.

  • jgarbuz

    You should come live in my building and I guarantee you would never say that again. Since 1949, when I was brought to this country from Germany, I have lived in 5 neighborhoods, and each one started off as mostly white and Jewish, and each one of them, including where I live today, became over 95% black, hispanic, and other non-whites, many new immigrants.
    I believe that in every country, the template should be the culture, language, and style of the majority. I have no idea why the US today is still letting in 1 million immigrants every year anyway.. When I was brought here Israel was on fire and we had no homeland in 1948 yet. I was ashamed when my mother spoke yiddish in the streets, but today immigrants babble loudly in their own languages with no evidence they might be offending natives.
    Why don’t these immigrants to go to Japan or China? Why are they leaving their homelands to crowd into America when they are not wanted and have their own homelands? I only hope Trump builds that Great Wall and melts down the Statue of Liberty to build it with. Americans have had enough. Go back where you belong!

  • jgarbuz

    “Worn out and bitter to live with other American???” Wherever I lived in New York, blacks, hispanics, islamics and others invade where we were living and took them over! Five neighborhoods since 1949! I’m the minority! Trump is right. The invasion has to be stopped and the invaders thrown out as unceremoniously as possible! They are savage invaders and belong in the sh*tholes they crawled out of.

  • budhudnut

    I don’t want to live in your building. Do you know why? Because you’re there.

    I was born in the United States. You are an immigrant. You are. An immigrant. My parents made it possible for you to come and live in our country. My family sacrificed on battlefields for your right to live among us, free of persecution. But you don’t respect that. You don’t respect America. You want to close off the country to people fleeing persecution and poverty, in the phony name of something that has no reality- Anglo-Saxon culture. I say get the hell out of America. If you don’t respect it, go somewhere else. You don’t belong in the United States. You don’t understand anything about us. Get out, you stinking racist.

  • jgarbuz

    Baloney. You’re lying through your teeth. You’re the racist. I’m a 100% sure of it. But no point in wasting more time with a liar. Maybe you’re an anchor baby and that’s all.

  • jgarbuz

    The people who don’t respect America are your ilk: invaders, anchor babies, and pretty much most who were allowed in here after 1965 by the liberals who wrecked America’s immigration laws. I came by boat and it took 7 days and grew up in the slums and housing projects of Brooklyn but never disparaged the American flag, never became a drug pusher or user. Some grow up in housing projects and use that as some excuse for their misdeeds. Liberals who grew up in lily white cul de sacs laud criminals and illegals to prove they aren’t “racists.” But they don’t live in “the hood.” Pure hypocrites to the core.

  • jgarbuz

    Come to my hood and I’ll show you what a racist I am, you PoS!

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