National Geographic is just about the last place I'd look for information about the illegal immigration crisis in our country. But the February issue of that prestigious magazine publishes a fascinating article about life along Mexico's southern border, and the callous methods the Mexican government employs to deal with illegal immigrants.
Every time I hear Mexican officials complain about how we allegedly mistreat illegals, I think of how they deal with "undocumented" people who sneak into their country from neighboring Guatemala and the rest of Central America. When I visited Mexico about two years ago their immigration officials were boasting about how many illegal aliens they had deported. Good for them, I thought, that's how all countries should handle the worldwide problem of illegal immigration.
National Geographic describes Mexico's problem this way: "For many immigrants heading north, the first dangerous crossing is not the one into the U.S. It's Southern Mexico, where the peril begins," writes magazine journalist Cynthia Gorney. "Sneaking into Mexico is as easy as rafting across the Suchiate River ... to Ciudad Hidalgo (Mexico). But on the other side migrants face ruthless bandits and officials demanding bribes."
Ms. Gorney reveals that more than 400,000 Central Americans attempt the illegal crossing into southern Mexico each year, and that at least 150,000 of them are bound for the U.S. "It's at the Southern Mexico border where the perils begin - the thugs, the drug runners, the extortionists in official uniforms, the police and migration agents who pack undocumented migrants into detention facilities before forcing them onto buses to be deported," writes Ms. Gorney. And Mexico complains about U.S. border enforcement.
Tapachula, a border city of 270,000, is a gateway for Central Americans bound for Mexico and/or the U.S., but illegal immigrants bring many problems with them. Ms. Gorney interviews a Mexican shop owner in Tapachula who opposes illegal immigration on grounds that Guatemalans are "too servile," Hondurans too "gang-inclined" and Salvadorans "too hotheaded."
"When Mexicans talk about undocumented migrants in their midst, they sound like Americans: Resentful, sympathetic, patronizing (and) perplexed," Ms. Gorney observes. Simply put, a double standard urges us to ignore illegal immigration while Mexico continues to dump illegals back across its southern border with Guatemala. While politicians and journalists use politically correct words like "undocumented workers" to describe illegals, Mexican officials don't worry about PC niceties or legal technicalities when they round up illegals and summarily deport them.
Here in the U.S. an illegal immigrant gets a hearing in federal court. In Mexico, an illegal often gets whacked upside the head before he or she is thrown into the river that marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala. If an American border patrol agent threw an illegal immigrant into the Rio Grande we'd never hear the end of it from Mexican officials and the ACLU, who'd be hollering about the alleged constitutional "rights" of immigrants. Again, a double standard prevails.
"Look, this (illegal border crossing) is a business," a Mexican university professor told National Geographic. He meant not only the daily business along the riverbank, but also the broader interactions between desperately poor immigrants "and the fierce economic pull from the north." That's why illicit border-crossers are willing to pay "coyotes" (human smugglers) between $5,000 and $7,000 to sneak them into Mexico, and on into the U.S.
"More sophisticated international operations charge several times that amount to smuggle migrants who have reached Central America by sea or by air," the magazine added, leaving open the possibility that some of those illegal immigrants come from the war-torn Middle East, where terrorism is a way of life. Consider that ominous possibility the next time a presidential candidate advocates amnesty disguised as "comprehensive immigration reform." No thanks!
As I've noted many times, thousands of illegal immigrants are involved in the drug trade as the tentacles of Mexican drug cartels reach all the way into Northern Nevada. My guess is that most of the suspects arrested in a huge Tri-Net drug bust in Carson last month were illegals, as were those gang bangers who took a shot at a local sheriff's deputy a couple of weeks ago. Our state prison system is already overburdened with illegal immigrant criminals, with more on the way.
The admirable efforts of the Carson City anti-meth coalition should include an immediate crackdown on illegals and gang activity. We should treat them the same way that Mexican authorities treat theirs - by deporting them right back to where they came from.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, served in Mexico and several other Latin American countries during his 28-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service.