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Dear Editor:

At their recent meeting in Mexico, Presidents George W. Bush and Vincente Fox signed agreements on joint border control and to help stem Mexican immigration to the US by improving economic conditions in the poorer parts of Mexico. About half of Mexico’s population lives in poverty while the rest is divided between a 30% middle class and a 20% upper class. The middle class (who live much like our own middle class) and the upper class experience little difficulty in obtaining visas to come to the US for pleasure, business or education. For the poor in Mexico, however, it is complete despair as there is no legal way possible for them to come to this country to avail themselves of the job opportunities that are here.

Open borders between Mexico and the United States will never become a reality so long as the present poverty level in Mexico persists. Open borders with poverty as it exists now in Mexico would result in an uncontrollable exodus of workers from that country. As it is, it is estimated that some 250,000 undocumented workers have been finding their way past the border guards each year. There will be no virtual border interception possible so long as this poverty persists south of that border and the beacon of job opportunity shines so brightly to its north. More and stricter border surveillance will only result in higher EWI risks with more victims dying in the attempt to cross over while others will still make it.

What is needed is an adjustment in our immigration policy to permit unskilled workers from Mexico to legally enter the US to fill the jobs where they, these workers, are so sorely needed.

President Fox promised to cooperate in the patrol of the Mexican side of the border to help restrict both EWIs and to intercept drug smugglers and he is already making good on that promise. (Mexico has arrested several big drug dealers.) Mexico could further cooperate by documenting the potential applicants for a legal program of employment in the north, complete with background checks and providing an orderly way for the emigration of its unskilled laborers; and, for our part, we could assure the Mexican Government that its citizens would be properly treated while in our country.

Instead of EWI meaning entered without inspection, it would be interpreted as entered WITH inspection referring to fully documented workers with complete official background checks—a giant step in security control.

As for the undocumented Mexican workers who are already here in our country living an underground existence in the shadows, President Fox wants consideration of them. They provide the third largest source of Mexico’s income and are important to that country. We can help Mexico by bringing these undocumented workers out into the light for identification, to be screened (another big step in security control) and be given official recognition. These are the “willing employees” that President Bush wants to match with our “ willing employers”. For our security, we should know who they are and where they are. Mexicans number 58% of the total undocumented population in our country (Central Americans, another 20%). These total “shadow” workers at present provide over 620,000 of our construction laborers, about 10% of our restaurant workers, almost one fourth of all of our domestic help, and millions more in other job sectors (Pew Hispanic Center Report). In addition, 2.5 million (almost half) of our agricultural hands are undocumented immigrants.

How can a “willing” employer, say of a domestic or a restaurant worker, who wants to hire that “willing” employee legally, do so? He/she can’t. For example, at this time there is no legal way for 250,000 Americans to establish individual legal relationships with the 250,000 domestics now in their households. One person I know, who wanted to legally employ an undocumented caretaker for her father, was told that, even if it were possible, the DOL process could take five to seven years! A friend of mine, who owns a fast food chain franchise, told me that every time he advertises for “local” help he gets only the dregs of our society; that the only reliable employees are his undocumented ones.

Why must some few always insist on the exact letter of the law for those who have been here for years working hard and living good lives but who have entered this country EWI? Why the prejudice? Why the xenophobia? I don’t believe that Justice should be completely blind but rather that sometimes she should peek out from beneath her blindfold and show her humanity and compassion.

It is a certainty that 7.8 million undocumented workers now estimated to be in this country, of which 58% are Mexican, will never be mass deported. It is a physical impossibility. (I calculate that to deport the 3,000,000+ Mexicans alone, processing a thousand a day seven days a week, would necessitate the concerted effort of an huge work force, the expenditure of billions of dollars or more, and require 8 years to accomplish—and this without even considering those that in the meantime would still continue to filter in each year. The resulting political resentment in Mexico were such action attempted would be enormous.)

The poorest 20% of Mexico’s population receive only 4% of the national income and this does not satisfy their needs for nutrition, housing, clothing and health care. 51% of these poor families live in extreme poverty on less than US$6 a day. In their country one fourth of Mexican wage earners are paid less than US$2 a day and 17% earn less than US$1 a day. Is it any wonder that many risk their lives to come here for work? In Mexico, rapid population growth still outdistances new job creations. NAFTA provided needed new jobs and helped but the biggest beneficiaries of that program are the international investors. (Microsoft Encarta 2000)

President Bush agreed to help improve economic conditions in the poorer parts of Mexico. Improved economic conditions would lessen the immigration problem. President’s Bush’s agreement is not the first such compact made by our country to help Mexico. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed his Good Neighbor Policy calling for special cooperation in the Western Hemisphere with its expressed concern for human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. In 1961, John F. Kennedy suggested the Alliance for Progress that was supposed to raise living standards in the Latin countries.

Whatever happened to these programs? What will become of President Bush’s agreement? Will he keep it?

Richard E. Baer, D.V.M.

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