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Dear Editor:

I am not the one "singling out" Mexicans. Dr. Baer has, repeatedly, in his letters, which was what I was responding to. His concern seems to be only with Mexicans, and illegal immigrants at that. The thrust of my original response to him (and what Ms. Flowers was commenting on) was that in doing so, he treats would-be legal immigrants from other countries, which also have millions of poor people, and our own native poor, unjustly.

Ms. Flower's states that Mexicans do not enjoy any "privileges" beyond those of Europeans or other ethnic groups. This is open to debate. Our immigration policy, by emphasizing family reunification, favors recent immigrants, particularly those with large families. It de facto favors Mexican immigrants.

If Ms. Flowers cares to check the Statistical Abstract of the US, 2001, published by the US Census Bureau, she will find on pages 10-12, listings of immigrants by country. Mexico far and away is the largest single sending country of legal immigrants to the US. For 1998 alone (the latest date for which figures were given), Mexico accounted for 20 percent of legal immigrants to the US, or 131,600 of 660,500 immigrants from all countries. For the period 1991-96, Mexico accounted for 27 percent of all legal immigrants. Coincidental that this burst in immigration follows the 1986 amnesty, and comes about when these "legalized" immigrants would be able to sponsor other family members? In other words, those Mexicans Dr. Baer and Ms. Flowers see as disadvantaged actually have the greatest opportunties to enter the US through family reunification. (The employment-based visas account for about 140,000 entries; family reunification, several times that.)

I'm sure Ms. Flowers realizes that accurate figures on the number of illegal immigrants are impossible given the very nature of illegal immigration. The best guess the Census Bureau will admit to is 8 million illegal immigrants in the US, though others might say the figure is closer to 11 or even 13 million. I've seen guesses that Mexican immigration accounts for anywhere from 30-50 percent of illegal immigrants. The lower figure might be most reasonable, in that it's close to the percentage of legal immigrants. However, even two million illegal Mexican immigrants is still a number greater than the population of some US states. If Ms. Flowers and Dr. Baer truly believe that the number of illegal Mexican immigrants is so small, well, why then should the US government do anything to "regularize" their status. After all, we've had illegal Mexican immigrants for decades and never singled them out for favor. If they get caught up in today's heightened security, well, are we supposed to ignore their illegal status, because, after all, they're "hard-working Mexicans" and not "terrorists"? That, Ms. Flowers, is profiling, and discrimination.

As for the "diversity" programs and refugee programs--those admit relatively small numbers. There are something like 50,000 diversity visas for the entire world (Mexico is not included in this program precisely because it already accounts for so many immigrants). Political refugees to the US from everywhere in 1998 (the latest year for which the Abstract offers figures) were 54,645. Since 9/11, that figure has substantially decreased (according to press reports).

Ali Alexander