Mexican consul says immigrants wrongly excluded from debate
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mexican immigrants have been wrongly excluded from the immigration reform debate, and building more fences along the U.S.-Mexico border could exacerbate migration problems, said Ruben Beltran, Mexico’s consul general for Los Angeles.
During an interview Wednesday, Beltran blamed the exclusion in part on vocal anti-illegal immigration groups like the Minutemen, but argued most Americans don’t share their views. He also said Mexico’s position on immigration reform had been unfairly portrayed.
“Our position has been labeled as only rooting for a solution that involves the A-word,” or amnesty for undocumented immigrants, said Beltran. “Which frankly, I don’t find to be the case.”
The diplomat said a “true solution” to the immigration problem would include increased Mexican border security, foreign investment to create more jobs in Mexico and an expansion of guest-worker programs to allow Mexicans to work temporarily in the U.S.
With an estimated 3.5 million people of Mexican descent, Los Angeles County is home to America’s largest Mexican population, according to the U.S. Census.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would have combined enhanced border security with a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants, but it ultimately died because of a lack of consensus in the House of Representatives.
Earlier this month, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, which will add 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Beltran called the act a “fractured” response, saying it could ultimately cause more problems than it solves.
“Are we going to favor organized crime that is preying on immigrants?” said Beltran, expressing views similar to the Mexican government’s.
He added that making illegal border crossings more dangerous could also increase the number of people who die trying to navigate miles of hot, barren desert.
“And instead of having 300 deaths a year (in the desert), are we now going to have 600 deaths?” he asked.
Beltran said he hoped Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would “go deeper in his relationship with Mexico and Mexican immigrants.”
Schwarzenegger was criticized by Democratic opponent Phil Angelides earlier this month when the governor said it was difficult for Mexicans to assimilate because of the proximity to their home country. Schwarzenegger has talked about assimilation in the past.
Beltran called Schwarzenegger’s comment “unfortunate.”
“Sometimes he has not been able to express that sense of appreciation for the work of immigrants,” said Beltran. “Mexicans are very good at integrating themselves into society.”
Schwarzenegger is scheduled to travel to Mexico immediately after the Nov. 7 election.