Mexico Should Enact Immigration Reform

Mexico should enact immigration reform
August 3, 2006
Dallas Morning News

MEXI-CO President Vicente Fox has spent much of his international political capital fighting the U.S. House bill passed last December that proposes felon status for illegal immigrants in the United States.

Too bad illegal immigrants in his own land – mostly Central American migrants on their way to the United States – are already treated as criminals. Under a 32-year-old Mexican law, people who have crossed into Mexico illegally can be penalized with two to five years in prison, although the punishment is rarely imposed.

Three legislators, all members of Fox's National Action Party, are working to change that. Jose Antonio de la Vega, Pablo Alejo Lopez and Sergio Penagos have proposed legislation that would eliminate prison sentences, reduce the current fines and shorten the detention period from three days to 36 hours. Legislators also are discussing doubling the prison time – currently at 12 years – for the human smugglers known as “coyotes.”

The legislation is good news. Even better news is that support for it crosses party lines. Mexico's Congress is expected to make it
law before its session ends in September, while our own legislators still will be debating what course to take on immigration reform.

The three Mexican legislators also are pushing to include a government pledge that illegal immigrants be treated with respect. According to recent findings of Mexico's Human Rights Commission, illegal immigrants often are crammed into overcrowded detention centers and holding facilities that lack working bathrooms, sleeping mats and blankets, food and medical care.

Not only is this pledge the right thing to do, but Fox's pleas to U.S. leaders would not ring as hollow if his country practiced what he preached. This big-picture thinking is almost certain to give Mexico greater credibility with the United States.

The Dallas Morning News