Skip to comments.Three years after Fox took office, Mexican migrants say return home safer, easier
Posted on 12/17/2003 7:57:25 AM PST by yonif
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico The holiday trip home for many Mexican migrants has gotten easier under President Vicente Fox. Instead of insisting on bribes, some police offer to guide caravans of migrant cars, and customs agents allow gifts that in the past were often confiscated.
Since taking office, Fox has made changing government officials' attitudes toward migrants one of his top priorities. He has focused on the annual return trip home before Christmas, a time when the majority of migrant families return to Mexico, clogging highways with pickup trucks and U.S. sedans overflowing with bicycles, television sets and computers.
Fox has tried to make sure the holiday exodus home is safer by strengthening the Paisano program, a 14-year-old federal plan to safeguard the return of migrants.
On Thursday, he is expected to make his annual trip to the border to greet returning Mexicans on the country's Day of the Migrant.
Paisano program director Florencia Martinez said 1 million migrants made the trek home last year during the holidays. Numbers for this year won't be available until late January, but Mexican customs officials say there is less traffic compared to previous years.
Many migrants, especially undocumented workers, are staying in the United States because illegal crossings have become harder and more dangerous under increased security measures. Most of the migrants crossing earlier this week were legal U.S. residents.
They include the Reyes family, traveling in a three-car caravan laden with gifts. Donato Reyes, one of 11 family members on the trip, says Fox's improvements have made a difference in his family's annual trek from West Virginia to the central state of Guanajuato.
"In the last three years, the changes have been visible," said Reyes, a construction worker driving a truck crammed with plastic bags stuffed with clothes. "Now, the services are much faster, and your complaints are tended to. You even have police officers asking to accompany you."
For the second year in a row, police here have organized migrants into caravans and guided them through the city to ensure they are not mistreated or robbed.
To discourage corruption at the border, Fox's government has posted more than 1,000 independent observers at major crossings, from the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico. If there are problems, migrants can call government hot lines to report harassment.
"We in the government know how hard life can be abroad, and that's why we have created the Paisano program, to protect the rights of our fellow citizens and give them our support when they return to Mexico," Fox said Saturday during his weekly national radio address.
Even so, some migrants say that police still prey upon them in central Mexico, beyond the focus of the Paisano program.
Fox reached out to Mexicans living in the United States during his presidential campaign and after taking office. He has strengthened Mexico's U.S. consul system, and often calls migrants "national heroes."
"He is the only person who has spoken for the undocumented migrants," said Cristina Reyes, a factory worker in West Virginia waiting to get a government importation permit for her family's van. "Maybe what he is promising is all lies, but at least he is talking about it."
Yet some complain that Fox's inability to achieve a migration accord with the United States means he has fallen short on his promise to be the president of all Mexicans, both at home and abroad.
"His term is almost over, and it's a shame he has achieved nothing," said Maria Mendiola, who works in a lumber factory in Georgia and was traveling with her husband and sister-in-law.
Mendiola, 37, and her husband crossed into the United States illegally. They plan to return north in a few weeks.
"He promised to create jobs here, but where are they?" Mendiola said. "For the undocumented, our president hasn't done much."
On the Net:
Paisano program: www.paisano.gob.mx
Ha! We wish.
They'll be back; Jorge needs his grass cut.
No --- he's just trying to make sure as many US dollars as possible are brought into Mexico. He doesn't care about any of these "migrants" past that. Look how much he's done for the families of the murdered girls and women along the border. Nothing at all --- because there were no dollars involved.