Mexican immigrants deserve a fair policy |

Mexican immigrants deserve a fair policy

Mexicans come to the United States as “economic exiles,” running from a country that has little industry, a depressed agricultural market and few professional opportunities.Of the estimated 100 million Mexicans, 3.5 million are living in the United States as undocumented workers.They come here under extremely dangerous and sometimes deadly circumstances, crossing the border desert and often paying smugglers thousands of dollars. These coyotes pack workers in vans and trucks and drive them across the country as if they were firewood.Thousands have landed in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties, where they jam into substandard housing and work one or two jobs.They have few rights and no protections from unscrupulous employers, who threaten to report them to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service when they complain. Fair employers who depend heavily on migrant workers also suffer from high turnover among a workforce that must live in the shadows.Our community pays as well. Schools, social service agencies, health care providers and law enforcement struggle to keep up with the influx of Spanish-speaking children, needy families, migrants who don’t understand U.S. laws, and worst of all, drug traffickers.It’s easy for Americans to put down recent immigrants.But it’s very important to remember that nearly all of us are descended from immigrants. The big difference is that the ancestors of most longtime Americans came here when the U.S. was welcoming migrants. Many had to learn a new language and lived a scrappy life for the first generation or two. But they were legal from the start.Today’s Mexican immigrants, and those from other Latin American countries, are not so lucky. It’s very difficult to obtain the documents that make it legal to work, drive and bank in this country.To that end, Mexican President Vicente Fox is seeking an agreement with President Bush to make migration from Mexico to the United States legal, orderly and safe.The agreement was derailed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when officials feared that a more open Mexican border would give terrorists easy entry into the U.S.But law-abiding workers would comply with a legalized system of migration. Those who avoid it would be likely criminal suspects. The trick is to craft a policy that prevents Mexico from serving as a terrorist conduit.And this week, Mexico’s Consul General, Leticia Calzada, visited Glenwood Springs to, among other things, promote the policy.The proposed agreement would:-Give Mexican migrants now in the United States the opportunity to obtain legal status.-Open legal channels for future Mexican migrants to move to and work in the United States.-Establish a temporary work-visa system so Mexican workers can come and go.-Crack down on criminal migrant smugglers.-Invest in Mexico’s economic growth so more Mexicans can make a good living at home.Calzada urged business and community leaders to support the policy and called on the state’s elected officials and congressional delegation to push for its approval.She is right on the money.Without an open policy, the United States is forcing millions of migrants to live shadowy, depressing and fearful lives. Lack of such a policy hasn’t prevented them from coming here, but it forces them to live and work in circumstances that are worse than poverty.We believe 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis and U.S. Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard should work closely with President Bush on a revised immigration policy with Mexico.

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