Central to the folklore of U.S. immigration are the stories that immigrants tell about their journeys north. If you ever talk to an immigrant from Central (and sometimes South) American, more than likely they will tell you that the hardest part of their journey is not crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, but passing illegally through Mexico.
There are many reasons for this–Mexico is a large country, there are bandits and federales along the way that can make illegal passage difficult (i.e., thievery or arrest)to impossible (i.e., being bribed or physically assault by an immigrant officer or the police).
Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón has announced a sweeping immigration reform package that will address the problems of people traveling through Mexico. Among the proposed reforms:
1) A “Safe Southern Border Program,” which will crack down on illegal crossers, violent gangs in the border zone and abuse of migrants by authorities throughout Mexico.
2) A guest worker program to allow Central Americans to work legally and temporarily in Mexico, especially along the southern border
3)Providing improvements to 48 detention centers in Mexico for apprehended undocumented immigrants. This change is being made in response to criticism that illegal Central American migrants are denied the same respect Mexico demands for its citizens in the United States.
4)Calderón also plans to encourage his Congress to make being undocumented a civil violation, rather than a crime.
All of these changes are significant; especially in the case of improving human rights treatment, they are long over due. However, it remains to be seen if any of these changes will influence the northward migration of men and women to the U.S. It appears that Calderón’s action is geared more toward encouraging the U.S. to take similar action about its undocumented immigrants.