Meeting Monday in Mexico City, President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador and President Felipe Calderón of Mexico promised to work closely to protect the human rights of migrants and combat organized crime in their countries.
In a joint press statement with President Funes after a private meeting at the presidential residence of Los Pinos, President Calderón said that Mexican and Salvadoran citizens travel north to the U.S. in conditions of secrecy that make them vulnerable to situations of violence and abuse “that worry and anger all of us, and that must be eliminated.” Both presidents also recalled that the last time Funes traveled to Mexico was in September 2010, following the killing of 72 migrants—among them 13 Salvadorans–in San Fernando in Mexico’s northeastern Tamaulipas state.
President Calderón said that, since that August massacre, Mexico had stepped up its efforts to protect the security and rights of migrants, including the recently approved Ley de Migración, which seeks to punish those who violate migrants’ rights, root out corruption among public authorities and decriminalize migrants’ status, granting them the possibility of a temporarily legal stay in Mexico.
Presidents Funes and Calderón also announced they will both attend this Wednesday’s meeting in Guatemala of the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA), a regional body. At the meeting, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also attend, they will put forth their plan for regional security—the first time in history that Central American states are proposing a common plan of action against security challenges. Funes emphasized that the battle to combat organized crime cannot be won by any single country, but rather, demands solidarity and coordination among multiple states.
According to new estimates, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States remained steady between 2009 and 2010, following a two-year period of decline that began in 2007. A study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center found that as of March 2010, there were approximately 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., compared with 11.1 million a year earlier and a peak of 12 million in 2007. Similarly, the number of undocumented immigrants in the nation’s workforce remained steady at 8 million in the 2009-2010 period, compared to 8.4 million in 2007. The decline was notable particularly in Colorado, Florida, New York, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.
Although the Pew report was not designed to answer why these changes occurred, Pew Hispanic Center director Paul Taylor said “common sense” suggests that the economic recession and slow recovery from it in the U.S., as well as tougher border enforcement, are contributing factors. Senior demographer and co-author of the report Jeffrey S. Passel told Reuters that, in the past, immigration inflows have been tied to the state of the U.S. economy, particularly in the case of Mexico. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico account for 58 percent of the total and appear to be a primary source of the decline.
Despite stricter border enforcement and record numbers of deportations under the Obama administration (392,000 in 2010), the report did not find that a large number of undocumented immigrants were leaving the country. This may yet again prove the failure behind state-by-state “attrition through enforcement,” a strategy in which states adopt tough, anti-immigration laws. Although the anti-immigrant SB 1070 law passed in Arizona in 2010 is currently on hold pending court appeals, at least 15 other states have proposed similar legislation in 2011.
The Pew analysis, which is based on U.S. census data, also reports that 350,000 children had at least one undocumented-immigrant parent in 2009. This represents about 8 percent of the newborn population and is on par with figures from 2008. Conservative lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures have proposed initiatives to deny automatic citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants, and in December 2010, a Senate filibuster blocked passage of the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would have provided children of undocumented immigrants permanent residency conditioned upon completion of two years of higher education or military service. Birthright citizenship is currently guaranteed by the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution.
Rather than focus on crafting real solutions to our broken immigration system, legislators have started the new year again playing politics. Last week, on the first day of Congress, Representative Steve King (IA) introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 (HR 140) as legislators from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina also unveiled their plans to introduce local measures to create state-by-state, two-tiered citizenship categories. Nine other states also intend to introduce similar bills this year. Neither of these proposals should be part of the answer to the
The King bill made it onto the list of the first 150 pieces of legislation to be introduced in the new session of the House of Representatives. What about the economy or jobs? Only four job-related bills (HR 72, HR 117, HR 132, and HR 133) were introduced before Mr. King’s bill and none have come close to gathering the 33 cosponsors that the King bill can already count on. Actually, each of these bills has zero to one cosponsor at the time of this post. Instead, 33 Members of Congress chose to focus part of their attention on a bill that would restrict citizenship to only those children with parents where one of whom is either: “a U.S. citizen or national; a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States; or an alien performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
Supporters of restricting citizenship cite the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” in the 14th Amendment—adopted in 1868 to allow former slaves to become