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Monday, April 21, 2014

U.S. Envoy to Mexico Addresses Forum on Migrant Persons and Policies

Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne

(Transcript)

Thank you all for being here today [April 9].  It is a great honor to be part of an event that brings together so many individuals to advance such an important cause: protecting an extremely vulnerable population -- migrants.  I would like to give a special thanks to my co-panelists:

  • Senadora Marcela Torres Peimbert, Secretaria de la Comisión Anticorrupción y Participación Ciudadana del Senado de la República.
  • Doctor Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos.
  • Senadora Gabriela Cuevas Barrón, Presidenta de la Comisión de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado de la República.
  • Senadora Mariana Gómez del Campo Gurza, Presidenta de la Comisión de Relaciones Exteriores América Latina y el Caribe del Senado de la República.
  • Diputada Amalia Dolores García Medina, Presidenta de la Comisión de Asuntos Migratorios de la Cámara de Diputados.
  • Padre Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, Director del Albergue “Hermanos en el Camino”, Defensor de Derechos Humanos de las Personas Migrantes.
  • Licenciado Omar de la Torre de la Mora, Titular de la Unidad de Política Migratoria de la Secretaría de Gobernación.
  • Dr. Sergio Alcocer, Subsecretario de SRE.
  • Lic. Ardello Vargas Fosado, Comisionado del Instituto Nacional de Migración.

When we talk about migration, it often comes up as a political or economic issue.  But it is more than that.  It is a humanitarian issue.  It is a moral issue.  We have to see migrants as more than just numbers.  They could be parents, a spouse, or even children.    They are fellow humans and we owe it to them to help where we can.

The United States and the Republic of Mexico know that we share responsibility for the protection of migrants.  The main interaction we have on migrant issues focuses on our shared border.  Here, we are cooperating closely through our repatriation program and our coordinated police patrols along the border.

The safe repatriation of Mexican nationals from the United States to Mexico is of paramount concern to the United States, especially when children and families are involved.  As such, the United States has implemented policies with the Government of Mexico to ensure the safety of children and the unity of families during the repatriation process.  For example, the U.S. repatriates minors only during daylight hours, before 7:30 p.m., year-round.  In addition to minors who may be traveling alone, this consideration is extended to other persons who may have special needs or be at higher risk including elderly, women traveling alone, women who are pregnant or with children, and persons who may be mentally or medically incapacitated.  Additionally, the United States and Mexico have established the Interior Repatriation Initiative.  This initiative returns Mexican nationals closer to their place of residence or origin.  This provides for a safe, humane, and orderly return while preventing human smuggling and trafficking, providing physical safety, and promoting social and economic reintegration into Mexico.

The United States and Mexico have also worked closely together to coordinate police patrols along our shared border.  Since July 2013, the United States and Mexico have coordinated nearly 500 patrols along the border.  For example, in Piedras Negras, Coahuila these coordinated patrols have reduced or completely eliminated incidents of violence in the area of operation.  Civilians living in the areas being patrolled have commented positively on the patrols, indicating they feel safer now.  Joggers and other outdoor enthusiasts are returning to this area. The byproduct of less violence is a safer environment for migrant populations along the border.

Not only are we focused on undocumented migrants on the border, but last week our respective secretaries of labor signed an agreement that will promote several initiatives to help inform Mexican migrant workers in the United States about their labor rights under U.S. laws.  These programs will assist temporary workers who travel to the U.S. every year on H2 visas, and we are working very closely with the Government of Mexico to implement the agreement.

In addition to our strong cooperation with Mexican authorities, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, our nine consulates, and the Department of Homeland Security conducted a public messaging campaign last fall to advise the Mexican public and others in the country about the dangers associated with irregular immigration.  The campaign was in response to heightened attention to the immigration reform debate in the United States and a possible increase in the number of people attempting to immigrate. 

As part of this campaign, we distributed hundreds of DVDs, CDs, and posters, did several television and radio interviews, issued a press release including informational materials, and utilized our strong social media presence – all to warn migrants about the dangers of irregular immigration.

In the United States we are also working to help protect migrants by reforming our own laws, for example, through comprehensive immigration reform.  Addressing the problems in our current immigration system is a high priority for the Obama Administration. 

Sadly some employers in the United States abuse the system and employ immigrants without papers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. This situation is not good for the economy, the country, or the safety of migrant populations.

President Obama’s plan is to build a smart, effective immigration system that continues efforts to secure our borders and cracks down on employers who abuse the system.  It’s a plan that requires anyone who is undocumented to pay their taxes and a penalty, learn English, and undergo background checks.

Then, they can then be eligible to earn citizenship.  It requires every business and every worker to play by the same set of rules.  It is firm, but fair.  Most importantly though, if we can get our own internal laws and processes right, we can help protect migrants who are in search of nothing more than a better life.  We owe them that much.

I will close with a quote from President Obama.

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”

Thank you all for your attention.  I wish you success you in your important work.

——————————

Press release, U.S. Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne addresses “Migrant Person: Center of the Migration Policy” Forum, Apr. 9, 2014, Mexico City; Embassy of the United States

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