Article - Office of College Advancement

Mexican diplomat slams border policy

By Angela Woodall, Staff writer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area: The Argus.

Fremont—The border crackdown on illegal immigration from Mexico is creating a black market in workers who are vulnerable to violence and exploitation, a high-ranking Mexican diplomat said Tuesday.

"We have a moral obligation to prevent unnecessary death and exploitation of hard-working people," Alfonso de Maria y Campos told an audience gathered at Ohlone College to hear the diplomat address U.S.-Mexico relations.

As Mexico's consul general to San Francisco, Campos represents Mexico and its citizens in the United States.

One of the most urgent challenges facing Mexico and the United States—which are major trade partners—is to protect their 3,000-mile-long border while keeping people and goods flowing, the Oxford-educated diplomat said.

"It is only by sharing responsibility that we can (achieve) what we both want: a legal, orderly and humane flow of people," he said.

Facing that challenge starts with the millions of illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States, said Campos, who was appointed in 2004 as consul general by Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Mexico doesn't promote illegal immigration—the country wants people to stay in Mexico and contribute to the economy, Campos said.

The country has taken steps to bolster its wages and education system—two major factors driving migration from Mexico, Campos said.

"But we have to address the people already here," he added.

Likening the current crackdowns being proposed inCongress to the ineffective Prohibition policy during the 1920s and early '30s, the diplomat called for the two countries to work for a comprehensive immigration reform, an effort that has stalled since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Part of what is keeping illegal immigrants here is that it is too hard to go home," Campos said.

"Migration needs to be circular" by allowing temporary workers to return home, he added.

Mexican workers fill jobs that others will not take and keep the economy competitive by lowering overhead costs, Campos said.

In California, for example, 99 percent of agriculture workers are of Mexican origin, Campos said, adding that the wine industry would collapse without their labor.

In addition, Mexico is the state's No. 1 trade partner, generating $159 billion and 200,000 jobs, by his figures.

"We must have security while allowing trade," he said, noting that there has never been a terrorist incident that originated south of the border. "Mexico is a partner."

Staff writer Angela Woodall covers Newark and Ohlone College. She can be reached at (510) 353-7004 or at awoodall@angnewspapers.com.

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