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Mexico’s Immigration Hypocrisy

Late last month, a train derailed in southern Mexico killing at least five passengers. The train is part of a line that often serves to bring Central American migrants north into Mexico. While the United States has trouble defending—or simply chooses not to defend—its southern border against illegal immigrants, it is not the only country into which illegal immigrants flow. The irony is, however, that while the Mexican government has long chided the United States for supposed illiberalism toward illegal migrants, the Mexican government itself imposes a no-nonsense crackdown on those illegally in Mexico.

Central American complaints about treatment in Mexico have a long history. Beginning in 1974, the Mexican penalty for illegal entry into Mexico was up to two years in prison, and Mexican authorities did not hesitate to impose it. Repeat offenders could be slapped with a ten-year prison sentence. While Mexico’s 2011 Migration Law issued some basic protections, the Mexican government’s attitude toward its own illegal migrant population remains draconian compared to that of the United States.

It’s all well and good to talk about immigration reform: I’m all for expanding legal immigration for those who add positively to the American economy—there’s no reason why we can’t seek strategic advantage from immigration and take advantage of other countries’ brain drains—though it seems nonsensical to accommodate illegal immigration, and cases like this seem truly bizarre. It is even more bizarre to take counsel to liberalize immigration policies from a country which believes its own national interest is to do the opposite.


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