Mexico Wears Two Faces

By Miguel Perez

November 3, 2008 6 min read

At first, you think it must be some kind of sick joke. Someone must be trying to be funny by twisting a few things around and making it seem as if Mexico, the world's largest exporter of illegal immigrants, is vowing to arrest and deport anyone who enters that country illegally. You try to laugh, but it's not really that funny.

"Of course, it has to be a joke," you say to yourself. "Mexico is the country that is complaining constantly about the way the United States treats its illegal immigrants. It couldn't be doing exactly the same thing it so often criticizes. It couldn't be so hypocritical!"

But then you realize that this is no joke and that the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has taken hypocrisy to a new level.

Incredibly, Mexico cut a deal with the Cuban government last week and agreed to deport Cubans who enter Mexican territory illegally. From now on, Cubans reaching Mexico by sea or through Central America will be sent back to Havana.

There are many Americans who would love to see Mexico cut a similar deal with the United States, one that initiates the repatriation of millions of Mexicans currently living here illegally.

But Mexican officials wear two faces on the immigration issue. Instead of creating jobs and opportunities for their own people, what we see is the Mexican government lobbying for ways to make the United States adopt millions of their mostly unemployed citizens. And still they have the gall to say they will do to the Cubans exactly what they don't want the United States to do to the Mexicans.

Mind you, what the Mexicans are about to do to the Cubans is not as bad as what some Americans want to do to Mexican illegal immigrants in the United States; it's much worse!

That's because unlike the Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally, Cubans had to escape from a Communist dictatorship to win their freedom, and many would face reprisals upon being returned to the choking grip of the Fidel and Raul Castro regime.

That's also because unlike the Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally, most Cubans have no intention of staying in Mexico. Because their destination is the United States, their stay in Mexico is only transitory, and they don't compete for Mexican jobs or create a burden on Mexican society.

Thanks to an absurd U.S. policy started by the Clinton administration, Mexico has become the favorite route for Cubans trying to reach the United States. Under Clinton's "wet-foot/dry-foot" policy, Cubans intercepted at sea are sent home, while those who manage to step on U.S. soil are allowed to stay.

The policy dramatically reduced the number of Cuban boat people reaching the coast of Florida because most are intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and sent back to Havana. But it shifted the Cuban escape route to Mexico, where the coast is not as well-guarded and from where the Cubans then can cross the border into the United States.

While slightly more than 1,000 Cubans managed to evade the U.S. Coast Guard and step on Floridian soil last year, according to U.S. authorities, more than 11,000 entered the United States by going to Mexico and then seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

Unlike Mexicans and other Latin Americans, Cubans only have to step on U.S. soil and request political asylum to be allowed to remain here legally.

The policy is wrong. We should not be determining who deserves to stay in the United States based on who has the ability to evade the Coast Guard, but on the standard that always has been applied for granting political asylum. Regardless of how and where they arrive, Cuban immigrants should be allowed to stay only if they can prove they have well-founded fears of persecution upon returning to the Communist-controlled island.

Nevertheless, this special treatment given to Cubans who have managed to step on U.S. soil has created much resentment among Mexicans, who become illegal immigrants once they cross the border. Perhaps that is the reason for the Mexican crackdown on Cuban illegal immigrants. Or perhaps it has to do with President Calderon's shameless efforts to improve Mexico's relations with the Cuban dictatorship, which have been strained since 2002. That's when Calderon's predecessor, Vicente Fox, voted at the U.N. in favor of monitoring human rights violations in Cuba.

Mexico claims it made the new repatriation deal with Cuba because it needed to crack down on a network of human smugglers who have been stealing speedboats in Florida and using them to take Cubans to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula — at $5,000 to $10,000 per person.

"The U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba … complicates efforts to effectively combat criminal organizations that profit from the illegal trafficking of Cubans," noted a joint declaration by the governments of Mexico and Cuba.

It's true, and it is a problem. Human smuggling from Cuba has increased considerably. But what credibility can Mexico have on this issue? This is the country that wrote the book on human smuggling, the one that allows smugglers to run rampant along its border with the United States. Calling this a double standard would be an understatement. It's shameless!

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

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