Mexicans unsure that their government can ease burden

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Carlos Zacarias Montoya is worried that he may have more mouths to feed when the new US immigration law goes into effect in May. Four of his five sons work in the United States illegally, and he doubts they will be able to stay. The new law makes it illegal for US employers to hire undocumented workers. ``Here the work is pure farming, and it's not enough to feed families,'' said the father of 10 who spent several years working in Texas, Illinois, California, and Indiana to earn enough money to build his brick home here.

``What is there to do here but rob?'' he asked. His home state of Michoac'an has little industry and thus few job opportunities. It also has a decades-old tradition of sending young men to the US to work.

Two young men have just returned here after being fired from jobs in Chicago, and they blame the new law. If it weren't for the new law, they would have gone back again in a few months, said Saul Vasquez. But he figures no one will hire him now.

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Mexican newspaper headlines are filled with dire predictions of what will happen when the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, also known as the Simpson-Rodino bill, goes on the books May 5. Many reports predict there will be more US border guards and that they will be more heavily armed. The papers usually refer to this as the ``militarization'' of the border.

Jos'e Lu'is P'erez Canchola, director of the Center of Information and Migratory Studies in Tijuana, said recently that violence along the border would continue to increase because of the Simpson-Rodino law. The violence ``could get worse in the coming days before the dark stormy clouds arrive when the [US] authorities begin to construct canals to control undocumented workers.''

While the new law does ask for more money for additional equipment and agents for US border patrols, it does not mention canals. It also does not mention that the law's financial provisions are still waiting to be passed by the US Congress's appropriations committees.

Officials along the Mexican side of the border have given wildly varying estimates of the number of ``mass deportations'' that will occur. The National Industrial Chamber of Commerce has said Mexico's industry cannot absorb the 3 million workers it predicts will be deported from the US.

Despite the pyschological fears the new law has generated among Mexicans, immigration experts say no one knows what the law will mean ultimately.

``Very few people know what Simpson-Rodino is all about,'' Manuel Garc'ia y Griego, an immigration expert at El Colegio de M'ejico in Mexico City, says.

There has been one concrete effect of the impending law. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service has reported that arrests along the border have fallen by an average of 39 percent. Mr. Garc'ia y Griego attributes this to people like Mr. Vasquez who aren't even trying to cross anymore.

Mr. Zacarias Montoya asked the question that many others in Mexico are beginning to ask. ``What is the [Mexican] government going to do - that's what I want to know?''

Local union leader Solomon Casinero Barrera said government money invested in irrigation in the area would create employment but ``there's no sign anyone in Mexico [City] is doing anything.''

The government announced in March first concrete measure to deal with what President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado has admitted may be a problem that ``will become a serious element in the development of Mexico.''

Undersecretary of Labor Emilio Lozoya Thalmann said a government commission would be established to coordinate plans for returning workers. The commission will devise and implement a plan to channel workers into expanding sectors of the Mexican economy where labor shortages exist.

Mr. Lozoya cited two sectors which could absorb returning laborers: the automotive industry and the in-bond manufacturing plants, called maquiladoras, near the US-Mexican border which assemble goods with US- and Mexican-made parts for reexport to the US.

The commission is also to provide education for such workers. In March, the Foreign Ministry called its consuls in the US home to advise them to take an active role in providing advice to illegals trying to cope with the new law.

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