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Mexicans skeptical of US immigration reform in wake of DC march

Sunday's march in Washington for immigration reform made front page news in Mexico, where many complain that the US focuses too much on Mexico's brutal drug war and not enough on immigration reform.

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Elusive reform

Immigration reform has eluded US politicians for years, dividing those who want migrants on a path to citizenship and those who call them law-breakers who must not be rewarded for having crossed illegally into the US.

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The rally Sunday came amid a new proposal floated by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D) of New York and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, last week. It includes a requirement for biometric Social Security cards to ensure that undocumented workers cannot get jobs. It also would strengthen border security, employment opportunities for temporary workers, and lay out a tough path for legalization for those already here.

In 2007, former President Bush supported a proposal that would have also established a path to citizenship, but it was widely criticized as an amnesty. The proposal failed.

Other priorities

Obama had promised to address immigration reform in his first year in office, but the healthcare debate and foreign policy issues such as Afghanistan have so far eclipsed the issue.

Immigrants’ rights activists and supporters have been frustrated by how little attention an overhaul has received. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) of Illinois was quoted as saying at the rally Sunday: "The wait is over. The time is now,” he said. "We're ready to turn our hope into victory."

Some Mexicans agree, though they say no reform will come soon, or easily. “The US will have to make a reform, the country each day is comprised more and more of Mexican migrants,” says José Luis Sandoval, a photographer in Mexico City. “Even if Obama does not want to do it, the country will have to.”

Still, Dan Lund, a pollster and president of The Mund Group in Mexico City, says that immigration reform, which he believes will be a priority, might not ultimately favor Mexico.

Those in the US who receive a path to citizenship become voters. "Fundamentally that is Mexico’s loss," says Mr. Lund "to not have anything to draw back the 8.5 million men and women of talent.”

A left-leaning legislator in Mexico, José Torres Robledo, said Sunday that Mexico should not just be a “mere spectator” as debate gets under way.

“We believe that [the government] shouldn’t fall into the excess of celebrating [too early], or standing by idly, since immigration reform will help prevent the deaths of about 700 Mexicans each year when they try to cross over to the United States,” he was quoted as saying in the local press.

“We believe that the proposal by Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham is an important step,” Mr. Torres said. “But we can’t count our chickens before they hatch, as [former President] Vicente Fox did, who celebrated a reform that never passed.”