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Mexicans angry about new U.S. immigration law


April 28, 1997
Web posted at: 12:24 a.m. EDT (0424 GMT)

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Demonstrations outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City are common since a new immigration law was approved by the U.S. late last year.

Mexicans have derided the law as racist and xenophobic, calling it the worst moment in bilateral relations this century.

U.S. Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner defended the law during her visit this week, calling it a tradeoff that allows the U.S. to protect the rights of legal immigrants. (68K/6 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

border crossing

The new law does not entail a massive deportation of the 5 million illegal immigrants already in the United States, as many Mexicans feared. But it does institute far stricter controls at the ports of entry, including an unprecedented proof of income requirement.

The new measures also allow U.S. border officials to subject immigrants to on-the-spot interviews and send home those who don't give the right answers.

International human rights group claim that the law denies the right of asylum and, in effect, imposes a death sentence on political refugees fleeing repression in Latin America.


They also believe the new legislation is unnecessarily tough on children.

Mexicans claim that they, legal or otherwise, provide the bulk of the U.S. farm labor force. They say they give a huge boost to the U.S. economy while working for wages that no U.S. worker would accept.

Meissner says that if there were more opportunity in Mexico, the flood of immigrants would stop. And so, by implication, would the complaints.

"The answer to illegal migration is jobs and economic development," she said.

While many Mexicans see the new U.S. policy as an insult, others see it as a challenge. With Mexico in deep recession, they say that no matter how high Uncle Sam builds his walls, they will climb them to escape poverty.

Correspondent Chris Kline contributed to this report.


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