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Mexico Forges Ahead With New Migration Policy

Aired 10/23/13 on KPBS News.

The Mexican government is working on a new migration policy, and vowing to make problems associated with migration a national priority.

As immigration reform lags in the U.S. Congress, Mexico is working on a comprehensive plan for dealing with its migration problem. And it’s asking its citizens for input through a series of public forums.

Mexico has generally been considered a nation that sends immigrants abroad, mostly to the U.S, but its role has actually become much more complex.

Mexico is a major transit country for migrants from Central America and elsewhere who are headed to the U.S. In recent years, Mexico has also begun to receive hundreds of thousands of its citizens deported from the U.S. — and many with their American-born children.

“I would say within the last five years, there’s been a huge change in what is happening with migration in Mexico,” said René Zenteno, a demography professor at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

Zenteno spoke at Mexico’s first public forum on reforming migration policy, held in Tijuana.

For one thing, Zenteno said, Mexico needs to do a better job of protecting Central American immigrants crossing through the country from violent traffickers and corrupt law enforcement officials.

He also said Mexico and the U.S. need to talk seriously about the fate of children separated from their parents because of immigration policies.

Mexican nonprofit and faith-based organizations have long complained about bearing the brunt of responsibility for housing and feeding migrants in transit and for helping Mexicans recently deported from the U.S.

Rodulfo Figueroa, the director of Mexico’s National Migration Institute in Baja California, conceded that authorities have taken a backseat role in many areas of migration.

“There’s been somewhat of an absent federal government in some of these issues,” Figueroa said.

“We also understand that there are holes in the net. We’re trying to mend them,” he said.

The next public forum will be held in the border city of Reynosa at the end of the month.

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