With U.S. deportations at a record high, the Mexican government is increasingly concerned that deportees with criminal records are contributing to border violence.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon caused somewhat of a media stir with some of his recent comments on U.S. immigration policy. Speaking at the Third International Forum on Migration and Peace on Thursday, the president lambasted the U.S. for its treatment of undocumented immigrants, saying that the U.S. “would not be the power that it is today without migration.” He also claimed that the recent wave of anti-immigrant legislation will likely take a hit on the U.S. economy, predicting that U.S. goods will become “worse in quality and more deficient than in other regions.”
Calderon reserved his strongest criticism, however, for the U.S. governments’ approach to deportation. According to him, the practice of bussing deportees over the border and releasing them fuels the violence in the north of the country, as some individuals with criminal records turn to a life of crime in the border towns where they are released.
Calderon claimed that between 60,000 and 70,000 migrants are sent to northern border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez every year. Among these, he said, “there are many who really are criminals, who have committed some crime and it is simply cheaper to leave them on the Mexican side of the border than to prosecute them, as [the U.S.] should, to see whether they are guilty or not.” The result, he added, is that they “quickly link up with criminal networks on the border.”
Although this is the first time that Calderon has come out so publicly on the matter, the accusation is not new. In fact, local and state officials on northern Mexico have complained for years about the practice of U.S. criminal deportations. Just last year the mayors of four different border cities in Mexico called on U.S. officials to stop deporting individuals with criminal records along the border. At the time, then-mayor of Ciudad Juarez Jose Reyes alleged that 28,000 of the 80,000 people deported to his city since 2007 had violated U.S. law. Of that number, according to him, 7,000 were convicted rapists and 2,000 were convicted murderers.
The issue is bound to become more prominent if current deportation trends continue. According to figures recently released by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), a record 396,906 individuals were deported from October 2010 through September of this year. Although the administration has claimed that 55 percent of those had felony or misdemeanor convictions, it is unclear how many of those were simply related to immigration violations. Still, as the administration maintains its emphasis on deporting criminals, the fears of local officials are not likely to be assuaged in the near future.
And these official concerns are not unfounded, as the phenomenon of deported criminals becoming involved in borderland criminal networks has been documented in the past. One example is Martin Estrada Luna, the individual who authorities say is responsible for killing at least 250 people in the northern state of Tamaulipas and burying them in a series of mass graves. According to the AP, Estrada became the leader of the local Zetas outfit just 18 months after he was deported.