A Mexican Border Patrol? Former U.S. Ambassador Is Skeptical

As we noted last week, former Mexican deputy foreign minister Andres Rozental says the problem of illegal immigration would be solved "if immigration reform functions and we get to the point where it becomes easy to legally cross the border to get a job."

Rozental, whose comment came at a Wilson Center discussion of the report of a binational commission on which he serves, supports "comprehensive immigration reform". CIR would — among other things — provide legal status for illegal immigrants and a guest worker program for future migrant flows.

Andres Rozental

Rozental was instrumental in shaping the task force's recommendation that Mexico respond to U.S. immigration reform by establishing its own border patrol.

As the task force put it, after reform is passed, "Mexico should actively prevent unauthorized northward migration by ensuring that people who leave the country to enter the United States do so at designated crossing points and with the required documents."

The feasibility of this recommendation needs to be examined. For while it is consistent with Mexican law, it is law that the Mexican government has ignored for years. Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, offered this explanation in his 2004 book, The U.S. and Mexico: The Bear and the Porcupine:

Leaving Mexico through the desert is unlawful. But no politician would try to punish such activity, nor even criticize it. Some might try to dissuade it, but none would attempt to prohibit it. On some level, Mexican public opinion regards migration to the United States as a fundamental right.

Davidow, who was Ambassador to Mexico from 1998 to 2002, was a member of the binational task force. On Monday, I called him to discuss the recommendation for a form of Mexican border patrol.

As usual, Davidow was candid: "I agree with that point", he said. Then he added, "I am skeptical, frankly, about their ability to comply with that, but it I think it's encouraging that some Mexicans have set it as a goal."

As we will see in my next blog post, the idea of a Mexican border patrol is more than a decade old. But it has always been a political hot potato.