Hurricane Karl and the Mexican State of Veracruz

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on September 21, 2010

The lead story on last night's newscast on Univision, the Spanish-language TV network, reported on Hurricane Karl's devastation of widespread coastal areas of the Mexican state of Veracruz, whose northern border is just 250 miles south of Texas.

Reporter Edgar Munoz narrated scenes reminiscent of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina five years ago. Aerial shots showed entire communities under water. Families sat atop roofs waiting for aid.

"The people are desperate," said Munoz. "They are hungry. They are thirsty."

Veracruz is one of several Mexican states where emigration has boomed since the 1990s, providing new headwaters for the river of Mexican migration that long drew primarily from such west-central states as Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Michoacan.

In 2003, when I was a reporter, I wrote of the migration of Veracruzanos to Indiana. I related the story of one immigrant who moved first to Lafayette, where he found work welding tractor trailers, then to Columbus, where he worked in an auto parts factory: "When jobs were plentiful, he sent word home to Veracruz, which until then rarely sent people to the United States," the story noted. "Before long, other Veracruzanos were streaming north from the hardscrabble farming settlements around Palma Sola, near the Gulf of Mexico." I quoted a Mexican-American woman who worked with the immigrants in Columbus and described how the man created a network:

"He brought his relatives and friends here. He brought whole villages."

Hurricane Karl will undoubtedly push more of Veracruz's people northward, just as Hurricane Mitch in 1998 prompted a mass exodus of Hondurans and Nicaraguans. The U.S. granted many of them Temporary Protected Status, a provision that allowed them to stay here for 18 months. It was officially intended as a temporary grace period to allow them to earn money and help repair the damage back home.

But TPS has become effectively permanent, for them and for many other Central Americans who have received renewals every 18 months. Haitians received TPS this year, in the aftermath of a horrific earthquake.

TPS has never been extended to Mexicans. But some advocates of illegal immigrants are calling on the U.S. to take that step.