Jorge Castaneda Blames U.S. for Migrant Massacre

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on September 2, 2010

"Immigration Reform or More Massacres."

That's the provocative headline of today's column in the Mexican daily Reforma by Jorge Castaneda, who as Mexico's foreign secretary from 2000 to 2003 pushed the Bush administration to pass "comprehensive immigration reform" legislation. He is now Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University.

Castaneda believes that unless the U.S. accepts the inevitability of large-scale migration of low-wage workers, it will be at fault for more slaughter like last week's horrific massacre of 72 illegal immigrants in the border state of Tamaulipas.

Castaneda's thesis is that the absence of legislation to provide not only sweeping legalization for illegal immigrants but also a steady source of low-wage workers for American employers led inevitably to the slaughter.

There is general agreement that the drug gang responsible for mowing down the migrants is one of many criminal organizations attracted to smuggling by the rising costs of the trade. There is also agreement that costs have risen because professional guides are increasingly necessary as the difficulty of making the journey has increased.

Castaneda does not directly credit the buildup of the Border Patrol. Ultimately, he believes, enforcement at the border is futile given the cheap-labor hunger of U.S. employers and the determination of desperate migrants. But he does acknowledge that in recent years "it has become much more difficult to enter the United States without papers..As the risk increases, the cost rises and the business becomes more juicy."

Castaneda likens the phenomenon to the rising profitability of smuggling illegal drugs, claiming that it breeds not only competition among criminal gangs but also corruption amongst officials on both sides of the border. "One way or another, the explication of the massacre...surely lies in this process," he writes. Then he assigns blame:

"Many are at fault. The sending countries incapable of providing work to their people. The Mexican authorities who have neglected the southern border and internal immigration for decades. But most of all the United States, which by refusing to adapt its laws to reality just changes that reality for the worse into horror."