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New deportation policy raises some concerns

T here’s been a change in U.S. deportation pol-

icy for illegal immigrants from Mexico —

instead of dropping undocumented persons off at the border, the United States and Mexico have tentatively agreed to return them to their hometowns. Although U.S. officials like the idea, it does raise concerns.

Last month, the United States and Mexico announced accords on illegal immigration and border security issues. The announcement came from Mexican Interior Secretary Santiago Creel and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who was ending a two-day visit to Mexico, the Associated Press reported.

The Dallas Morning News reported the two countries must still work out whether the repatriation to hometowns will be voluntary and whether it will involve U.S. chartered planes or Mexican buses.

In addition to the repatriation policy, the two countries agreed to cooperate more to catch immigrant smuggling organizations. It’s vital that the United States remains able to control who enters this country, and this collaboration with Mexico is encouraging.

We’re also glad to see high-level cooperation between Washington and Mexico City when it comes to those who smuggle immigrants. Both nations should do their utmost to stop coyotes who prey on people attempting to find a better life in this country.

The callous actions of these immigrant smugglers have led to tragedies such as the deaths last year of 18 people in a trailer that had been packed with 100 undocumented immigrants. Those immigrants had come through South Texas, meeting up at a safe house in Harlingen for the trip that ended in Victoria.

Although the crackdown on immigrant smugglers is for humanitarian reasons as well as legal concerns, U.S. policy toward the immigrants themselves sometimes seems to lack compassion. That’s why the question of where the United States deports those who enter this country illegally raises concerns.

Current procedure calls for deporting illegal immigrants across the border, usually at the official border crossing closest to where they were caught. However, last summer the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection tried a “lateral repatriation program” in which officials flew illegal immigrants caught in Arizona all the way to Texas, where they were deported hundreds of miles from where they entered this country. This program was costly — more than $1.2 million for the chartered flights alone — and unnecessarily cruel. It placed often-destitute deportees hundreds of miles away from where they had entered this country.

Repatriating undocumented individuals to their places of origin sounds more humane. However, Mexico had previously opposed deporting illegal immigrants to their homes because that might be against the immigrants’ will. Although giving undocumented aliens a free ride home — where they won’t be at the mercy of unscrupulous smuggling operations — is more compassionate, it would be more expensive to the U.S. government than just shipping violators back across the border.

American taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to send illegal immigrants to the interior of Mexico. The lateral repatriation program was wrong because it was an unwise use of tax money, as well as vindictive. Repatriation to places of origin might not be cruel, but it certainly will be expensive.

Besides, the United States can fine-tune this policy all it wants, but until the nation enacts real immigration reform, such as President Bush’s current proposal or similar legislation in Congress, it won’t stop the flow of illegal immigration.

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