1997 Bloomberg News
Mexico City, May 6 -- U.S. President Bill Clinton and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, taking up an issue that Clinton said "raises passion on both sides of the border,'' signed a declaration today aimed at combating illegal immigration and taking the sting out of a new U.S. immigration law.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service will work more closely with Mexico, under the agreement, to share information, spot phony identification and ensure that migrants' human rights are protected. Clinton also said he'd try to blunt some provisions in an immigration bill Latin Americans say could lead to massive deportations from the United States. "The administration of this law might prompt the virtual permanent break up of families. So I am working with Congress on it,'' Clinton said at a press conference with Zedillo today.
Clinton and Zedillo declined to give details about what the U.S. president would ask Congress to do. "It's such a terrifically emotional issue. The more I say about it, the more I might be endangering my chances to succeed,'' Clinton said.
Currently, more than 2.7 million Mexicans sneak across the border into the U.S. every year. Mexicans send home about $6 billion a year -- compared with the roughly $7 billion the country brings in a year in tourism and its $11.6 billion in annual oil exports.
Large-scale deportations of migrants could hit Mexican financial institutions that handle immigrants' shipments of money home for their business. Groupo Elektra SA offers customers ability to get the cash in 466 stores in 195 Mexican cities.
The nation's largest banking company, Groupo Financiero Banamex-Accival SA, recently sold bonds backed by receipts from its Los Angeles-based money transfer business. Rival Groupo Financiero Bancrecer SA recently opened a representative office in Chicago to better attend to Mexican-Americans in that city.
The current U.S. law makes it more difficult for economic and political refugees in the United States to be given asylum and later permanent residency. The law caps at 4,000 a year the number of "suspensions of deportation'' the U.S. Immigration Service can grant. Hardship for immigrants is no longer a criteria. That's fueled concerns in Latin America that the U.S. will begin deporting large numbers of people.
Clinton sought to quell that fear today. "No two countries are working on more important issues with direct effect on the lives of their people than Mexico and the United States,'' he said at his press conference with Zedillo. "We both see our border as a dynamic living space and we'll improve how we manage the border.''
Illegal immigration was a key campaign issue for Clinton in the 1996 election as voters from electoral rich border states like Texas and California demanded some action from Washington. U.S. Border Patrols beefed up security, installed sensors, and built 40 miles of 14-foot high fence to curb the flow.