by Luis A. Miguel
The lives of men and women representing a myriad of backgrounds, occupations, and aspirations converge in Tijuana. The city’s diversity has imbued it with a cosmopolitan character and cultural-political centricity. Yet the human migration through the world’s second busiest border crossing also contributes to Tijuana’s condition and renown as dangerous and crime-ridden.
The violence and delinquency typical of any large city are aggravated by a steady influx of deported felons from across the border. As of February 2012, a local California Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office reported an average of 1,425 removals to Tijuana per week, with 60 percent of them criminal deportations. Daniel de la Rosa, Baja California’s public safety secretary, indicated that migrants are responsible for 10 percent of crime throughout the state.
Many of those who turn to felonious behavior are prompted by the difficulty of adjustment to their new environment given their general lack of resources and professional work skills. The Mexican government has taken certain steps to assist deported citizens in their social and vocational reorientation, including subsidizing bus rides to return them to their home towns. However, a large number of deportees are individuals with a criminal history in the US. They are disposed to illicit conduct, and on entering Mexico readily return themselves to the homicide, theft, drug trafficking, and sexual violence to which they devoted themselves north of the border.
The problem lies in the inadequate distinction between criminal and noncriminal aliens in the act of repatriation and in a lack of shared deportee profile information between the US and Mexico. Current US immigration policy establishes separate procedures for aliens who have committed aggressive felonies and places them under greater penalties as far as their eligibility for future legal status. But it does not provide for greater monitoring or punitive measures for these individuals once they have made it into Mexico. They are placed onto the streets of Tijuana and other border towns like any other migrant, and the authorities are left ignorant as to their criminal record and the potential threat they pose to the community.
Mexican authorities recognize the adverse effect this present process has on their cities’ safety and integrity. They have asked for more advanced notice—at least three days’ worth—before deportation of individuals with criminal records. They have also requested more complete personal information on these removed aliens. When many illegal immigrants fabricate identities it is not enough to merely submit names. Public safety administrators need detailed biometric information–pictures, fingerprints, eye color, height, and weight.
State and federal entities in Mexico are entitled in making these requests. It is natural for any country to demand correct and complete information regarding the people it admits into its borders. This expectation derives from the concern for the social health and public safety of one’s country. It is the principle that drives the United States’ own immigration policy. The US should assume a role of responsibility and leadership by respecting Mexican authorities’ requests and devising a fair, ethical policy of shared information.
In this case, opposition to such policy would only arise out of fiscal considerations. Record-sharing and information flow require financing. The funds could come from eliminating unnecessary spending in other areas of alien removal processes. By expanding expedited removal proceedings—as opposed lengthy and more expensive judicial proceedings—for noncriminal cases, and by establishing it as mandatory for those cases in which the alien in question has been convicted of an aggressive felony, money now extraneously diverted can be applied to improving cooperation and bilateral initiative between the United States and Mexico. The quality of our cities on both sides of the border will increase and this key relationship between nations will be strengthened.
Luis Antonio Miguel was born in Los Angeles, California. He spent his youth between the San Fernando Valley, North Georgia, and South Florida. He lived for two years in Baja California, Mexico while he served a mission for the Church of of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He currently works as a freelance writer, producing web content for businesses and scribbling on topics relating to politics, philosophy, and society.