Alarcon credits lack of Mexican resources for border tension

Macrina Cardenas Alarcon spoke Tuesday about the volatile U.S.-Mexico border.
Macrina Cardenas Alarcon spoke Tuesday about the volatile U.S.-Mexico border.

Seven million youth in Mexico do not get the opportunity to study or work, creating a far-reaching impact on the dynamics surrounding the United States-Mexico border.

In a talk titled “Edge of Reason: Border Dynamics and the Spread of Violence,” Macrina Cardenas Alarcon, former legislative coordinator for the Mexico Solidarity Network, addressed the current volatile borders situation and its contributing factors Tuesday. Alarcon, who gave her presentation in Spanish with a translator, has worked with deportees in Las Casas del Migrante, an organization that assists male migrants in the border during the past five years.

“We must come together to find a solution to this problem and the other problems that are prevalent in concentrated parts of Mexico,” Alarcon said.

Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, two major Mexican cities along the border, face problems related to the drug trade and crime, said Alarcon, a Tijuana native. For example, Tijuana has a population of 1.3 million, but 3.6 million cross through its border everyday.

Femicide, the deliberate killing of women, is one of the most significant crimes in Ciudad Juarez that results from confrontations between immigrants and border patrol. Between 1993 and 2010, 887 victims were registered in Ciudad Juarez alone, Alarcon noted. Justice for Our Daughters, made up of relatives of the affected women in Juarez, reported 187 women killed in 2011. A similar human rights organization, Return Our Daughters, reported 42 youth missing from 2008 to 2009.

The statistics from society and government conflict because there has been no further investigation of the hundreds of missing people cases, Alarcon said.

The community and the Mexican government have dissenting views on the border conflicts and the number of casualties due to the lack of investigations into many cases, Alarcon added.

High-ranking officials in the Mexican government’s immigration agency are not doing enough to find solutions to the border conflict, Alarcon noted. Given the persistent conflict, the incentive to migrate has diminished. Corruption among police officers makes it difficult to distinguish between trustworthy law enforcement and crooked cops, she added.

Alarcon explained the impact of the “maquiladoras,” which are businesses that assemble, manufacture and process or repair materials that undergo the manufacturing process in Mexico and are later re-exported for sale in the United States. At one point, about three million agriculture and railway male workers were hired to work in these “maquiladoras,” she said. Technically, “maquiladoras” were not legal under the Mexican constitution, but they played a significant economic role in Mexico as a whole in the past and continue to do so in Ciudad Juarez.

Alarcon also noted how the now-defunct Bracero Program may have contributed to tensions along the border. The program, which existed from 1942 to 1964, gave more than 4.5 million jobs to temporary workers. After the program ended, many of those workers came to the United States as illegal immigrants.

“I thought that [Alarcon] provided a good supplement to when a ‘maquiladora’ manager came to Duke to speak,” senior Stella Dee said.

In 1993, the U.S. attempted to seal the border while negotiating with Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Alarcon said. The agreement required Mexico to change its constitution so that it no longer allowed communal land ownership. The Mexican farmers could not compete with the larger American farmers, so the migration to the U.S. and the number of “maquiladora” workers grew.

New groups of people also began to migrate, including women and people of higher education. Unfortunately, Alarcon said, the number of deportations and people who died trying to cross the border grew as well. She cited five thousand people who have died trying to cross the border, adding that people who were brought to the United States as young children have been deported.

Mothers and children without documents are separated from their fathers and children born in the U.S., Alarcon said. She described one example of a girl who has a deep fear of deportation.

“The border is inside of her,” Alarcon said. “Even going to the market is scary.”

Violence that has resulted from immigration confrontations is widespread in Mexico, Alarcon noted. The violence is concentrated in certain cities, like Durango, Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi.

Drug cartels often buy their weapons from the United States, Alarcon said. For example, Los Zetas, one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico, was highly trained in the use of weapons in the U.S. before it became corrupt and orchestrated routine killings in Mexico.

Freshman Liliana Fiorenti said she liked that Alarcon related the border situation directly to the U.S.

“We have to discuss this problem,” Fiorenti said. “This is connected to the U.S.—it is not just Mexico’s problem.”

Family members of victims and organizations like Las Casas del Migrante and Familiares de los Desaparecidos are working to bring awareness to the problems and reconstruct the social fabric of Mexico.

Alarcon noted that people must come together as a community to try to find the solutions.


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