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Columnist: Immigrant rights community must react to Mexico migrant massacre

September 9, 2010 |  2:44 pm

Migrants coffins honduras massacre afp

The massacre in Mexico of 72 migrants bound for the U.S. should be met with outrage and introspection by immigrant-rights groups, but has so far been met mostly with silence, Hector Tobar argues in a Thursday column in The Times. The columnist writes that people in the immigrant-rights community readily protest anti-immigrant legislation in the United States but rarely address the root causes for illegal migration from Latin America.

The migrant massacre (which La Plaza has covered here, here, and here) was an "act of psychological warfare" by suspected members of the Zetas drug gang, the columnist writes, and it exposes multiple failures in immigration reform in the U.S., Mexico's drug war, and the lack of economic opportunity across the region. An excerpt:

Most of the country's leading immigrant rights groups haven't even bothered to issue a news release.

That doesn't surprise me. Generally speaking, the U.S. immigrant rights movement doesn't have much to say about the social and political conditions that lead so many to leave their native countries and place themselves at the mercy of an increasingly violent smuggling industry.

Indeed, the United Nations released a condemning statement just days after the migrant killings, but major immigrant-rights organizations in the United States apparently did not.

An Amnesty International report released in April says Central and South American migrants seeking to cross Mexico to reach the U.S. embark on "one of the most dangerous journeys in the world," as human smugglers and corrupt officials routinely expose migrants to abuse and violence, including the rape of female migrants. Those who survive the trek across Mexican territory then face the increasing risk of death along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexico's national human rights commission estimates that 20,000 migrants are kidnapped each year in the country, a startling figure. On Wednesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton likened violence tied to Mexican drug trafficking groups to a Colombian-style "insurgency," sparking rebukes in Mexico, authorities said they arrested seven gunmen suspected of participating in the Aug. 23 massacre in Tamaulipas state.

Tobar, an author and most recently an L.A. Times foreign correspondent in Mexico and Argentina, writes a regular column in the paper.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Coffins of victims of the Mexico migrant massacre return to Honduras. Credit: Agence France-Presse