Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category


Mexico: The Other Side of the Story

In Foreign Policy,Immigration,Latin America,Legislation,Mexico,Politics,U.S. Government on April 18, 2011 by ppuentec

Students and activists gather during a drug protest against Mexico’s drug violence in Mexico City on February 17. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

Every day we hear, read, and watch that hundreds of people are dying in Mexico due to the war on drugs. We also hear of complaints regarding the current Mexican administration and its law enforcement. What we don’t hear about in the news is what is causing the chaos and madness that is going on in America’s backyard.

Mexico has been the target of negative publicity, which continues every day whether it is regarding the war on drugs or the United States complaining about the immigration problem. What many people do not understand is that there are two sides to every story.

I. Immigration

Prior to 9/11 there were discussion of liberalizing the United States’ immigration policy under the Bush administration, but all discussions ended with 9/11. Once 9/11 happened, the focus of the war on terrorism was directed toward securing the borders, specifically the Mexican border. The focus was to keep terrorists from entering the United States through Canada and Mexico. Little effort has been devoted to the security of the Canadian border, however, despite the fact that just a few years ago at least one terrorist sought to enter the United States from the north.

One of the most disastrous projects was the border fence, which failed and has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. During this time, all the energy and negative publicity was focused on the U.S./Mexico border. Stricter enforcement policies and a dramatic increase in deportations and immigration raids have occurred.

Increased border enforcement on the southern border with Mexico obviously has had, and will continue to have, a disproportionate impact on Mexican citizens. Among other effects, enhanced border enforcement tends to exacerbate the problem of human trafficking of migrants – an industry that has grown substantially over the last decade – from Mexico.

There are false contentions that undocumented immigrants are a burden on American society, but it is the American corporations who exploit undocumented workers and who hire them. Law review articles have discussed that the United States does benefit from undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants purchase items, pay property taxes, have insurance, etc. Their contribution to our economy isn’t a large-scale number, but it is still in the millions.

We all agree that there needs to be some type of immigration reform, but not with the measures that Arizona has taken. Arizona’s stance with immigration is conflicted. The whole point of securing our borders was to prevent terrorists from coming in. As my Immigration Professor at Valparaiso said, Mexicans do not fall from the sky or appear mysteriously at the point of entry. When dealing with immigration it is important to note the intent and the history behind such measures. Arizona has failed to do this and our alienating our neighbors that we benefit from. The United States, specifically the border area, depends on the Mexican trade.

II. Mexico’s War on Drugs

In 2006, President Calderon declared a war on drugs. Since then there have been mass graves, dismembered corpses, and entire towns besieged. Rival gangs have escalated their turf battles over smuggling routes and thousands of lives have been lost. The drug criminals have expanded their shadow by intimidating police forces, using kidnapping and extortion, and trafficking migrants.

A Man digs the grave for a funeral of a Mexican policeman murdered in Juarez by members of a drug cartel (Nadav Neuhaus)

I read an article from the Huffington Post by former NLLSA Chair David Perez titled “Mexico’s Last Stand”, which talked about how Mexico’s time is running out because they are at the end of President Calderon’s term. What was interesting was that the article stated that Mexico cannot back out on the war on drugs. It is now or never. What the article failed to state was what the United States is doing to combat the demand of drugs and the supply of arms to Mexico.

People walk past symbolic chalk outlines during an April 6 march in Cuernavaca called out by poet Javier Sicillia after the death of his son, whose body was found along with six other dead inside a car a week ago in Cuernavaca. Nationwide protests against Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on drug cartels that has claimed more than 37,000 lives since late 2006 were planned all over Mexico and in cities as far as Bueno Aires, Paris, New York, and Barcelona. (Margarito Perez/Reuters)

What has been the cause of all this? Drugs. The United States demands them and Mexico supplies them. The same goes with weapons. Mexico receives its weapons from the United States. As long as the demand is there the supply will continue to meet this demand and lives will be lost. Back in March of 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington must do more to stop limit the movement of weapons into Mexico and to address the drug demand. Little has been done, however. Drugs continue to be smuggled in and the problem worsens.

Where is the United Nations and why aren’t they addressing the flagrant human rights violations due to the mass killings and political assassinations in Mexico? Where is the transitional justice? Countries with similar human rights violations such as South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone have received assistance from the United Nations. There are several different initiatives that countries have adopted as approaches to transitional justice: criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, amnesty, monetary compensation, symbolic compensation, and institutional reform. The mass murders and the political assassinations are violations of international law and the United Nations should have stepped in by now. On October 18, 2010, 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia became the police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, Mexico. She later fled to the United States to seek asylum because she feared for her life and the life of her child. Innocent people are dying in Mexico every day because of the war on drugs. The result: people are fleeing to the United States.

The United States government is ignoring what is going on in Mexico and should be focusing its efforts on the people who are demanding the drugs and supplying the weapons. Instead it is focusing on undocumented immigrants. As long as Mexico is continuing to destabilize, there will be more immigrants trying to enter the United States. The United States’ efforts should be toward helping Mexico combat the war on drugs and taking responsibility for the drug demand. “Ignoring the sending country as an explanatory variable yields a sad sort of policy solipsism.” Bernard Trujillo, Mexican Families & United States Immigration Reform, 38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 415 (2010).


Kevin R. Johnson and Bernard Trujillo, 9/11 Five Years On: A Look At the Global Response to Terrorism: Immigration Reform, National Security After September 11, and the Future of North American Integration, 91 Minn. L. Rev. 1369 (2007).

Bernard Trujillo, Mexican Families & United States Immigration Reform, 38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 415 (2010).


Priscilla Puente-Chacon is a second-year law student at Valparaiso University School of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Public Relations Director.



“Presunto Culpable”: A Film All Law Students Must See

In Latin America,Mexico,NLLSA on March 13, 2011 by Barbara Tagged: , , , ,

Imagine being picked up off the street after a long day of work by a group of men you’ve never seen before and being told “You did it,” over and over again. You have no idea what they are talking about and the next thing you know, you’re being tried for murder. Your lawyer is practicing law under falsified documents and you are eventually convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

This is the story of Toño, a Mexican man who was falsely accused of murder. He contacted two lawyers who had been conducting statistical research on criminal justice in Mexico after learning of their short film, El Tunel, to see if they could help him with his case. Over a two-and-a-half year period, these lawyers captured Toño’s story on film and the result was “Presunto Culpable,” or “Presumed Guilty.”

When I saw this film, I had no idea what the judicial system in Mexico was like or what happened when defendants were accused of a crime. I had never seen a Mexican courtroom, much less a trial, and was curious to compare this system with the U.S. criminal justice system.

I was shocked by what I saw. Defendants’ files, compiled by the prosecution, were placed in stacks several feet high in warehouses. The “courtroom” looked like a standard office building, and the defendant was not sitting next to his lawyer but stood behind bars in a small cell behind the judge. Defense attorneys could not ask questions about anything that was already in “the file.” The judge would repeat everything that was said by the parties, even though the court reporter was within earshot of all who were present. As a result, the record only included the judge’s words.

This film demonstrated the terrible odds that many criminal defendants face in Mexico, primarily because they live in a system where they are guilty until presumed innocent. Toño shared a cell with twenty other men, many of whom were accused of crimes they did not commit and most of whom were young adults. While Toño had a team of attorneys to assist him with his case, the vast majority of these men will serve their sentences without any chance of appeal.

It is important for all law students to see this film to know about the injustice happening in Mexico. It will forever change the way you think about a courtroom, how parties can present evidence, and what the judge’s role is in the process. You can hold a film screening at your law school. For example, La Alianza at Vanderbilt Law School, the Latin American law student association at Vanderbilt, is holding a screening on Wednesday, March 30. Screenings last fall were held at Berkeley and Harvard.

To learn more about Presunto Culpable, visit the film’s website (in Spanish) at

You can also view the film’s Facebook page and the PBS page that describes how the film was made. Until March 31, you can watch the film in its entirety.

Finally, you should read last week’s New York Times feature story on the film to get a sense of what has been going on recently. You’ll never think about the judicial system the same way again.


Barbara Barreno is a third-year student at Vanderbilt University Law School and Chair of the National Latina/o Law Student Association.


“Which Way Home”: An American Tail Review

In Immigration,Mexico,superheroes on February 28, 2011 by NLLSA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director

Of the thousands of migrants riding the “The Beast,” a Mexican freight train that runs north from Honduras and Guatemala, 5% are unaccompanied children.  “Which Way Home” chronicles the perilous journey of migrants heading for the U.S. from atop the “The Beast.”  In this documentary, Rebecca Cammisa points her camera at Kevin, a 13-year-old Central American boy, who is determined to immigrate to the U.S. for a better life.  Simply put, at 13, Kevin is willing to risk his life, leave his family, and hope that America will provide him an opportunity to make something of himself.  Today, in the U.S., the general feeling towards migrants is at the very least sour and malformed.  When we think of illegal immigration and the thousands pouring into our country each year, we seldom envision third and fourth grade children trying to make it alone.

At times the film captures Kevin’s painful realities, when he speaks of being robbed and beaten by Mexican police, grappling with the reality of seeing the gang-rape of a mother and daughter, and the eventual loss of his dream: detained in Texas.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 1986 “An American Tail,” animated film about Fievel and his family of immigrant mice, who naively believe they would find the streets of America paved with cheese.  When I was four, Fievel was my hero, he escaped from the army of cruel cats who destroyed his village, found his family in America and a happy ending followed, as the American dream should.

As an adult, the streets are stilled paved with cheese, but my hero, Kevin, isn’t animated.  His story is dictated by real events rather than happy endings.  The film has no happy ending, instead points to a solution: there are ways of alleviating the suffering and preventing the conditions seen in this film from continuing.

All and All a beautiful piece of cinema.


Lena Beery is a first-year student at the University of Maryland School of Law and NLLSA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Director.


The American DREAM

In Academic,DREAM Act,Immigration,Jobs,Latin America,Legislation,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,Supreme Court,U.S. Government on August 21, 2010 by nllsachair

From a recent article on the Huffington Post’s website written on behalf of NLLSA:

Given the increasing importance of a college education, it’s finally time for Congress to end this absurdity and pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (“DREAM Act”). The DREAM Act, a bipartisan proposal, would provide qualifying students the opportunity to go to college or enlist in the military. To qualify an immigrant must have lived continuously in the United States for five years or more, have good moral character, and either earn a two-year degree from an accredited college or serve at least two years in the U.S. military within a six-year span.

If passed, the DREAM Act would restore every student’s right to finish her studies and to continue dreaming.


Indeed, immigrant students who go to college later step into higher-paying jobs, increasing our tax revenue and consumer spending. This is a win-win for America: more education and more jobs.

Read the full piece here.


Don’t Call This a War on Drugs

In Academic,Foreign Policy,Immigration,Latin America,Mexico,Politics,U.S. Government on June 22, 2010 by nllsachair

From the Huffington Post:

What War is Mexico Fighting?

While Mexican President Felipe Calderon has received endless plaudits for his strong stance against drug cartels, the United States has been blamed for doing too little to curb the violence, even though it is the biggest market for drugs. As the violence enters its fourth year, many fault American drug users for providing the cash incentive for cartels, and the American gun market for providing the cartels’ firepower. The consensus is that the United States must reform its drug laws and tighten its gun laws for the violence to subside. In fact, Calderon himself recently took the U.S. to task, blaming America for his country’s woes. But Calderon’s much-vaunted crackdown has been terribly misunderstood by both sides… Read More »


The Magnificent Migrants

In Academic,Foreign Policy,Immigration,Jobs,Latin America,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,superheroes on June 1, 2010 by nllsachair

Superman: NOE REYES from the State of Puebla works as a delivery boy in Brooklyn New York. He sends home $500 a week.

Dulce Pinzón just published a great photo essay on where he pictures migrants from Mexico in superhero costumes.  Here’s his explanation:

I saw a Spiderman costume in a store in November 2001, and that’s when everything came together in my head. Comic-book superheroes have an alter ego, and so do immigrants in the United States. They may be insignificant or even invisible to much of society, but they are heroes in their homelands.

And here are some samples.  You can find the entire essay here.  Trust me, it’s definitely worth it. More images after the jump. Read More »


Arizona law: A tipping point for states?

In Elections,Immigration,Latin America,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,U.S. Government on May 11, 2010 by nllsachair

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that 10 more states are considering measures as strict or more than the Arizona law.

For instance, the a gubernatorial candidate in Colorado is running on a platform to “follow Arizona’s lead.”  The article goes on to say, that

Oklahoma is looking at passing tougher penalties for illegal immigrants caught with firearms. South Carolina might make it illegal to hire workers on the side of the road. In addition, state immigration legislation is also being considered in Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, and Colorado.

Looks like Arizona threw the first volley in what has become a national powder keg heading into the 2010 midterm elections.