The Working Group on Migration and Consular Affairs of the U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission held a meeting in Oaxaca, state of Oaxaca, Mexico, on September 8 and 9, 1999.
The United States delegation was headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary A. Ryan, Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner, and the U.S. Embassy´s Chargé dAffairs James Derham. The Mexican delegation was presided by Juan Rebolledo, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs; José Angel Pescador, Undersecretary of Population and Migration Services, Jesús Reyes-Heroles, Mexico´s Ambassador to the United States, and Alejandro Carrillo-Castro, Commissioner of the National Migration Institute.
The delegations reviewed the actions undertaken by the Group since its meeting in Zacatecas, Mexico in February 1995, to identify the progress accomplished and review the future challenges in the bilateral agenda on migration. Special interest was placed in their actions to comply with the commitments made by Presidents Clinton and Zedillo in May 1997 in the Joint Presidential Statement on Migration which outlined a shared vision for the U.S.-Mexico border. The heads of delegation underscored that the intensity, regularity and openness of the bilateral dialogue on migration issues since 1995, as well as its achievements had no precedent in the history of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. An excellent example of the concrete improvements resulting from the dialogue is the openning, on the eve of the Oaxaca meeting, of a new, automated commuter lane for legal crossings and commerce for the communities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
The discussion recognized the mutual benefits derived from the Safe and Orderly Repatriations program, started in 1996 with the signing of "local arrangements" throughout the common border. These arrangements have allowed the repatriation of Mexican nationals to be conducted in a more safe and orderly manner, through predetermined border crossing points during specified hours, and in the presence of Mexican immigration authorities; thus, guaranteeing the protection of migrants' human rights and physical well-being, while preserving family units. Following the commitments accepted by both countries in the Memorandum of Understanding for the Protection of Nationals of Mexico and the United States (May 1996) and the Memorandum of Understanding on INS Functions and Consular Protection (June 1998), the heads of delegation agreed to review the methods of returning Mexican nationals from the interior of the United States to the border with the goal of ensuring our commitment to consular protection and access throughout the process.
To facilitate consular access to Mexican detainees in INS custody and speed up the return process, both delegations agreed to identify by the end of 1999 videoconference capabilities and other technologies that can assist in linking INS detention centers with Mexican consulates throughout the United States.
Additionally, and in compliance with the bilateral commitments included in the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation against Border Violence (Mérida, February 1999), they agreed to institute national guidelines to re-enforce existing relationships between U.S. Attorneys and Mexican consuls along the border by the end of 1999. These guidelines will include proper follow-up of incidents of violence against migrants and officers throughout the border region. The investigations will be reported on a regular basis to the high level officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, designated by both governments as the points of contact, who will produce an annual report on their progress and results.
Concerned with the deaths and injuries of migrants near the border, both delegations reaffirmed their strongest commitment to take all possible measures to reduce the risks and dangers of the border to the greatest possible extent. Both delegations reviewed the progress made by each government in their preventive campaigns to avoid these incidents and their search and rescue efforts in high-risk areas. In this regard, they highlighted the achievements of the Border Safety Initiative and of the Mexican Migration Institute Migrant Protection Groups, also known as Beta Groups, with the rescue of over 6,000 migrants. Both sides agreed with the need now to consolidate and analyze the data that has been gathered to track border-related deaths and dangerous incidents. Both parties will then analyze the information and determine further preventative actions to be taken.
The U.S. delegation reviewed the positive steps taken to reduce the number of deaths in the two areas previously identified as the highest danger zones along the U.S.-Mexico border the All-American Canal in Calexico and the desert area west of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. The U.S. delegation stated that last year´s efforts through the Border Safety Initiative contributed to a significant decline in drownings in the Calexico area, and a significant reduction in heat-related deaths. The desert initiative was successful in its preventive measures.
The Mexican delegation reported a major increase in staffing of the Mexicali and Nogales Beta Groups to protect migrants. In addition, all Beta Groups received training in life-support and rescue operations. The Secretariat of Health also provided medical assistance to migrants in distress. Both delegations reiterated their commitment to continue applying resources throughout the border to save lives.
The delegations described their outreach efforts to reduce the tensions and incidents of violence at the Arizona-Sonora border. These efforts need to, and will be continued through a strategy that considers the root causes of the increased violence and its negative impact on the communities on both sides of the border.
With the purpose of continuing joint analysis of the complex causes and effects of the migration phenomenon in both countries, the delegations agreed to hold a seminar in November on issues that include remittances, labor markets and social consequences of migration. In February 2000, a meeting of the Working Group will be held to consider potential policy recommendations arising from these joint analyses.
Both delegations noted the importance of the 1942 Bilateral Consular Convention. Since 1998, the U.S. has undertaken a major program to improve its outreach and oversight efforts regarding consular notification and access. It was agreed to hold technical-level implementation review talks on the full Convention. These talks will be held in Washington, with representatives from Mexico´s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, the Department of State, the Mexican Embassy in Washington, and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
The U.S. delegation raised the issue of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of the International Abduction of Minors. It was agreed to hold further meetings to review specific cases and to study means of improving implementation by both countries of the Convention. There was also discussion of the 1981 Convention for the Recovery and Return of Stolen or Embezzled Vehicles and Aircraft.
It was agreed to complete the Group´s "1999-2000 Work Plan" by the end of the year and to explore ways to create a legal instrument that incorporates the successful practices designed and institutionalized since 1995.
Considering the intense activity programmed for the next few months, both delegations expressed their satisfaction for the institutionalization of their dialogue, the prompt and proper attention given to migration concerns in both countries, and their achievement in reflecting the bilateral high level commitments in their respective immigration and consular policies. Finally, they renewed their will to continue their cooperative efforts within the framework of the established mechanisms and agreements to give more order and transparency to the bilateral treatment of migration between the United States and Mexico.