SAN DIEGO — There is a new tourist book available for foreigners that offers advice on the cheapest places to shop, what to do if arrested in the United States and even how to make a telephone call.
The pamphlet could be meant for any group of tourists, but the intended audience is illegal aliens trying to make a go of life in the United States.
Written in Spanish by two New Mexico residents, the booklet costs $1 and is titled, "The Other Side--A Guide for the Undocumented." "The other side" is Mexican slang for the United States, or the other side of the border.
Advice in the booklet includes general characteristics of people detained by the U.S. Border Patrol, advises the undocumented to refuse to answer questions while in custody and says that border guards can be sued if they mistreat anyone.
"We came to realize that those people didn't know some basic things about living and working in the United States," said Tom Barry, co-author of "The Other Side" and co-director of the Resource Center in Albuquerque, N.M. The center is a private, nonprofit research organization specializing in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Barry and the group's co-director, Deb Preusch, produced the booklet in 1980. Since then, Barry said, about 40,000 copies have been distributed to church and legal aid groups throughout the United States, and to organizations in Mexico City and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora.
About 5,000 copies remain in the original press run and the group plans to raise money for a second printing. Nearly half the money for the first printing came from the Presbyterian Church, he said.
'An Advocacy Book'
The idea for the booklet came when Barry and Preusch were trying to organize a strike of undocumented agricultural workers in Arizona.
Although the book contains plenty of tips on getting along in the United States, Barry said, "it certainly is an advocacy book."
He said the booklet recognizes that millions of undocumented workers are in the United States.
"What is now the U.S. Southwest was once part of Mexico before the U.S. government took it away in 1846," the booklet says, referring to the U.S.-Mexico War that ended in 1848.
Roger Conner, executive director of the Federation of American Immigration Reform, says the booklet encourages illegal immigrants to evade U.S. immigration law.
"What it conveys to the newcomer is that America is a country where ignoring the law is not only OK, but standard practice," he said.
Conner said whether intentional or not, the booklet is a marketing tool for smugglers who guide undocumented aliens across the border.
"Imagine if you are a Mexican and a smuggler gives you this booklet and says, 'Here is your guidebook on how to make sure that you'll be able to stay and work in the United States. It's even published by an American group. Don't worry about the Border Patrol. Just give me your money.' "