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Mexico Won't Give Maps to Migrants

January 27, 2006|From Times Wire Services

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has shelved a plan to hand out maps showing would-be illegal immigrants where to find water and help in the desert as they attempt to reach the United States, authorities said Thursday.

After the plan drew strong condemnation from the U.S. government, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission said it had suspended the program, which was drawn up to reduce deaths from thirst and exhaustion.

But Miguel Angel Paredes, spokesman for the rights commission, said the plan was suspended not because of U.S. criticism but because human rights officials in border states had expressed concern that the maps would show anti-immigration groups where migrants were likely to gather.

"This would be practically like telling the Minutemen where the migrants are going to be," Paredes said.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had said Wednesday, "We oppose in the strongest terms the publication of maps to aid those who wish to enter the United States illegally."

Mexico's human rights commission, an official government body with independent powers, had proposed distributing the maps in cooperation with the Tucson-based migrant rights group Humane Borders.

But it said rights officials in six Mexican border states had warned that the plan could create greater risk by exposing migrants to "exacerbated action by anti-immigration groups."

The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps acknowledged that it had intended to use the maps to stake out likely entry points for illegal immigrants.

"If they're going to give out maps, we're going to use those maps to report that activity to the proper authorities," said Chris Simcox, a co-founder of the group.

But Simcox said his group already knew the locations of many watering spots and criticized the Mexican government for trying to "vilify" his group.

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