U.S. immigration officials began deporting many Mexican illegal immigrants to their nation's capital this month as part of a humanitarian effort to avoid deporting them to border areas such as Tamaulipas, which are besieged by violence. The two-month pilot program seems to be a smart and responsible improvement over the current deportation policy, one that could save lives and bolster border security. If it proves effective, it should be quickly extended.
Under the temporary initiative, the United States will pay about $1.1 million to fly deportees from El Paso, Texas, to Mexico City. Mexico will then shoulder the cost of bus fare to return them to their hometowns in the interior of the country, and provide food to them during their journey.
No doubt, some critics will argue that the safety of Mexican deportees is Mexico's problem, and that the United States shouldn't incur any costs on their behalf. That's shortsighted. Repatriating migrants closer to their homes and farther from the border would not only protect them, it would also discourage many Mexicans from immediately attempting to recross illegally into the United States.
Dumping migrants in border towns where they have no roots and few prospects for surviving carries a price for both countries. Deportees become easy targets for drug gangs, which recruit them or, worse, kidnap them, according to Mexican officials. Last year, more than a quarter of all Mexicans deported from the United States — or slightly more than 124,000 people — were deported to the state of Tamaulipas, which sits across the border from Texas and has become a battleground for the Gulf cartel and the Zetas. In Tamaulipas, many police departments have simply disbanded, and gangs control many of the streets in its border cities. Conditions there are grave; in the city of Reynosa, church groups erected a 9-foot-tall wall topped with razor wire around a shelter in an effort to keep deportees safe, according to The Times' Richard Marosi.