Mexicans willing to visit home to become legal in U.S.?by Amanda Lee Myers on Mar. 22, 2007, under Local
PHOENIX – Many illegal immigrants from Mexico would be willing to briefly return to Mexico for the chance to live in the United States as legal residents, a diplomat said Wednesday.
To do that, Congress needs to pass fair immigration legislation, Carlos Flores Vizcarra, Mexican consul general for Phoenix, said in an interview.
Flores pointed to legislation that was to be introduced today in Congress that includes a provision known as “touchback,” in which illegal immigrants would have to return to Mexico before becoming eligible for legalization in the United States.
The concept isn’t new.
Last year, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., included the idea in his proposal for immigration reform.
Touchback critics said illegal immigrants would never agree to return to their homeland for fear they wouldn’t be allowed back in the United States.
Flores said Mexicans would be happy to return to Mexico for a while to reunite with their families and visit the places where they grew up.
“I can guarantee you that if they pass immigration reform that gives an opportunity to thousands of Mexicans here to have legal status, the first thing they will do is comply with that condition of the touchback thing,” Flores said.
“What we need is a legal framework,” he added. “We need to cope with this not with measures that are basically punitive, that are mean-spirited, that do not take care of the issue.”
Flores rejected a belief among some Americans that illegal immigrants hope to win amnesty in the United States, as an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants did after President Reagan signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act in 1986.
Flores said for a touchback program to work, the government would have to allow illegal immigrants two to three years to return to their home countries.
As it stands, Flores said illegal immigrants aren’t leaving the country because they have no legal means to return to the United States and crossing the border has become much too risky.
Because of stepped-up enforcement, immigrants are forced to cross through more rugged areas of the U.S.-Mexico border away from immigration agents, to avoid being caught.
They face violence from fellow immigrants, the smugglers they pay and rival smugglers.