Mexico calls U.S. proposal to extend walls along border unacceptable

Mexico has called a U.S. proposal to extend walls along the U.S. border unacceptable and is seeking the international community's support to block the measure. Mexico raised the stakes in the battle against the bill, approved by the House of Representatives last week, by hiring a U.S. public relations firm and encouraging a separate U.S. lobbying campaign against it.

"Mexico is not going to bear, it is not going to permit and it will not allow a stupid thing like this wall," Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said Tuesday.

He added the government will do "whatever is needed" to stop the bill, which would also criminalize undocumented migrants. He has already received some support from the international community. "What has to be done is to raise a storm of criticism, as is already happening, against this," he said.

Amnesty International's Mexico office said in statement that a border wall would be "a historic setback for human rights" and "will multiply the loss of life" by making border crossings more dangerous. More than 10 million Mexican citizens are believed to be living in the United States. U.S. authorities believe that about half of them do not have papers.

In 2004, Mexican migrants north of the Rio Grande sent home more than US$16 billion (Ђ13.4 billion) in remittences, according to Mexico's central bank, giving the nation its second biggest source of foreign currency after oil exports.

Mexico is also encouraging U.S. church, community and business groups to oppose the U.S. proposal, and has hired Allyn & Company, a Dallas-based public relations company, to help improve the country's image and stem the immigration backlash.

"If people in the U.S. and Canada had an accurate view of the success of democracy, political stability and economic prosperity in Mexico, it would improve their views on specific bilateral issues like immigration and border security," Rob Allyn, president of the firm, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The government is also pledging to fight abuse of migrants living in the United States, and last week started airing a series of radio spots aimed at Mexicans returning home for the holidays.

"Had a labor accident in the United States? You have rights ... call," states the ad, sponsored by Mexico's Foreign Relations Department. The department, which helps migrants seek labor compensation in the United States, denied the campaign is linked to the U.S. measures.

Those measures would also enlist military and local law enforcement to help stop illegal entrants. It's hard to underestimate the ill-feeling the proposals, which include building 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) of border walls, have generated in Mexico.

Fernando Robledo, 42, a former migrant worker from the western state of Zacatecas, said the proposals could disrupt families by making immigration harder.

"When people heard this, it worried everybody, because this will affect everybody in some way, and their families," Robledo said. "They were incredulous. How could they do this, propose something like this?" Like many Mexicans, he expressed a sense of betrayal and rejection, reports the AP. I.L.

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