Mexican Consul General

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The Mexican Consul General of Phoenix, Carlos Flores Vizcarra, discusses the future of NAFTA, the growing number of consular protection cases, and other issues.

>>José Cárdenas:
Good evening, welcome to Horizonte. I'm José Cárdenas. The Mexican government talks about an initiative that could modernize Mexico's state owned oil company. And, has Arizona's Employer Sanctions Law affected the relationship between Mexico and Arizona? The Consul General of Mexico in Phoenix is here to talk about those issues and more. Also, a book captures the emotion of young Latino students and their letters of appreciation to a community that helped them and others continue their education. All straight ahead on Horizonte…

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>>José Cárdenas:
The Mexican Congress approves a law affecting the crime of being an undocumented immigrant in Mexico. And, President Felipe Calderon introduces an oil company reform initiative that could affect the country's petroleum industry. Joining me to talk about these topics and more is the Consul General of Mexico in Phoenix, Carlos Flores Vizcarra.

>>José Cárdenas:
Consul, welcome to Horizonte.

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Thank you for having me, José.

>>José Cárdenas:
It's good to have you back. Let's start with one of the items we covered in the introduction, which is the oil industry in Mexico. And given the rising gas prices, given the natural resources with which Mexico is blessed in this area, this does seem to be a very crucial area for Mexico. What's going on?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Indeed a very crucial area. And I think it's a very bold move by President Calderon to bring about a very thorough discussion on the possibilities of the future oil industry in Mexico. And this should concern not only Mexicans but I would say that as major trading partners the U.S. too, because Mexico is one of the major suppliers of energy to the U.S.

>> Now, we're talking about PEMEX, the Mexican state-owned oil monopoly. The proposal, as I understand it, is to not privatize PEMEX but allow for greater private participation from foreigners.

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
That is exactly right. What is going on with the oil industry nowadays is that to find new fields of oil you have to drill very deep, in deep waters. And for that matter you need to have technological partners. And that is what's bringing about the discussion, that is PEMEX cannot do it alone so it's about how can we strike a deal with the companies that own the technology in order to exploit those fields.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, ever since the Mexican government nationalized oil interests back in the 30s, this has always been a very delicate subject in Mexico. What's the likelihood that indeed there will be these kinds of reforms?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Well, I don't like to predict that. But my feeling is that necessarily Mexico will have to come about in exploiting these new resources. Why? Simply because Mexico is also a consuming country. And Mexico has to produce more oil, more gasoline, more refineries. So indeed, whether it's meant for export or for satisfying the domestic demands, there will have to be a change in PEMEX.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, one of the other things we talked about in the introduction was a change in Mexican law in terms of how it deals with the people coming across its southern border. Tell us about that.

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Well, that has to do with a sense of correspondents. Many a times Mexicans were asked why did we have such stern immigration laws when we were at the same time asking for more flexible approaches to immigration in the U.S. Well, the political path in Mexico, at least the legislative bodies at the federal level, have taken on the challenge and have legislated and have produced a new law that de-penalizes the illegal or undocumented entries into Mexico and allows for those who want to stay in the country paths for regularizing their status.

>>José Cárdenas:
And what's the change? What was it before and what is it now?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Prior to this law, there was a penalty of 10 years for coming into country illegally. Now it's a civil offense, a minor offense. And of course, we did not consider the possibility of these basically Central Americans wanting or aspiring to do a documented path towards citizenship in Mexico.

>>José Cárdenas:
And any reaction from those who were critical of Mexico's seeming inconsistent policies visas via the United States their own policies?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
None that I heard so far. But I hope that nobody takes it on the opposite side and say, well, now Mexico is flexible in their immigration policies. That will be a threat to American security concerns. I don't think so. I think we should look into a more -- a region that is capable of having more mobility of its own people. In fact, the population sizes of Central American countries are very small indeed.

>>José Cárdenas:
So you don't think that will -- even if that proves to be the case that it makes it easier for Central Americans to get through Mexico into the United States, the numbers just aren't such that you think that will have much of an impact?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
No. I think that the region doesn't have more than 30 million people.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, let's go from immigration on the Mexican side of the border to immigration on the U.S. Side. And then there's a bunch of different things to talk about. But one of them is that your office here in Phoenix has seen a significant increase in cases of consular protection. Tell us about that.

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Well, this is something that stems from the fact that Arizona has been the hot bed for all the immigration issues. And that I think that we're all very well-informed about. And the case being that all these components of immigration control such as the anticoyote provisions of the law, such as the numerous drop houses that have been processed by I.C.E. such as the huge numbers of Mexicans who are incarcerated in Arizona and are getting -- serve time and then deported to Mexico has made the consulate operation here in phoenix the most active one in the whole network.

>>José Cárdenas:
Even though it's not the largest in terms of the Mexican population that's around here?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Absolutely not. I would say that of course Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, are a lot bigger.

>>José Cárdenas:
And the kinds of cases we're talking about are those where the consulate would be contacted by the authorities to assist in dealing with the various legal issues?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
All these are documented cases. Very solidly documented. We have a system that is called Consulate Protection System that is very thorough. We are obliged to enter all the cases in this system, which is very secure and very robust. And we keep tabs or track on any national that is put into the system. And this is getting at the highest number.

>>José Cárdenas:
And so for example in recent days there have been stories about drop houses and large numbers of people who have been rescued, detained, however you want to describe it. Those people would all then end up as consular protection cases?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
That's a good example. Every time there's a finding of a drop house, protection officials from the consulate display themselves to I.C.E facilities downtown. And they interview and assist each and every single one of the Mexican nationals that be being processed.

>>José Cárdenas:
Another aspect of the immigration issue here in Arizona has to do with employer sanctions. Statute was recently amended. The governor signed it. Any reaction to that?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Well, fortunately that opinion by the governor came to be a relief for everybody. But I must say that we are seeing a lot more cases at the consulate of Mexican folks who come into our offices to get documents. That is they are getting prepared to either go back to Mexico or go to another state in the U.S.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, how much of that do you think is attributable to measures like the Employer Sanctions Law and maybe a more hostile atmosphere for undocumented immigrants here in Arizona as opposed to simply that economy is flattening out and there aren't the jobs so much?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
That is correct. I think that several factors play a role. One of them is the downturn of the economy of the U.S. and in the way of the region because it affects Mexico directly. Of course it has to do with enforcement of immigration enforcement, and of course it has to do with this threat that employer sanctions would eventually be enacted the way it was put forth the first time around. And people were scared. But anyways, I think that the sense of the people and the way they are proceeding all these change has brought about more calm into the communities.

>>José Cárdenas:
I understand one particularly dramatic example of these preparations as you put it is with respect to parents who are undocumented but their children are U.S. Citizens and are coming in and getting Mexican citizenship for their kids.

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
That is correct. There are some I would call them legacies from the Rosaro Program era where we have the educational transfer document. That is, if a child is enrolled in sixth grade here in the U.S., he will have the ability to go back to Mexico and be enrolled in the next year of his educational career. So that applies also for those that I call mixed families where you would have maybe one of the parents or both of them being undocumented, but their kids had been born here in the U.S., thus being American citizens. They go to the consulate to get birth certificates in order to have double nationality as we say.

>>José Cárdenas:
And the numbers as compared to last year?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
José, we have done more than we did in these four months we've done more than we did last year as a whole.

>>José Cárdenas:
And I think it's what, 1900 in today?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Just four months, yes.

>>José Cárdenas:
And last year 1600 for the entire year?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
That is correct.

>>José Cárdenas:
Do you see any other impacts of the employer sanctions or other aspects of what's going on in Arizona?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Well, there's a feeling that the economy that was in a way where the Hispanics made a good part of it has been debased, that there is obviously a recession in the state. And Mexicans, the vast majority of them are hard-working and have high expectations. They are looking to progress, to have more opportunities. So the economy being debased, they are looking for opportunities somewhere else.

>>José Cárdenas:
Consul Flores, another topic that's been in the news quite dramatically recently has been the ongoing violence between the drug cartels and the authorities in Mexico with some very top Mexican officials being assassinated in recent weeks. What's going on?

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Well, this is an all-out war. And I think that the third component should be the concern of Americans about the way drugs have been trafficked through Mexico all the way to the U.S. And we're talking about all kinds of drugs, because not all the drugs that pass through Mexico are being produced in Mexico. Mexico doesn't grow the coca trees. So all the cocaine that comes from Mexico comes from the Andes regions. So what we're seeing now is more cooperation between both governments with the so-called Miriva Initiative that implies that there will be financial support for the Mexican government and the army to fight this war. But in general, my take is that we should all be involved.

>>José Cárdenas:
Consul General Flores, thank you for joining us on Horizonte. I'm sure we'll have you back-

>>Carlos Flores Vizcarra:
Thank you so much.

>>José Cárdenas:
To talk about these and other issues. Thank you very much.

>>José Cárdenas:
Next week on Horizonte, we discuss the impact of proposition 300 on the community. The book Documented Dreams tells about the emotions of students at one valley high school affected by the proposition. It puts their words of gratitude on paper to a community who came together to help keep them in school. Nadine Rodriguez introduces you to a couple students who contributed their stories in the book.

>>Noemi:
A simple thank you cannot compensate you for your outstanding deed. For students like me brought to the united states without any other choice by parents who dreamed of a better life for them and for their families, you are offering us a chance to demonstrate our desire for academic success.

>>Nadine Rodriguez:
Noemi is one of at least two dozen students at gateway college high school who are undocumented. She is also one of several contributing writers of a published book addressing the issue of proposition 300. In the book, Documented Dreams, students offer their thoughts, fears, as well as their appreciation to those who have stood up to what she calls a misguided topic. And although she shares her story, she does not reveal her identity in fear of harassment.

>>Noemi:
I'm here and I want to succeed. And I have dreams. And I've learned to love this state. I've learned to love my community. And it's practically for them as much as for me that I want to go further on in life.

>>Nadine Rodriguez:
Prop 300, which was approved in a November 2006 referendum, states that undocumented students are not eligible for in-state tuition or financial assistance, funded or subsidized by state monies. For some students at Gateway Early College High School, this translates to never being able to attend college. Their families have minimal or no means to pay for thousands of dollars in tuition. By the time proposition 300 passed, Noemi was a junior in high school with 33 college credits towards a nursing degree.

>>Noemi:
For a child from a low-income family with all the desire to fulfill her dreams, this was the bitterest mouthful. I continued with high school with so much hope that something would come up. For months I saw nothing. Until today when I heard that you opened your heart and your hand to us, the undocumented members of our school. You became that light in the middle of the darkness tunnel.

>>Nadine Rodriguez:
Not all writers in the book are undocumented students. 15-year-old Moises says someone has to speak up for his friends who have been working so hard to just fit in and give back.

>>Moises Serrano:
They have hope. Hope in succeeding, hope in being something in life, hope in I guess putting the people to silence who think maybe we are against them and who stereotype them to say, "I did this even though you told me I couldn't." And I think they have that strength and that potential to succeed. They are simply hard-working students who want to be somebody in life and to achieve their academic goals, to give back to the only country they have ever known. So truly thanks for your kindness in supporting my school and their friend in their college education.

>>Noemi:
For me these people are heroes. They are. Because they don't know me. They don't know us. They don't know what we've done. They don't know nothing about us. And yet they're able to open their hearts and realize that, you know, in the way they make our dreams come true. And that to me is just amazing.

>>José Cárdenas:
Joining me to talk about the book Documented Dreams, is Yvonne Watterson, principal of Gateway Early College High School. Yvonne compiled and edited the letters written from the students in the book.

>>José Cárdenas:
And a few months ago you were on our show to talk about the impact of prop 300. And now things have happened. There have been a lot of changes since we had that first discussion. Give us kind of an overview and then we want to talk specifically about the book.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Well, following the last program, we were able to raise -- actually I just found out today we raised $98,000. If you remember we needed 86,000 to pay for the 38 students to continue their education is. And so really what happened was I think with this outpouring of support from strangers, the kids really felt the need to say thank you. And so the thank you letters piled up on my desk. And as I read them I realized that there was much more to it, that these are young men and young women who have stories and dreams that have been here forever. And the book really became -- it was a result of seeing all of those letters. And it was never really something to sell. It was something that they wanted to give back to the people who had been so kind to them.

>>José Cárdenas:
So that was the genesis of the book.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Yeah.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, when you were on last time, I think you were saddened, appalled at the negative reaction you were getting when the plight of these students was first documented in the newspaper.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Right.

>>José Cárdenas:
Has that changed?

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Well, you know, what I've noticed is that when an article featuring our school and the predicament of the students ran in the New York Times." and I was expecting a lot of the hate mail and the negative blogs.

>>José Cárdenas:
Which you got the last time when Lori Roberts wrote a complimentary column on the program.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Right. But this time there was maybe one or two negative comments. And in fact, what was really encouraging was that I received e-mails and letters from people upstate New York, Washington, D.C., Canada, even the newspaper of my hometown, they actually picked up the New York Times story. And so it ran in the Irish newspapers. And just overwhelming kindness from people there who couldn't believe what was happening to kids here. And I think especially coming from Northern Ireland, just that whole sense of children being segregated; it really resonates with people back there that experienced so much discrimination in the 60s and in the 70s.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, once you decided that you were going to do a book, you enlisted the aid of the Hispanic Social Institute. What do they do?

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Well, if you look at the Hispanic Institute of Social Issues, their website says that their mission is "to serve and to educate." And what actually happened was when I had all the letters, I took them home, typed them up myself. And I thought, you know, we talk about these kids as illegals or undocumented in terms I feel that dehumanize them. So it just seemed to me that here was documentation, here were dreams. So I thought I would call this little collection Documented Dreams. and I just Googled -- I searched for Hispanic publishers in Phoenix. And I found them. And I saw that mission to "serve of and to educate." I called them and said this is what I have. And they loved the idea. And they saw it as an opportunity to really raise awareness about how this piece of legislation was really affecting kids and families and really just shed the light on it. So we collaborated. And we wanted to make sure that letters were also written in Spanish. Because we wanted the kids' parents to see that their children were grateful for the education they've received. And that was one of -- I mean, I think that was one of the resounding themes through all of the letters. The kids were saying, thank you for investing in us. How we want to thank you is by earning good grades.

>>José Cárdenas:
And they were saying thank you to their parents as well as to the people who donated --

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Their parents as well as to the people who donated.

>>José Cárdenas:
And the title Documented Dreams it sounds like what's interesting is that what you meant by that was a record of what was going on at this point in history. So it wasn't a play on the fact that we're talking about undocumented student?

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Well, I think it was both, really. But at some point I had a conversation with one of the students. And I said, you know, you have to keep going. You have to keep coming to school. Because remember they couldn't take college classes for a whole semester. And they hung in there. And when I looked at this little book, when we finally had it published, I mean, it just made me think of all the other letters and the literature that has survived hard times. You can think of Anne Frank's diary surviving up there in the attic. And I think about some of my students, one of whom has disappeared. I don't know where he is. But his story and his dreams are documented in that book. And will forever be documented. And so I felt that it was important historically to preserve these kids' thoughts and dreams.

>>José Cárdenas:
And we probably should clarify for our viewers that what we're talking about here are high school students who were impacted by prop 300 because they were enrolled in college-level courses.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Right. Because my school is an early college. And what we do is we target students who might not be expected to go to college because they face financial obstacles or because their parents didn't go to college. And we start putting them in college classes as early as the ninth grade, the goal being that they'll graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate's degree within five years or less. And so I use my state funding to pay for the college coursework component of that program. And then once prop 300 passed I couldn't use my state funding anymore to pay for those courses. And it's ironic, because the funding is generated by the very attendance and enrollment of those students who show up every day.

>>José Cárdenas:
Let's go back to the letters. You mentioned one common theme was the gratitude to their parents and donors. What other themes did you detect as you put the letters together?

>>Yvonne Watterson:
You know, I also sensed some frustration on the part of the kids. In that most of them were brought here when they were infants. I mean, some of them were carried across the border. And you know, they wanted to emphasize to people, look, we haven't done anything wrong. You know, we were brought here as infants. And we want you to understand that there isn't a line for us to get into. There isn't a path to citizenship for us. We came here as children. Yet for all intents and purposes, today you'll hear people refer to them as illegals. And so I think that the students really wanted to clarify for people, you know, it's not that easy if you've been raised as an American to go back to a country that you don't know.

>>José Cárdenas:
With no real prospect of getting back here on a legal basis.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Absolutely.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, there's some pretty remarkable people. We heard a couple of them on the video. Noemi. Tell us a little bit more about her and her story.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Noemi is an amazing student who again came here when she was I think nine years old. And in fact she writes in the book about carrying her little brother across the desert. And arrived here, didn't speak English. But before long, I mean, her father told her when she was very young, "you need to hang in there. You don't give up. You get an education. You know, we came to this country to make a better life for our family." so she writes about how before long she was sitting in the student of the month seat in her elementary school. She made good grades all the way through. And she came to our high school. And as a matter of fact, she graduated from the community college last week as a certified nursing assistant, bilingual certified nursing assistant with 52 college credits and then she'll graduate from high school next week.

>>José Cárdenas:
So she got her Associate's degree before getting her high school degree.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Yes.

>>José Cárdenas:
Pretty remarkable young woman.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Remarkable young woman. In fact, wouldn't things she has said to me -- because I've asked her, how do you keep going? And how do you keep going in the face of adversity and fear, you know, afraid that your parents might be taken away from you because of employer sanctions, for example. And she says, you know, I know that I will be a pediatrician one day. And I know that one day I will take care of the grandchild of someone who voted for prop 300 and that's what keeps me going.

>>José Cárdenas:
Yvonne, on that very powerful thought I think we'll end our interview. Thanks you so much for joining us once again on Horizonte and best of luck.

>>Yvonne Watterson:
Thank you.

>> José Cárdenas:
That's our show for tonight. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening. Hope to see you again next week.

Carlos Flores Vizcarra: Consul General of Mexico, Phoenix;

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