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C. American Countries Challenge US Migration Plan
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The foreign ministers of Central American countries rejected a US anti-immigrant plan in a joint declaration issued on Monday.

Foreign ministers from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and other Central American countries held a meeting Monday to find ways to defend the rights of migrants who travel to the United States seeking jobs.

"Migrants, regardless of their status, are not and should not be treated like criminals," the declaration said.

The US House of Representatives approved a plan on Dec. 16, which would extend a frontier wall with Mexico by a further 1,200 km, increase the number of agents on the border, and send undocumented workers to prison instead of merely deporting them.

The plan, which is yet to be ratified by the US Senate, was immediately rejected by Latin America's governments and civil organizations, who said it would increase the violent treatment of their citizens seeking to emigrate to the United States.

The declaration also called for the United States to guarantee the human rights of migrants in any new legal proposals and to strictly observe labor laws.

Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexican foreign minister, said that Central American governments would be uncompromising in the defense of their citizens' legal rights.

Derbez also said he had ordered the establishment of a working group on migration to coordinate policy in the face of the US reforms, which represent a dramatic toughening of the existing rules.

Thousands of people are thought to cross the 3,200 km US-Mexico border illegally every day, some risking their lives, in search of work in the United States.

Also on Monday, Ruben Aguilar, the Mexican president's spokesman, said that the rate of migration to the United States had slowed in recent years, and, contrary to common belief, a majority (85 percent) of the migrants had already been employed in Mexico.

Aguilar claimed that the migration rate had reduced due to the "social policy of the Mexican state, which is reducing extreme poverty."

Mexico's official figures show that an average of 400,000 Mexicans emigrated to the United States each year during the five-year rule of President Vicente Fox.

The United States is now home to 10 million Mexican citizens, half of whom, according to estimates, are undocumented.

(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2006)

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