It is not a secret to anyone that “the positions held by the federal government are not in favor of Mexican immigrants.” So says Roberto Dondisch, Mexico’s Consul in Seattle, during a recent visit to Anchorage. But the consulate that Dondisch presides over can support and protect the approximately 21,000 Mexicans living in Alaska in matters of immigration, documentation, education, and health.
Regarding immigration concerns, the consulate has a program through which lawyers located in Alaska will be able to defend Mexicans vulnerable to deportation. Dondisch says that the program conducts an economic analysis of the interested party, and if the person does not have resources, the Mexican government can cover the cost of the legal service.
For Mexicans who want to repatriate, the government of Mexico offers Somos Mexicanos, a program which supports education, access to job opportunities, human rights protection, and other basic needs. Dondisch explains that if immigrants do not have family in Mexico, this program “can help them to find where to go.” The consulate can also support families returning to Mexico by exempting them from the Mexican taxes paid when bringing their household goods across the border.
For children and young people who have studied in the United States and who return to Mexico, the Mexican government has reformed the law so their studies can be completely transferred. In addition, universities such as Universidad Iberoamericana, or Tecnológico de Monterrey, offer scholarships so that DREAMers can continue studying.
Regarding the wave of racism against Mexicans that has arisen during the present administration, Dondisch says, “the political rhetoric that was used during the campaigns is unacceptable. It is a way of not recognizing that much of the value and wealth of the United States comes from Mexican hands.” To those who face any type of discrimination due to their Mexican origin, the consulate’s Protection team can support them by negotiating with local authorities.
The Protection Department also can introduce them to other assistance organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, with which the Mexican government has a support agreement on these issues. Dondisch says: “It is important to understand that the consulate is not an authority here. The consulate is a Mexican authority, and we can talk to the local authorities to ask them to follow up on the cases. We work through the local police, state troopers, through the government... When we speak to a police chief, it is a way for them to know that the consulate is following up and that the person is not alone.”
On the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Dondisch explains that to Mexican government, NAFTA is much more than trade. “It is an agreement we made 23 years ago. They are 23 years of working together, of being partners.” What is happening with NAFTA speaks to the temperature of the relationship between the governments of Mexico and the United States. However, Dondisch recalls, “federal governments of any country are temporary, while the people are not. 32 million Mexicans live in the United States. The number of Mexican-Americans is rising, and there are more and more Americans living in Mexico. Almost two million Americans live in Mexico with visas, in addition to those living without documents.”
Dondisch considers the wall on the border of Mexico and the United States that the present administration wants to build as “a sign of whether we want to be together or be divided. It is convenient for the United States to have a friendly Mexico. It is in Mexico’s interest to have a friedly United States.” Dondisch is emphatic about the will of the Mexican government to remain close to the United States. He concludes, “Mexico considers that there is no need to build walls; Bridges must be built” to promote ever greater understanding between the two countries.