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Mexico issues comic book on border-crossing perils

The Mexican government is distributing a comic-book guide that warns would-be migrants about the perils of crossing illegally into the United States and offers tips to stay safe _ enraging some advocates of stricter immigration policies in the United States who argue the booklet encourages illegal migration.

About 1.5-million copies of the pocket-size book, Guide for the Mexican Immigrant, were published by Mexico's Foreign Relations Department and distributed as a free supplement in comic books popular with adults that are sold throughout the country. The booklets are also available online and at Mexican consulates in the United States.

The comic book's introduction shows an illustration of three men huddling by riverbank bushes accompanied by the statement, "This guide is intended to give you some practical advice that could be of use if you already have made the difficult decision to seek new job opportunities outside your country."

Each year, as would-be migrants start considering a trip north, the Mexican government launches radio or television campaigns to inform them about the risks they will face along the U.S.-Mexican border.

This year, the Foreign Relations Department decided to add the guide as a way of "trying to provide the information directly" in the would-be migrants' home communities, said Geronimo Gutierrez, the department's deputy secretary for North American affairs. "Once they reach the border, it's very difficult for them to change their minds."

The booklet, which officials began distributing last month, explains the safest way to enter the United States is with a U.S. visa and a Mexican passport. But it also offers tips on avoiding serious injury or death to those who have decided to cross illegally.

On one page appears a colorful drawing of people walking in the desert near power lines, with the hint, "If you get lost, guide yourself with light poles, train tracks or dirt roads."

"Crossing a river can be very risky, especially if you cross alone and at night," the booklet warns. "Heavy clothing becomes heavier when wet, and this makes swimming or floating difficult."

The book also recommends adding salt to water to avoid dehydration when making desert crossings and notes it is best to walk during times of low heat intensity.

Critics argue the tips serve more as instructions on how to cross illegally than as a deterrent to would-be migrants.

"With this document the Mexican government not only has not instructed its citizens to obey immigration law but, in rich detail, it has supplied a manual on how to circumvent U.S. immigration law," said John Keeley, director of communication for the U.S.-based Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors stricter immigration policies. "It's very, very troubling."

Editorials in several U.S. papers sharply criticized the comic book. The Arizona Republic called it "an illustrated guide to Mexico's domestic failures" and the Washington Times asked that the U.S. government file an official complaint.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it had not contacted the Mexican government about the comic book, and praised recent cooperation between the countries to improve safety along the border.

"Both the United States and the Mexican government have a strong commitment to ensuring that migration into the United States is safe, orderly and legal," the statement said.

ON THE WEB

The booklets can be found online at www.sre.gob.mx/ tramites/consulares/guiamigrante.

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