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Mexicans outraged over 'Operation Jobs'

By
FREDERICK KIEL

MEXICO CITY -- Like a seething volcano about to erupt, Mexican officials, citizens and the nation's press denounced the weeklong roundup of undocumented workers in the United States, some calling it a 'Nazi' and racist operation aimed exclusively at Mexicans.

President Jose Lopez Portillo said in the first days of the operation that he was 'watching this situation,' and noted Mexico had adopted a totally different solution to unemployment, trying to create more jobs rather than depressing the economy and throwing out workers.

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The 23 Mexico City daily newspapers were filled with reports and editorial cartoons throughout the week about 'Operation Jobs,' a crackdown on illegal immigrants holding relatively highly paid employment that resulted in at least 3,500 arrests.

The pro-government newspaper El Dia published seven stories about the operation in its Friday edition, including a front page article from Washington quoting Chicano leaders labelling the Reagan administration 'racist.'

Many of the newspapers carried horror stories from deported Mexicans returning to their homeland about their treatment by U.S. authorities.

'The agents detained us and piled us into camps in heaps,' Everardo Leyva, one of the returnees, told the newspaper Excelsior in one typical report. 'Then they gave us what was almost garbage to eat and there was nothing else to do but return home.'

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In a separate edition, Excelsior reported from Los Angeles, 'The agents always detain persons of Latin appearance, favoring illegals from other nationalities.'

The leftist newspaper Ovaciones headlined one front page story on the roundup with the title 'Hitlerian Actions,' and said the sweep was similiar to 'Gestapo actions during the times of Nazi Germany.'

Spurred on by such reports, the National Union of Agricultural and Day Laborers denounced the United States for its 'bestial treatment' of the detained Mexicans.

Fidel Velasquez, the powerful chief of the largest union in Mexico, the Confederation of Mexican Workers, called 'Operation Jobs' an arbitrary crackdown that violated human rights.

He warned, however, that the deportation of thousands of Mexican workers could have a serious effect on the nation's economy.

Three top business leaders said the deportations could affect bilateral commercial relations between Mexico and the United States.

The Mexican Senate issued a petition calling on the United States to respect the human rights of the undocumented.

On Friday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a tough statement saying 'this operation seriously worries the government of Mexico' because it has been carried out in regions 'characterized by a high concentration of Mexican workers or those of Mexican origin.'

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There is unlikely to be any direct action by the present Mexican administration since it goes out of office in December.

Lingering effects of 'Operation Jobs,' especially if it is resumed, could, however, trigger reactions by the new government early next year, anxious to show its independence from the giant to the north and sensitive as all Mexicans are to the problems of the undocumented.

Arturo Gonzalez, a porter in a Mexico City office building, also saw racism behind the operation.

'The whole thing's bad, because this is against our race, only against the Mexicans,' he said.

Andres Garcia Rodriguez, a vendor of fresh fruit juices in Mexico City, was angry at how strict the crackdown had been.

'It's hard,' he said. 'Well, it's unjust, no. The repression that they have against the undocumented, it's no good.'

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