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Mexico's hand in illegal immigration

A new president launches reform and a domestic war to rid Mexico of influences that make many flee.

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The Senate takes up "comprehensive" immigration reform again this week. But the meat's still missing in this burrito. As Mexico's ambassador to Washington warns, even the "rosiest, peachiest" reform in the US won't end the flow of poor migrants. Reform must also take place in Mexico.

And begun it has.

For the past seven months, Mexico has been at war with itself, literally. A new president, Felipe Calderón, has dispatched 24,000 troops into battle with the most corrosive influence in Mexico's economy: powerful drug cartels.

These violent syndicates, which mainly transport drugs into the US, have exploded in the past decade. They've escalated crime and political corruption, hindering creation of well-paying jobs for would-be migrants. At election time, they provide cash for many campaigns.

This domestic war, which resembles the Iraq war in tactics and killing rates, was Mr. Calderón's opening gambit for wholesale reform. It is widely popular but faces an uncertain future. The cartels are fighting back with gruesome murders. And the Army, one of the few respected institutions in Mexico, is not good at policing, a task it must do to root out local drug networks. Some of its elite soldiers have joined the cartels.

Still, the war gives Calderón enough public support to conduct a quiet and pragmatic battle with the ruling opposition in the legislature. In March, he was able to win reform of state pensions. This week, he will propose tax hikes to reduce the government's risky reliance on oil-export revenues. And he was helped this month by a Supreme Court ruling that struck a blow at the broadcasting giant Televisa, one of many monopolies controlled by powerful, vested interests.


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