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Ellen Calmus helps Mexican families cope with cross-border challenges

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Calmus is pleased with the success her organization has achieved in getting families the assistance needed to get their children's documents in order, she says. But the children's predicament is just one of many unintentional "family-breaking" consequences of US and Mexican immigration policy, she says. Excessive reliance on border control has left many Mexican workers effectively trapped in the US by the risks and costs of visits home even for such important family events as deaths or graduations, while tough US visa requirements also make it impossible for family members in Mexico to travel to the US to care for their sick or dying migrant relatives.

In a policy paper available on the project's website (www.elrincon.org), Calmus sets out certain "policy fixes" that the US and Mexican governments could implement to help keep families together. They include providing a low-cost telephone connection for Mexican detainees in the US with families in Mexico; allowing more of the seasonal visas that make it possible for Mexican workers to return to their families at home; simplifying the procedures for certifying US birth certificates for use in Mexico; and creating a network of bilingual volunteers to work with US and Mexican agencies in sorting out problems encountered by migrants' families.

Robert B. Myerson, a 2007 Nobel Prize winner in economics who is familiar with Calmus's work, says that she is a true "community organizer," in the best sense of the word.

"She's helping people with their personal problems in tangible ways, while also working to influence the way society is organized for the good," Mr. Myerson told the Monitor. "She's very much a part of the community."

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