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Benitez appointed to Mexican consulate in Calexico

February 26, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Alfredo Benitez Hernandez wants to see the United States and Mexico start talking again about nationalizing the estimated 3 million Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Benitez has been appointed to serve as consul for the Mexican consulate in Calexico. He replaced Rita Vargas Torregrosa, who transferred to a consulate in San Bernardino County.

"Before Sept. 11, presidents George Bush and Vicente Fox were looking for a way to naturalize undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. and then — Sept. 11. Everything changed. There were more regulations and inspections along the border," Benitez said Monday.

The former executive director of a migrants' rights organization in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, enthusiastically supported the initial talks during Fox's Sept. 7 visit to Washington, D.C. He was disappointed when the idea was put on the back burner after Sept. 11.


The 51-year-old thinks nationalizing those citizens would help the economies of both countries.

Regarding immigration issues in general, Benitez said, "The border needs to be flexible."

"Immigration is not just a phenomenon that affects the U.S. or Mexico," he added. "It affects both countries."

On the Mexican side of the border, Benitez said the federal government and the state of Baja California need to increase economic opportunities for its citizens.

However, he knows that as long as there are jobs north of the border, Mexican men and women will continue to try to cross.

Once here, Benitez said those Mexicans deserve to be treated fairly by their employers and immigration officials.

That's where his office comes in.

"We're working for the interests of all Mexicans, documented or not," he said.

In addition to working on immigration issues, Benitez said he would work to help ease traffic congestion at the two ports of entry.

He wants to see goods flow back and forth across the border quickly and efficiently.

Along those lines, he supports the plans of the U.S. government to station 300 U.S. national guard troops along the California/Mexico border.

Benitez said those troops will help at secondary inspections at U.S. ports.

Talking about the political changes he would like to see, Benitez said a divided Mexican Congress needs to unite behind President Fox.

"We need to ask, ‘What can we do?' Everybody," he said.

Along those lines, he has already agreed to help bring a Mexican folklorico group from the University of Ciudad Juarez to play at Calexico's 94th anniversary celebration and the Mariachi Festival, both in May.

Calexico Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hildy Carrillo-Rivera said, "Benitez seemed excited about doing something."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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