Mexican President Decries 'Growing Harassment' of Migrants in U.S.

President Felipe Calderon decried Wednesday what he called "the growing harassment" of Mexicans in the United States and said his government will work to counter it by funding a media campaign to show migrant success stories.

Mexican officials have expressed concern over a recent wave of immigration raids and a U.S. political climate perceived as anti-migrant. Calderon said U.S. presidential candidates were using migrants as "symbolic hostages" on the immigration issue.

"I am especially worried about the growing harassment and frank persecution of Mexicans in the United States in recent days," Calderon said at a meeting of the Mexican government's migrant assistance agency.

He called on leading U.S. presidential candidates to "stop holding Mexicans in their country as symbolic hostages in their speeches and (campaign) strategies." He was apparently referring to the hard line some candidates have taken on the immigration issue, and other candidates' unwillingness to take a clear stance in the debate.

To bolster the image of migrants in the U.S., the Mexican government will launch "direct media campaigns aimed at showing migrant success stories and raise awareness of the many contributions" migrants make to U.S. society, he said.

Calderon noted 6 million of the 11 million Mexican migrants in the United States are undocumented, and endorsed the creation of what he called the League Against Discrimination Against Mexicans in the United States.

Pablo Alonso Flores, a member of advisory council of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, described the new anti-discrimination league as a group "run by Mexican-Americans, aimed mainly at defending our rights peacefully and respectfully, while not allowing media attacks on the integrity, roots and customs of Mexicans."

Calderon also endorsed a project to expand shelters for deported migrants in Mexican border cities.

Several recent high-profile immigration enforcement raids, and political setbacks like Wednesday's decision by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to abandon a plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, have put immigrant activists in a grim mood.

Also Wednesday, Mexico City officials announced a program to offer city residents living in the United States low fees for sending money home.

As part of the program, the estimated 600,000 Mexico City migrants will also receive free life insurance policies. If they die, the policy will enable their relatives in Mexico to repatriate their remains free of charge.