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Spring 1984

INS Joins Mexico City Conference on Urban Problems and the Environment

Mexico City, 1975
MEXICO CITY- On February 27-28, political leaders and technical experts from Europe, the U.S. and Latin America gathered in Mexico City for a working conference on common problems of urban development and the environment. The conference was organized to exchange policy experience with the newly established Subsecretariat of Urban Development and the Environment for Mexico.
Mexico City is now the world's largest poor city. Official estimates are that, by the end of the century, Mexico's present population of 70 million will reach 117 million, with Mexico City itself growing from 17 million to over 30 million people. In recent years, Mexico City has received roughly 800,000 new migrants per annum, spawning a vast sprawl of "lost cities" - squatter settlements which cover the surrounding hills and the dried-up lake bed where the city is built.

As part of the strategy of closer cooperation with Mexico, INS sent several participants to the meeting: former Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.; Huey Johnson, the Secretary of Resources for California during the Brown Administration; and Nathan Gardels, the INS executive director who is also an urban planner.

Besides the technical experts from Europe and Mexico, other participants included Karl Schneider, Secretary of Regional Development and the Environment for the state of Hessen, West Germany; Pedro Costa, Secretary of Ecological Affairs for Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Dr. Alicia Barcena lbarra, Subsecretary of Ecology for Mexico.

In his message to the conference, Mexican President Miguel De La Madrid eloquently framed the ecological aspect of the issue: "If man harms the environment," he said, "he harms himself. He is both victim and criminal. "

INS executive director Nathan Gardels stressed the need for the U.S. to "work together with our neighbors to the South to solve pressing problems while respecting cultural, historical and political differences." He told the gathering that the high degree of interdependence between our two countries make Mexican problems of employment, trade, population and pollution US problems as well. Gardels cited various examples to underscore this point:

- Referring to Mexico's $80 billion external debt and the consequent austerity program of the De La Madrid government, Gardels noted that "in this day and age, the subsidized price of Mexican tortillas is linked to the solvency of the largest US banks. 59.8% of the capital of the nine largest US banks is tied up in loans to Mexico. "

- According to the Institute for International Economics, over 100,000 US jobs have been lost over the past two years because of falling exports to Mexico.

Mexico City, 1982

- More than one million Mexican immigrants were apprehended in 1983 for attempting to cross the US border without proper documentation. By some estimates, there are as many as 900,000 undocumented workers in Los Angeles alone.

- In 1983, for the first time, 51% of the Los Angeles Unified School District is Hispanic according to official reports.

In cooperation with El Colegio de Mexico, the INS will continue to work with Mexico on three bi-national issues: (a) the flow of immigrant workers, (b) over-exploitation of the underground aquifer along the border and (c) toxic waste disposal in the Mexico City vicinity.

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