Notorious for its porous borders, Mexico has taken the unprecedented step of deporting 311 Indian nationals who were staying there illegally, intending to sneak into the US. The drastic action comes amid relentless pressure exerted by the US on its southern neighbours — Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — to curb the influx of immigrants. President Donald Trump, whose tough stand on immigration dominated his 2016 poll campaign, is banking on this key plank again in his bid for re-election. The US is threatening these countries with tariffs or economic sanctions so that they tighten the noose around asylum seekers.
The deportees’ American Dream has been nipped in the bud. A sizeable number of them are reported to be Punjabis, who paid nothing less than Rs 20-25 lakh each to unscrupulous travel agents for being sent to the US by hook or by crook. The Central and state governments will now resume the customary exercise of nailing the agents involved. However, the status quo will inevitably be restored once the dust settles. No lessons have been learnt from the 1996 Malta boat tragedy, which claimed the lives of at least 280 illegal immigrants, or the Panama mishap of 2016. In June this year, the spine-chilling death of six-year-old Gurpreet Kaur near the US-Mexico border — while her mother had left her with other migrants to go in search of water — underlined yet again the extent of desperation.
The frantic pursuit of greener pastures — for which people mortgage their houses or even sell off their land — stems largely from the scarcity of decent work opportunities in their own country. Former PM Manmohan Singh claims that every third urban Indian is jobless, even as Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is busy debunking the National Sample Survey Office report which pegged the unemployment rate at a 45-year high in 2017. The fact that Indians keep risking their life as well as life-savings to work or settle abroad is a disturbing commentary on the economic mess. The government and other stakeholders need to realise the gravity of the situation and come up with ways to arrest the slide.