U.S. Army Recruiter Crosses Mexico Border
MEXICO CITY - When a U.S. Army recruiter sought out two potential
recruits at a Tijuana high school last week, he fueled a maelstrom of anger
credence to erroneous reports that the United States recruits Mexicans as soldiers.
Last week's incident appears to be a misstep by an overzealous
recruiter tracking down two youths who apparently expressed interest in
the Army at a
San Diego recruiting office.
But it took on greater importance with the U.S. at war in Iraq,
as a rumor persisted that would-be immigrants could get U.S. citizenship
by serving in the
At least five Mexican-born soldiers - all of whom had immigrated
to the United States years earlier - were killed in Iraq. And Mexican media
depicted even second-generation Mexican-Americans who died in Iraq as another "Mexican" casualty in a war opposed by a majority of people in this
"An Army recruiter from San Diego did indeed come into Tijuana
... he was over here looking for two specific people," said Liza Davis,
spokeswoman for the
U.S. consulate in Tijuana.
She described the two as "potential recruits who had approached
the Army," probably young men who held U.S. citizenship or legal residency.
Mexicans with U.S. citizenship live in Tijuana.
"The U.S. Army does not recruit here," Davis said. "We don't endorse them coming here."
The U.S. Army's recruitment command center issued a memo to its field offices, reminding recruiters they are not allowed to cross the border.
"It was unfortunate in that it could help foster a myth, which
is not true, that the U.S. armed forces recruit Mexicans," Army spokesman
Douglas Smith said.
"This recruiter did something he should not do."
The rumors of Mexicans being used as cannon fodder was so bad
a month before the war that the U.S. embassy sent out a press release clarifying
Hispanics - people of Mexican and other Latin American origin - were not over-represented in the armed forces. In fact, they make up 8.7 percent of the
U.S. military and about 13 percent of the general population.
The U.S. embassy clarified that "undocumented or illegal immigrants cannot serve in the U.S. armed forces."
Part of the confusion stems from an order by President Bush last
July allowing 31,000 non-citizens in the military to apply for nationalization
at the start of
Mexico City media reported a U.S. sergeant visited Tijuana's Technological High School 261 on April 30.
The Mexico City newspaper, Milenio, ran the headline, "The U.S.
Army is recruiting in Tijuana." The Tijuana daily, El Mexicano, described
the Army sergeant's
visit as "an intense campaign to recruit young high school students."
The Baja California state government was incensed.
"They did not even have the minimal courtesy to ask for permission,"
state spokesman Gustavo Magallanes said of the visit. "We ask them to act
prudence, and respect for the Mexican government."
Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy demanded that Mexican immigration
authorities "act with greatest firmness and the heaviest hand," and state
implied U.S. recruiters would be detained the next time.
Mexican media accounts said the recruiter handed out promotional Army fliers to students. U.S. officials denied those charges.
Mexico has long been sensitive by what it perceives as the United
States encroaching upon its sovereignty. Such sensibilities are particularly
along the U.S.-Mexico border.