MEXICO CITY (CNS)--Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City has called for an end to ``xenophobic attitudes'' in the United States that he said have contributed to recent violence and deaths among Mexicans who have tried to cross the border illegally.

Speaking to reporters following a Mass May 28, the cardinal was especially critical of ranchers in southern Arizona who have organized vigilante groups to capture undocumented workers.

``A fundamental human right is the right to work...and I believe that the laws of countries and concrete attitudes must leave behind those xenophobic feelings and attitudes,'' he said.

``Just as the borders are open to merchandise, that is all the more reason that the borders should be open to the human being,'' said Rivera.

Mexican authorities say that at least 62 people have died this year trying to enter California from Mexico. Many deaths result from dehydration, but some have drowned in canals near San Diego and Calexico, Calif.

Tough new enforcement in Texas and California over the last few years has pushed many illegal border-crossers into Arizona.

Reports from Douglas, Ariz., that have been widely publicized in Mexico say that ranchers near the border have organized bands to search for illegal migrants, complaining that they invade and damage their property and that the U.S. Border Patrol is understaffed in the area.

Rivera's words echoed those of the Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera of Jalapa, who said the ``hunting of migrants (in Arizona) was a barbarous act'' that represented ``odious racism.''

Speaking to reporters May 22, Archbishop Obeso said that while the United States has the right to defend its borders, the Mexicans who go there ``are not going to commit crimes, but are persons who travel to seek work and to collaborate in some way with the economy of the United States.''

``I hope that similar events do not define the profile of relations between the two countries,'' he added.

The situation of Mexican migrants has become an issue in campaigning for Mexico's presidential election July 2. The two main opposition candidates have called for the negotiation of new agreements with the United States that would legalize the northward flow of workers.

On April 9, Archbishop Rosendo Huesca Pacheco of Puebla said in a widely publicized homily that U.S. and Mexican authorities should look for ways to improve the lives of Mexican migrants and consider the possibility of a new bilateral agreement.

In comments to reporters after Mass, he said that poverty in Mexico led many people from rural areas to leave Mexico ``in search of bread for their children and family.''

Huesca added private investment to create jobs was also needed.

``The ideal solution would be that no Mexican would leave the country,'' he said.

Last September, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara also called on authorities in both countries to recognize the rights of migrant workers.

In a document titled, ``To Emigrate is a Natural Right,'' Sandoval said Mexicans leave their land searching for better living conditions and fleeing violence and hunger.

``The universal phenomenon of migration awakened in us the awareness that, in spite of the pain of those who emigrate, they bring, nevertheless, great benefits: To other places they bring their culture, their human values, their folklore, their religion and their beliefs,'' said Sandoval in the document.

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