The Migration Crisis Turns Into A Perfect Storm For Mexico
Mexico arrives this Saturday for International Migrants Day in the midst of crisis due to record numbers of detentions of foreigners, triggered refugee requests, the presence of networks of migrant smugglers, and the advance of caravans towards the United States despite the Government’s attempts to stop them.
“It is a time of many crises happening at the same time. There is a large concentration of Central American migrants on both borders and refugee requests have skyrocketed because Mexico is no longer seen as a transit country but a destination country,” Eunice told Efe. Rendón, an expert in migration and security.
The numbers speak for themselves. Between January and October of this year, Mexican authorities arrested 228,000 migrants and deported more than 82,000, numbers not seen in more than 15 years.
In addition, 123,000 migrants have requested refuge in the first eleven months of 2021, another absolute record since in previous years the country received some 40,000 requests.
In this context, the reinstatement December of the US “Stay in Mexico” program, which forces foreigners to wait in Mexico while a court evaluates their asylum application, has been met with enormous disappointment and concern among the migrant community and activists.
This program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, in English) and promoted by Donald Trump (2017-2021), left more than 70,000 people stranded on the dangerous northern Mexican border for months.
The suspension of this program had been a star measure of the Government of Democrat Joe Biden, but the US Supreme Court agreed with a federal judge for its reinstatement.
The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to cooperate in the reestablishment of the controversial program in exchange for improving the financing of shelters and medical assistance for migrants.
Eunice Rendón admitted that Biden has a “much more friendly and symbolic” language towards migration, but at the same time recalled that the Democratic president is using Title 42 as never before, which allows the rapid expulsion of migrants under the pretext of the pandemic.
“Biden said that he would help migrants who were already in the United States to legalize them with immigration reform, but he never promised that he would accept more migrants,” he recalled.
THE CARAVANS ARE BACK
Despite the persistence of restrictions to enter the United States, in recent months caravans of migrants, mostly Central Americans and Haitians, have been organized once again, crossing Mexico to the United States, pushed by the devastating effects of the pandemic.
In 2019, faced with threats from Trump, the Mexican government militarized its border with Guatemala to contain these flows and since then no caravan had made much progress.
But last week, a contingent of 300 people arrived in Mexico City, faced a strong police contingent that was blocking their way, and settled in a camp where they will decide whether to continue to the United States.
Irineo Mujica, an activist from Pueblos Sin Fronteras who accompanies the caravan, told Efe that López Obrador’s immigration policy is “the toughest in the last decade” and accused the authorities of having fought the migrants with “physical and psychological torture. “during the more than 1,100 kilometers of travel from the border with Guatemala to the Mexican capital.
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) found in a report published on Tuesday that immigration agents made “excessive and disproportionate use of force during operations” to stop the advance of the caravan.
In fact, the caravan left the state of Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala, in October with thousands of members but lost steam due to arrests, migrants who surrendered or who accepted humanitarian visas conditional on staying in the south of the country.
THE TRAGEDY BEHIND THE MAFIAS
But the tragedy of migration was bloody evidenced on December 9 when 56 migrants died when a truck of human smugglers overturned in the southern state of Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala.
The Governments of Mexico, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic announced the creation of an Immediate Action Group to find those responsible.
According to experts, organized crime charges migrants between $ 3,000 and $ 15,000 to transfer them and help them cross the border with the United States.
“They have found an aspect of business that is committed in full impunity,” said Rendón, given the lack of arrests against these mafias.
Faced with this perfect storm, López Obrador insists on the need for an economic development plan for Central America, and the United States has already announced some investments. But experts agree that results will take years.