By MARÍA VERZA, Associated Press
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico says it has complied with a 90-day deadline from the U.S. to reduce the flow of migrants through its territory, but activists say Mexico’s crackdown has only forced migrants into greater desperation and more illicit, dangerous routes.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is to give a final report on Mexican government efforts Friday, three months after threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on Mexico unless it cracked down on hundreds of thousands of mainly Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. border.
The figures appear to bear out Mexico’s position. The number of migrants detained at the U.S. border has fallen from 133,000 in May to 95,000 in June and 72,000 in July. Mexico has reinforced security on its porous southern border and set up checkpoints on highways leading north, deploying 21,600 police and troops across the nation.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador is a leftist who took office Dec. 1 promising better treatment of migrants, but he has instead made the fight against migrant trafficking his own cause. In recent weeks, he has seldom cites the U.S. pressure and depicts the crackdown on migrants as a struggle to defend Mexican laws. For example, his administration has taken a tough line against hundreds of African migrants waiting in the southern city of Tapachula for transit visas that Mexico no longer hands out.
“We will not budge,” he said after the Africans protested, “because the recent events in Tapachula aim to make Mexico yield and oblige us to give out certificates so migrants can get into the United States. We cannot do that. It isn’t our job.”
He said migrant caravans once tolerated by Mexico were the work of human traffickers, and effectively ended them.
“All of these people who traffic with migrants’ needs for jobs, safety and welfare, they are committing a crime and they will be punished,” López Obrador said last week. “We are already doing this in Mexico, without violating human rights. We are ensuring there isn’t anarchy, disorder.”
Activists say López Obrador is simply dressing up the fact that he yielded to Trump’s pressure tactics.
“Mexico is just trying to comply with the U.S. [demands] and cut down on migration, but it is improvising and violating the law,” said Javier Martínez, a lawyer for the Casa del Migrante shelter in the northern city of Saltillo in Coahuila state. “We are seeing things we never saw before.”
Mexico has raided freight trains that migrants ride north, and pulled thousands of migrants off buses and out of the freight compartments of trucks. It was warned bus and taxi drivers they could lose their permits if they transport migrants. Activists say that has forced migrants to hike through unpopulated areas to avoid checkpoints, exposing them to greater risk from thieves, muggers and rapists who lie in wait.
Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who runs a migrant shelter in the southern state of Oaxaca, said Mexico essentially had no choice.
“It was the least worse choice,” Solalinde said of the government’s decision. “Given that Donald Trump is an unstable person, full of surprises, we had to make this deal.”
All of that has left migrants like José Bento, 30, of the Congo, feeling like they have been caught in the middle, and left in limbo.
“We are in a jail without walls,” said Bento, who has spent four months traveling though South and Central America in a bid to reach the United States. “This is a policy of lies. We are considered as animals.”
Yes, the total number of migrants is down. It’s still well above past years. And there are still very large groups arriving at the US border and crossing, groups of 100 and over 200. How can a group of TWO HUNDRED MIGRANTS travel the entire length of Mexico and not be detected? And large groups of migrants are still illegally riding the train “the beast” – in Mexico to quickly travel the whole length of the country….and Mexican police can’t stop them? It looks as though Mexico is doing a lot of very visible things to make it look like they are doing everything they can to show they are limiting migrants. But it’s not enough. I think we should push for them to be a safe third country. That might make them far more interested in limiting the number of people who enter their country. I’m not opposed to tariffs for Mexico. And maybe US citizens footing the bill for all the walk-in asylum seekers for multiple countries who are coming through Mexico should boycott the car manufacturers who have plants in Mexico. With over 65% of immigrants on social services, it’s clear that the more immigrants we take in, the more residents we will be required to support with our tax dollars ….. forever. It needs to stop. Bless the Trump administration for what they are trying to do. Vote the Do-Nothing Democrats OUT of OFFiCE – they prefer to spend their money and time investigating rather than addressing a problem.