The López Obrador Government intensifies controls due to the increase in people seeking to cross into the United States with renewed hope by the Biden Administration
A new migrant crisis looms in Mexico. The hopes of thousands of people to be received in the United States by the new administration of Democrat Joe Biden have put the border between the two countries on alert. The US Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, reported on Tuesday that they expect the largest wave of migrants in the last 20 years. The Mexican Executive, which during the presidency of Donald Trump turned the country into a wall for those fleeing poverty and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America, faces a new challenge in the middle of the electoral year. Despite the fact that the border remains closed due to the coronavirus emergency, the last three weeks have seen a significant increase in the flow of people, including thousands of unaccompanied children and Mexicans who decide to leave their country. The authorities have responded with more controls, arrests, and deportations.
The serious migratory crisis that Mexico went through in 2019 marked the political agenda of the first year of the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The thorny situation calmed down in 2020 due to the pandemic. Although the arrival of migrants continued, it did so to a lesser extent. The covid reduced asylum applications by 42% compared to the previous year, according to data from the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees. Biden’s rise to power and the shift in discourse to more migrant-friendly rhetoric have now fueled a new wave of immigration. Thousands of Central Americans have returned to the border or are preparing to reach it with renewed hope.
The Biden administration began a process in February to receive 25,000 asylum seekers, as a measure to end Trump’s most cruel practices. A few have been able to enter since then, but the overall figures reflect the impermeability of the border. Some 100,000 were stopped last month trying to cross, 28% more than in January. In March, the daily average number of arrests is around 4,000, a rate that can leave a higher monthly total. The authorities of the two countries have insisted that the doors remain closed for all those who do not have residency or are US citizens. “We are expelling the majority of single adults and families,” Mayorkas warned on Tuesday, explaining the upswing due to the increase in violence, corruption, and the recent passage of the hurricanes that devastated Central America.
The fear of a new caravan is palpable within the Government, which has insisted these days in statements published by the Mexican embassies in Central America that it “will not allow the irregular entry” of people through the southern border. The alarm is also felt in the migration centers of the country, where the rebound in people arriving is seen every day. Dozens of activists met virtually last weekend to decide how to deal with the new crisis that looms. “The message for the migrants is that they do not move,” warns Juan Antonio Sierra Vargas, in charge of the Casa del Migrante de Matamoros, in the border state of Tamaulipas. Opening up to a few fueled the false idea that the doors were open, says Sierra Varga. “Unfortunately people do not pay attention,
Activist Alberto Xicotencatl estimates a 50% increase in flow in recent weeks at the Casa del Migrante shelter in Saltillo, in Coahuila. “They think that with Biden [crossing] the border is much easier and they have the false idea that with children or families the entrance is going to be easier.” The situation has worsened with the pandemic, he says because they can receive fewer people for the recommended measures to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. Xicotencatl also claims the lack of support from the Government, which this year eliminated budget resources destined to support municipalities and border states that serve migrants.
The migratory phenomenon facing Mexico this year has two components, explains Alberto Hernández, president of the Colegio de la Frontera. The first is the flow of Central Americans who mistakenly see in Biden the “possibility of fulfilling his dream” of having a life in the United States. The other is more innovative and is made up of groups of Mexicans who have decided to leave the country. “There has been a very large decrease in Mexican migration in recent decades and that is being reactivated,” says the migration specialist. One of the new reasons driving people, he adds, is the economic reactivation after the pandemic, which is more promising in the United States than in Latin American countries.
In response to the upturn in migration, authorities have intensified controls in the border area, migrant advocates say. The National Migration Institute (INM), which has not responded to this newspaper’s request for information, detained some 1,200 people who were traveling by train through the south and center of the country between January 25 and February 16 alone. Another 800 were detained in the same regions on buses and trucks, the institution reported to Reuters. Tonatiuh Guillén, former director of the INM, has indicated to the agency that the escalation of arrests in the country is unprecedented, whereas before they were occasional, they have now become a common practice.
“Mexico continues to deport more migrants than the United States. And this year our country will continue in the position of containment, it will not change its role of encirclement ”, assures Hernández. The action of the Mexican Administration in the face of a new migratory wave will play a role in the national political scene, he says. The country faces the largest elections in history this year. “The government has a complicated situation: if it exerts too much pressure, it can play against it at the polls, but if it relaxes too much, too.” Regardless of the nuances that the answer may have, he just hopes he will never have to see the brutal images left by the 2019 immigration crisis.