The US immigration system is in crisis, overwhelmed by a dramatic increase in barriers to cross-border 144,278 in May alone, the highest number for more than a decade. The New York Times reported last week that the detention facilities are extremely crowded, and children often sleep on concrete floors with the lights all night. Children as young as 7 years old do not have access to soap or toothbrushes, and many have not been able to wash their clothes or shower when they were detained. But for all the justified anger and concern about the conditions north of the US-Mexico border, the humanitarian crisis unfolding to the south may be even more bleak.
The increase in detentions is due to an increase in Central American asylum seekers – mainly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – fleeing poverty and gang violence. Most of them illegally cross Mexico's southern border and travel north to the United States where they apply for asylum. After President Donald Trump threatened to impose imports of Mexican imports earlier this month, Mexico decided to send Mexican national security forces to the border with Guatemala to limit migrants' flow. Mexico also agreed to host several asylum seekers, while US courts deal with their claims and offer them jobs, healthcare, and education. If illegal immigration is not slowed down to US satisfaction within 45 days, the White House says, further steps will be taken. This will most likely include appointing Mexico as a "safe third country", which means that Central American immigrants seeking refugee status should request asylum in Mexico, rather than the United States, and remain there if their requests are made.
Both Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador talked about this deal as if it were an important achievement: Mexico avoided potentially criminal charges (for now), and Trump seemed tough on immigration when he launched his re-election campaign. But this immigration agreement is far from a long-term solution, and it is likely to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis that is already unfolding.
According to Red TDT, a network of 87 human rights organizations in Mexico, migrants crossing southern Mexico's border in recent months have faced an increase in violent detentions, family divorces, and racist and xenophobic attitudes on the Mexican side. There are also countless reports of crimes and abuse by federal authorities. There is no reason to believe that the presence of the National Guard, which was first established in March this year and is consisting mainly of former military and federal police officers, will improve the situation.
"Militarization of the border results in the systemic violation of human rights," said Alexandra Lestón, coordinator of the structural change unit of La 72, an immigrant home in the border town of Tenosique, in the southern part of Tabasco. "The extortion and robbery of the federal authorities has become very common. Persecution [by the authorities] forces people to travel at night through dark and distant places that expose them to more crime."
La 72 is located about 40 miles from the border with Guatemala. Immigrants crossing from Guatemala on foot must walk for three days to reach the lights. "They are exposed to everything on their way here," said Lestón. "Kidnapping, rape, sexual violence, murder."
Deportations from Mexico to Central America have tripled since December, as reported last month by the Spanish daily El País. In April, close to 15,000 immigrants were deported, the highest monthly deportation in three years. "They have no rights," said Lestón. "They have no access to health care unless they are dying. They do not have access to a lawyer. The authorities must provide them with some basic information on how to request refugee status, but they almost never do."
At Mexico's northern border, the increase in Remain in Mexico deportations is also very much related. "I think we're looking at the very real possibility of a major problem in northern Mexico," said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank. "All these people will return to Mexico … where will they be accommodated? How will they be hired? Where should the children be educated? How will they get medical attention? You have all kinds of problems that can get out of it."
Currently, asylum seekers making it to the United States through Mexico are only deported to three Mexican border cities: Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Piedras Negras. According to Pedro Gerson, an immigration lawyer at Bronx Defenders, a publicly sound nonprofit in New York City, the increase in Remain in Mexico deportations could rise from 20 a day to 1,000. "Suppose it ends up being half of it. Imagine sending 500 people back to Mexico every day," he said. "For two months you have 30,000 people in three cities who do not have the capacity to absorb them."
Jose María García, founder and director of Juventud 2000, an immigrant home in Tijuana, echoes Gerson's concern. He explained that these cities already host four types of immigrants: Mexicans from poorer or more dangerous parts of the country, Central Americans arriving from southern Mexico, Central Americans who have been returned from the United States while their asylum applications are being processed, and Mexicans who deported from the United States. "We could have problems with overcrowding at any time now," García said.
"For two months you have 30,000 people in three cities who do not have the capacity to absorb them."
– Pedro Gerson
Migrants in northern Mexico are also often victims of crime and are facing increasing xenophobia. According to a recent study by El Universal, a Mexican newspaper, 61.5 percent of the Mexicans said they agreed that the government should stop unconscious migrants from entering the country, up from 48.9 percent in October. The same vote found that 44.4 percent of Mexicans believe the government should immediately expose unconscious immigrants, up from 27.6 percent over the same period. "I've been robbed twice," said Carmen, a 32-year-old woman from El Salvador who made the journey north to Tijuana about five months ago and awaits an asylum consultation in the US "They don't treat us well when we walk down the street "We are called many things. They insult us:" Immigrate. & # 39; & # 39; Go back to your country. & # 39; "
The situation could potentially be much worse. "Perhaps the worst problem is that organized crime will look at this incredibly vulnerable population to be banned and probably recruited," Wood said. "So I think this is self-harmed by Mexico unless they have a plan to redistribute the population across the country."
If such a plan exists, it is difficult to imagine how it could be accomplished. The budget of Mexico's National Immigration Institute was cut by 23 percent in 2019, down to $ 68 million, and 720 jobs in the agency were eliminated. The office responsible for processing asylum visas, called COMAR, has a budget of approx. $ 10 million. In perspective, US customs and border protection and US immigration and customs enforcement have a total budget of about $ 24 billion.
"As much as Mexico is willing to say," OK, we do what the United States says, "it can't go through, it doesn't have the ability to do it," Wood said. "I think they get a postponement during the summer that can allow both sides to say," Hey, it worked. "But in the fall, the numbers will pick up again. … the flow will continue to happen as long as the Central Americans are desperate to get out of their countries."