In just seven months since the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador started the administration last December, Mexico’s immigration policy has taken a 180-degree turn in speech and, above all, in the facts.
In just over half a year, Mexico went from presuming a new «humanitarian» policy, based on respect for human rights, to sending 6,000 soldiers to its southern border to detain and deport thousands of migrants, in the face of demands from The U.S. government Trump.
Last Friday there was a new episode in this policy change: in the midst of the signing on June 7 of the u.S. deal, in which Trump gave Mexico a 45-day deadline to contain the migrant flow, with the threat of imposing tariffs , López Obrador announced that the new commissioner of the National Institute of Migration (INM), the unit responsible for carrying out the detensions, imprisonments and deportations, will be the former coordinator of the Mexican prisons, Francisco Garduño Yáñez.
Garduño arrives in place of Tonatiuh Guillén, an academic profile commissioner – he was director of the North Frontier College – who publicly advocated to remain independent of Trump’s pressures.
«Mexican immigration policy cannot be subordinate dyed to that of Donald Trump’s administration,» he said in an interview with Political Animal in November last year, in which he also said that the use of soldiers and police to detain migrants would be «the last exception and not the rule.»
In the face of this change, civil organizations criticized that the arrival in the IMm of an official «of a prison profile» confirms the return to a policy based on a national security approach, the maximum expression of which was lived during Peña Nieto’s six-year past with the launch of the Southern Frontier Plan.
«The appointment of the new commissioner is consistent with the return to a migration policy focused on the use of force, to deport and deport people without documents,» Ana Saiz, director of the civil organization Sin Fronts, said in an interview.
For his part, Alberto Xicontécatl, of the Casa del Migrante de Saltillo, said that the appointment of Francisco Garduño «is a clear sign» that there is a return to a police profile at the head of the INM, as happened in the government of Enrique Peña Nieto , when the former Chief of Staff of the Federal Preventive Police, Ardelio Vargas, was elected as commissioner.
«It’s a bad sign for civil society,» Xicontécatl stressed. And it is no coincidence that, at this time, when seeking to detain and deport more migrants, a prison expert is put in charge of the INM.»
However, the interviewees agreed that the arrival of Francisco Garduño in the INM is only one more step in the change in migration policy, which was already underway months ago; especially since last April, when, in the face of the unprecedented increase in migrant caravans – according to the government, in just three months to 300 thousand migrants entered six caravans to reach the United States – the head of the Governorate, Olga Sánchez Cordero, hardened his speech to begin to suggest that, while Mexico maintained the human rights approach, the migration phenomenon is a matter of «national security». So he stressed the need to sort the flows.
An orderthat that quickly went from discourse to deeds.
On 23 April, for example, scenes of the past government were repeated with the Southern Border Plan, mass arrests and police persecutions against migrants, including children and adolescents. That day, in Pijijiapan, Chiapas, the INM detained nearly 400 migrants.
On June 4, Political Animal he documented stories of migrants, especially Cubans, detained in INM operatives in collaboration with police and soldiers, while resting in hotels in Tapachula, a few kilometers from the border with Guatemala. While 24 civilian organizations in the United States, Mexico and Central America, documented in a Civil Observation Mission that the mass raids are separating entire families, violating the principle of family unity and their human rights.
And just last Saturday, a day after the appointment of Francisco Garduño, the INM reported intercepting four trailers in Veracruz in which 791 undocumented migrants were transferred to the northern border.
All of the above also came down to official statistics, which point to a new boom in the detains: last May alone, 22,000 catches were recorded, 119% more than last year, and 175% more compared to January, the first month of the new government of the new government, and López Obrador.
«When to name Tonatiuh there were high expectations for real change in migration policy, because he is someone who has a very broad knowledge of the subject, and above all, of the needs of migrants,» said Alberto Xicontécatl of the Migrant House Saltillo.
«But that speech never changed the practices of Mexican immigration policy,» said Ana Saiz of Sin Fronteras. Because the detensions continued and the deportations increased. That is, we never saw the 4T discourse materialized, with a few exceptions,» she added.
Among these exceptions are images from last January, when migration agents granted thousands of visitor cards for humanitarian reasons to migrants who entered the country, through the international bridge between Mexico and Guatemala, and not clandestinely crossing the Suchiate River in rafts.
The delivery of these visas was highlighted by the international press, including The New York Times, as the paradigm of the new immigration policy of the government of López Obrador. Although the delivery of those visas was short-lived. Just two weeks, the time in which the INM announced that it ended the program.
Heading to the safe third country
Another key point where, progressively, there is also a change in Mexico’s position is on the issue of shelter for migrants.
Since the beginning of López Obrador’s new government, multiple actors, including Segob, Chancellery, and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (Comar), have repeated that Mexico will not accept being a «safe third country».
This figure means that Central Americans seeking refuge from gang violence that plagues, especially Honduras and El Salvador, could not seek refuge in the United States, as is the intention of the majority, but could only do so in Mexico, which would cause Mexico to take full weight in the management of refugees.
«We will in no way accept it,» said the Undersecretary of Migration, Alejandro Encinas, on December 19th.
However, a day later, on December 20, the United States unilaterally decided that it would send those applying for asylum on its territory to Mexico, to wait here for the resolutions of its cases, a decision that Mexico accepted arguing that it did so to protect migrants.
And seven months later, on June 7, there was a new move to the safe third country with the signing of the agreement with the U.S. government.
Following that agreement, Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard has sent conflicting messages. While he has reiterated that Mexico will not agree to be a safe third country, a press conference on June 11 also admitted that if within 45 days indicated by the Trump administration it is not possible to reduce the flow of migration, then there would be a new Negotiation.
And there, yes, there would be the possibility of Mexico taking on that new role. Something that could mean the collapse of the already collapsed Mexican shelter system, which by this year, despite asylum applications increased by 82%, experienced a cut in its modest budget of just over 20 million pesos, to cater for thousands of requests Itudes.
For now, what is a fact is that, following the signing of the agreement with the United States, Mexico presented a new border plan, in which Marcelo Ebrard detailed that, along with tightening containment measures with the already announced sending of the National Guard , plus the recruitment of another 825 nDO agents, other measures will also be proposed for the protection of migrants, and to offer them the possibility of work and asylum in Mexico.
However, in the context of that new plan, the chancellor also said a sentence summarizing the 180-degree turn in human rights immigration policy, in which he basically warned that migrants seeking to reach the United States through Mexican soil.
» (If you’re a migrant) probably what you’re going to find is that we’re going to tell you: we don’t want you to go through our territory if your goal is to get to another country. Why? Because you’re going to create a problem for our country,» he said.
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