Mex­ico wel­comed mi­grant car­a­van, in a change of pol­icy

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY ELIS­A­BETH MALKIN

The car­a­van of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans that has been mak­ing its way from Hon­duras to­ward the United States bor­der moved on fromMex­ico City in the predawn chill of Satur­day, as mi­grants strapped on back­packs, rolled up blan­kets and hoisted sleep­ing chil­dren into their arms to be­gin the next leg of their jour­ney.

For much of the past week, the gi­ant cap­i­tal, which prides it­self on be­ing a sanc­tu­ary for refugees, turned an ath­letic sta­dium into a camp for some 5,000 mi­grants and of­fered them ev­ery type of city ser­vice.

Ever since the car­a­van crossed into Mex­ico three weeks ago, the coun­try has faced a reck­on­ing over the way it treats Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants. Con­tra­dic­tory im­pulses are in play.

In Mex­ico City this week, doc­tors and den­tists were on hand for free check­ups, and chil­dren spent the morn­ings draw­ing and col­or­ing.

It wasn’t al­ways this way. For decades, suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions used strong en­force­ment mea­sures to con­trol Mex­ico’s borders. The mi­grants tried to travel out of the sight of au­thor­i­ties.

Now, Mex­ico City’s em­brace of the car­a­van has thrown an op­pos­ing idea into sharp re­lief, an ac­knowl­edg­ment that the coun­try’s asy­lum laws re­quire the gov­ern­ment to pro­tect mi­grants, who are vul­ner­a­ble to crim­i­nal gangs.

“There is a con­stant back-and-forth,” said Stephanie Leutert, who stud­ies Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­gra­tion at the Lyn­don B. John­son School of Pub­lic Af­fairs at the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin. “We want to stop peo­ple – and we want to make sure they are safe,” she said, sum­ma­riz­ing the ten­sion in the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach.

The mi­grants ar­rived in aMex­ico hang­ing in po­lit­i­cal limbo. The out­go­ing gov­ern­ment of En­rique Peña Ni­eto is set to hand over power Dec. 1 to a new left­ist gov­ern­ment. For years, first dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and then af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice, Peña Ni­eto’s gov­ern­ment had been act­ing as a ju­nior part­ner of the United States in block­ing the mi­grants’ pas­sage north.

Pres­i­dent-elect An­drés Manuel López Obrador has promised a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

He has pledged to grant tem­po­rary work visas to Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants, declar­ing that no­body should be forced to mi­grate, and seems un­likely to stand in the way of those who choose to test their luck by trav­el­ing to the U.S. bor­der.

RO­DRIGO ABD AP

Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants re­sume their jour­ney north Satur­day af­ter leav­ing the tem­po­rary shel­ter at the Je­sus Martinez sta­dium in Mex­ico City. Thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants were back on the move to­ward the U.S. bor­der Satur­day, af­ter ded­i­cated Mex­ico City metro trains whisked them to the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal and driv­ers be­gan of­fer­ing rides north.

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