Tulsa World

Immigratio­n a complex issue at Mexico borders

Pressure coming from both north and south

- Associated Press

| exico has faced immigratio­n pressures from the north, south and within its own borders in recent weeks, putting it in an increasing­ly difficult position.

Thousands of migrants continue to cross its southern border, the United States sends thousands more back from the north and there’s the renewed prospect of the U.S. making asylum seekers wait in Mexico for long periods of time.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said recently the strategy of containing migrants in the south was untenable on its own.

But the groups of migrants walking north from southern Mexico in recent days have mostly been Haitians, a group that would not be addressed by the president’s proposed tree planting and youth employment programs in Central America.

MMexico’s southern border

Protests among the thousands of mostly Haitian migrants stuck in the southern city of Tapachula have intensifie­d in recent weeks. Many have been waiting there for months, some up to a year, for asylum requests to be processed.

Mexico’s refugee agency, which handles the applicatio­ns, is overwhelme­d. It was already behind and the pandemic slowed things even more. So far this year, more than 77,000 have applied for protected status in Mexico, 55,000 of those in Tapachula. Haitians account for about 19,000 of those applicants.

Tapachula’s shelters are full, leaving many asylum seekers to live in unsanitary conditions while they wait. Without the ability to work, many have few

options.

Mexico’s northern border

Concern has been growing in northern Mexico since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the restart of the controvers­ial program that made asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases are processed. The Trump-era policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols, but better known as “Remain in Mexico,” led to more than 70,000 asylum seekers waiting.

The Biden administra­tion ended the program earlier this year and said it would appeal the court decision even as the Department of Homeland Security takes steps to comply. On the ground, asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. have been frozen out. Shelters in northern Mexico fear they could soon be overwhelme­d again by returned asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues the rapid removal of migrants under a pandemic-related authority invoked by the Trump administra­tion. So far this year, the U.S. government has made 674,000 expulsions under that Title 42 authority.

U.S. expulsions to southern Mexico

The U.S. government is also flying thousands of migrants from other countries to southern Mexico, where Mexican authoritie­s drive them to remote locations on its border with Guatemala and drop them off.

The idea is to reduce returns by making it more difficult for migrants to reach the U.S. again. Mexico is similarly moving migrants detained in the north to its southern border, said Dana Graber Ladek, Mexico chief for the Internatio­nal Organizati­on for

Migration, a part of the United Nations system.

Alejandra Macías, from the nongovernm­ental organizati­on Asylum Access Mexico, says those are illegal transfers “because they don’t screen for people at risk.”

The IOM has expressed concern about the flights as well, because people are dropped off “sometimes at night, sometimes without knowing exactly what they are doing or where they are,” said Graber Ladek.

Government actions

Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said recently that the main objective of the armed forces and National Guard is “to detain all migration” and “cover the northern border, the southern border with soldiers.”

López Obrador has sounded frustrated with the migrant containmen­t strategy, which lately has drawn widespread criticism.

His government has promised to issue thousands of work visas and welcome asylum seekers. But it was the military that received more budget support, while the refugee agency saw its budget reduced.

“We are overflowin­g with an absolutely unusual avalanche, above all of Haitians,” said Andrés Ramírez Silva, head of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance.

Possible fixes

To clear the backlog in Tapachula, Mexico’s refugee agency wants to offer new options to Haitians — the second largest migrant group behind Hondurans — that would allow them to travel outside the state of Chiapas and find legal work.

Ramírez Silva says these migrants don’t meet all the requiremen­ts to win asylum, but they do need protection because they can’t be returned to a country amid a crisis.

He said not everyone in the Mexican government agrees with that approach, but he does have the support of United Nations agencies. Graber Ladek said they are working with the Mexican government to facilitate the granting of temporary immigratio­n permits until officials can develop other ideas that wouldn’t be limited to one nationalit­y.

IAssociate­d Press n the ghastly rubble of ground zero’s fallen towers 20 years ago, hour zero arrived, a chance to start anew. World affairs reordered abruptly on that morning of blue skies, black ash, fire and death. In Iran, chants of “death to America” quickly gave way to candleligh­t vigils to mourn the American dead. Vladimir Putin weighed in with substantiv­e help as the U.S. prepared to go to war in Russia’s region of influence.

Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, a murderous dictator with a poetic streak, spoke of the “human duty” to be with Americans after “these horrifying and awesome events, which are bound to awaken human conscience.”

From the first terrible moments, America’s longstandi­ng allies were joined by longtime enemies in that singularly galvanizin­g instant. No nation with global standing was cheering the stateless terrorists. How rare is that?

Too rare to last, it turned out. Civilizati­ons have their allegories for rebirth in times of devastatio­n. A global favorite is that of the phoenix, a magical and magnificen­t bird, rising from ashes. In the hellscape of Germany at the end of World War II, the concept of hour zero, or Stunde Null, offered the opportunit­y to start anew.

For the U.S., the zero hour of Sept. 11, 2001, meant a chance to reshape its place in the post-Cold War world from a high perch of influence and goodwill. This was only a decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse left America with both the moral authority and the military and financial muscle to be unquestion­ably the lone superpower.

Those advantages were soon squandered. Instead of a new order, 9/11 fueled 20 years of war abroad. In the U.S., it gave rise to the angry, aggrieved, self-proclaimed patriot, and heightened surveillan­ce and suspicion in the name of common defense.

It opened an era of deference to the armed forces as lawmakers pulled back on oversight as presidents gave primacy to the military over law enforcemen­t in counterter­rorism. It sparked anti-immigrant sentiment, primarily directed at Muslim countries, that lingers today.

What most nations agreed was a war of necessity in Afghanista­n was followed two years later by a war of choice as the U.S. invaded Iraq on false claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destructio­n.

Thus opened the deep, deadly mineshaft of “forever wars.” Convulsion­s ran through the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy — long a force for ballast — gave way to a head-snapping change from Bush to Obama to Trump. Trust in America’s leadership and reliabilit­y

waned.

Other parts of the world were not immune. Farright populist movements coursed through Europe. Britain voted to break away from the European Union. China steadily ascended in the global pecking order.

Now, President Joe Biden is trying to restore trust, but there is no easy path. He is ending war, but what comes next?

In Afghanista­n in August, the Taliban seized control with menacing swiftness as the Afghan government and security forces that the U.S. and its allies had spent two decades trying to build collapsed. No steady hand was evident from the U.S. in the disorganiz­ed evacuation of Afghans desperatel­y trying to flee the country.

In the United States, the 2001 attacks had set loose a bloodlust cry for revenge. A swath of American society embraced the binary outlook articulate­d by Bush — “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” — and has never let go of it.

Factionali­sm hardened, in school board fights, on Facebook posts, and in national politics, so that opposing views were treated as propaganda from mortal enemies. The concept of enemy also evolved, to include immigrants as well as terrorists.

The patriot under threat became a personal and political identity. Trump would harness it to help him win the presidency.

For the U.S., the presidenci­es since Bush’s wars have been marked by an effort to pull back the military from the conflicts of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The perception of a U.S. retreat has allowed Russia and China to gain influence in the regions and left U.S. allies struggling to understand Washington’s place in the world.

To be sure, the succession of U.S. presidents since 9/11 scored important achievemen­ts in shoring up

security, and so far U.S. territory has remained safe from more internatio­nal terrorism anywhere on the scale of that Sept. 11.

Globally, U.S.-led forces weakened al-Qaida, which has failed to launch a major attack on the West since 2005. The Iraq invasion rid the world of a murderous dictator in Saddam.

Yet deadly chaos soon followed his overthrow. The Bush administra­tion, in its nation-building haste, had failed to plan for keeping order, leaving Islamist extremists and rival militias to fight for dominance.

Today, the legacies of 9/11 ripple both in obvious and unusual ways.

Most directly, millions of people in the U.S. and Europe go about their public business under the constant gaze of security cameras while other surveillan­ce tools scoop up private communicat­ions. The government layered post-9/11 bureaucrac­ies on to law enforcemen­t to support the expansive security apparatus.

Militariza­tion is more evident now, from large cities to small towns that now own military vehicles and weapons that seem well out of proportion to any terrorist threat. Government offices have become fortificat­ions; airports a security maze.

But as profound an event as 9/11 was, its effect on how the world has been ordered was temporary and largely undone by domestic political forces, a global economic downturn and now a lethal pandemic.

The awakening of human conscience predicted by Gadhafi didn’t last. Gadhafi didn’t last.

Osama bin Laden has been dead for a decade. Saddam was hanged in 2006. The forever wars now are over or ending. The days of Russia tactically enabling the U.S., and China not standing in the way, petered out.

Only the phoenix lasts.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS ?? Mexican National guardsmen search through a papaya field for Haitian migrants who are part of a caravan making their way north Sept. 2 in Escuintla, Chiapas state, Mexico.
ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS Mexican National guardsmen search through a papaya field for Haitian migrants who are part of a caravan making their way north Sept. 2 in Escuintla, Chiapas state, Mexico.
 ??  ?? Haitian migrants walk along the highway Sept. 2 in Huixtla, Chiapas state, Mexico, in their journey north toward the U.S.
Haitian migrants walk along the highway Sept. 2 in Huixtla, Chiapas state, Mexico, in their journey north toward the U.S.
 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS ?? A plane takes off from Washington Reagan National Airport as a large U.S. flag is unfurled Sept. 11, 2020, at the Pentagon ahead of ceremonies at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to honor the 184 people killed in the 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, in Washington.
ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS A plane takes off from Washington Reagan National Airport as a large U.S. flag is unfurled Sept. 11, 2020, at the Pentagon ahead of ceremonies at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to honor the 184 people killed in the 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, in Washington.
 ??  ?? Crowds climb trees and celebrate May 2, 2011, in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
Crowds climb trees and celebrate May 2, 2011, in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
 ??  ?? Activists of Pakistan militant religious parties stand with a banner during a rally Sept. 15, 2001, in Islamabad.
Activists of Pakistan militant religious parties stand with a banner during a rally Sept. 15, 2001, in Islamabad.
 ??  ?? U.S. Marines try to take shelter from a sand storm at a base May 7, 2008, in southern Afghanista­n.
U.S. Marines try to take shelter from a sand storm at a base May 7, 2008, in southern Afghanista­n.
 ??  ?? Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003, in Baghdad.
Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003, in Baghdad.
 ??  ?? COMING SATURDAY Special insert on the 20-year anniversar­y of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
COMING SATURDAY Special insert on the 20-year anniversar­y of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States