Immigration a complex issue at Mexico borders
Pressure coming from both north and south
| 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
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.
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.
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
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.