Mexican migrants put pressure on both sides of the border - GulfToday

Mexican migrants put pressure on both sides of the border


Paramedics help Mexican migrant Joaquin Gonzalez, who got injured while trying to cross illegally into the United States, on Tuesday. Reuters

Alfredo Corchado, Tribune News Service

An old, familiar face is joining thousands of migrants trying to cross into the US to seek asylum: Mexicans. A rising number of Mexican citizens are fleeing states slammed by violence generated by bloody turf wars among remnants of organized crime, particularly in Guerrero, Michoacan and Zacatecas. These days, they find themselves stuck waiting on the border alongside their neighbours from Central America with similar stories of horror and despair.

Furthermore, when Mexicans are forced to wait in their own country to seek asylum in the US, it appears to be a violation of international human rights accords and serves as a wake-up call for the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to rethink its migration approach with the United States, analysts say.

«Mexico has to balance its approach to migration policy because the conditions of poverty and violence are very similar to Central America,» said Rafael Fernandez de Castro, director of the Center for US-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His centre been documenting the rise across the border in Tijuana.

«They must find a way between opening the door wide open to Central Americans, as it did in the beginning for humanitarian reasons, to not doing the dirty work for the Trump administration,» Fernandez de Castro added.

Lopez Obrador administration officials in Mexico City declined requests for comment. Mexicans seeking asylum isn›t new, but their numbers have grown significantly, and at times at a faster pace than Central Americans. In the month of August, the rising number of Mexicans was particularly acute along the border from Tijuana to Nogales and Ciudad Juarez.

The Kino Border Initiative, which assists migrants and monitors migration, reports that in Nogales, Ariz., the number of migrants on the metering system —the queue mechanism designed by US Customs Border Protection to manage the flow of migrants before setting foot on US soil to seek asylum —are as follows: Out of 697 people on the waiting list, 374 are Mexican. In Juarez, the number is at least 550 Mexicans, according to several human rights organizations on both sides of the border.

«We›ve seen an important increase of Mexicans, especially over the past three weeks,» said Dirvin Garcia, who›s in charge of Migrant Assistant Center, CAIM, a state agency based in Juarez. Among the arrivals is a woman stranded inside a shelter who said her name was Olivia was fleeing violence in her state of Guerrero.

«I lost members of my family so I had no option but to leave,» she said. «We›ve gone from very bad to very worse.» The surge in Mexican asylum seekers coincides with a sharp increase in violence across Mexico and bucks the recent trend of steep declines in overall migration from Mexico.

The development threatens to spoil Lopez Obrador›s first State of the Union address on Sunday, potentially undercutting any lofty talk of better days ahead for his nation, analysts say. The surge poses a dilemma for Lopez Obrador›s administration, and what some consider his unusual willingness to cooperate with the administration of President Donald J. Trump. Trump›s crackdown on all forms of immigration is widely seen as a key part of his reelection campaign.

Mexico has called the metering system a «unilateral move» on the part of the US government. Nonetheless, Mexico has played a key role in keeping Central American migrants from reaching the border, managing the migration flow in coordination with the US.

Metering lists were developed for migrants who must wait in Mexico to be summoned to the US to have asylum claims heard. Mexico even agreed to take in migrants returned to Mexico from the US to await their immigration court dates under a controversial system known as Migrant Protection Protocol.

The government also added 21,000 Mexican national guardsmen to slow down border crossing along its southern and northern borders in response to a tariff threat by Trump.

Carlos Bravo, a political commentator and coordinator of the journalism program at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City, joined a growing number of analysts who see trouble ahead for the otherwise popular Lopez Obrador when assessing the current state of his nation:

«The top three concerns: violence, migration and the economy,» said Bravo. «Violence: Numbers still going up, with no actual plan to tackle them. The Economy: No growth. And on migration: Mexico became the wall and it cost Trump nothing but a tariff threat. He won. Big time.»

Now comes the real test. Now Mexico›s own citizens find themselves on a waiting list in Mexico, in increasing numbers. Roger Maier, a spokesman for US Customs Border Protection in El Paso, said if «there is no space available at the CBP facility they are instructed to wait. Every month CBP officers in El Paso are processing hundreds of asylum seekers who claim fear at area ports from a variety of nations including Mexico.»

But critics say the practice is in violation of international law because it forces asylum-seekers to wait in the very country they›re fleeing.

«Turning away anyone seeking asylum at US ports of entry is illegal,» said Shaw Drake, attorney for the ACLU Border Rights Center. «US statute, regulation, and CBP›s own manual require the processing of arriving asylum seekers at ports of entry. It is a blatant violation of domestic and international law to return Mexican asylum seekers back into the hands of the very government from which they flee.»

Marisa Limon of the Border Hope Institute said the practice of metering Mexicans is one more reminder to underscore the fact that «Asylum doesn›t exist anymore in the United States.»

A history of violence in Mexico stretches back many years, but 2019 is poised to be the bloodiest. «Lopez Obrador cannot be blamed for the level of violence itself, but he also can›t be credited with putting forward a particularly convincing set of policies and programs to address it,» said Christopher Wilson, Deputy Director of the Mexico Institute at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The bloodshed has spared no state in Mexico. In August, several bodies were discovered hanging in Michoacan. This week, three young girls —ages, 4, 13 and 14 — were ambushed in Juarez. In Veracruz, 25 people were killed in a strip club fire thought to be started by a gang.

And in Nuevo Laredo, seven suspected gunmen with high-powered weapons were killed during an armed confrontation with Tamaulipas state police near the airport. There›s been so much violence there that Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Javier Cabeza de Vaca recently took to Twitter to plead for help from Lopez Obrador.

But there is one fact that has border nonprofits scratching their heads. Many of the Mexicans on the metering list come from the small northwestern town of Juan Aldame, Zacatecas, bordering San Antonio, Durango — so many that Customs and Border Patrol authorities were forced to briefly shut down the Paso del Norte international bridge.

The exodus coincides with the July 30 killing of a police chief and his bodyguard in Juan Aldame, a region with migratory ties to North Texas.

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