After a year of pandemic that brought the world to a standstill, throughout 2021 the borders gradually abandoned restrictions and returned to normal. And from the hand of this normality came the other; that of thousands of people moving through the American continent with a single objective: to reach the North.
The economic crisis derived from the pandemic that hits Latin America returned a phenomenon that re-emerged with more force than before. Although emigration includes all possible accents and the increase in people in transit looking for a better future can be seen practically anywhere on the continent, from Ecuador to Venezuela through the Darien jungle, Haiti, Cuba or Central America, in the case of Mexico, the year began with one tragedy and ends with another. On January 22, 16 migrants were shot and burned to death in Camargo, Tamaulipas, and on December 9 in Chiapas, in southern Mexico, the accident of a trailer in which more than 150 migrants were traveling in hiding took their lives. than 56 undocumented immigrants and left hundreds injured. The accident showed that if one day the caravans became the most visible way of escaping – in a more affordable and safe way – and protesting the misery, the criminalization of migration returned it to the underground and the shadows.
A dozen social organizations, grouped around the Foundation for Justice, summarized last week as “a year of setbacks” in the field of Human Rights for migration and concluded that the border with the United States is “the most lethal of the world”. According to organizations dedicated to monitoring the rule of law, the year that is ending “reflects the consequences of failed migration policies.” They also criticized that, in their attempt to stop migration, governments such as those of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador have hardened and militarized their migration policies “without measuring the human cost they imply.” “The tragedy that migrants experience is painfully everyday and often silent,” they noted in their report.
Few countries like Mexico, place of destination, departure and passage of migrants, better summarize the migratory reality of the continent, immersed in one of the largest waves in its history. In October, Mexico reached a new all-time high in asylum applications with more than 100,000, according to figures from the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar). In the first ten months of the year, the number of applications tripled compared to the same period in 2020 when about 41,000 procedures were counted. Venezuela has topped the list of countries where the largest number of applicants come from in past years. The UN estimates that some six million Venezuelans have left the Latin American country plunged into a deep economic and political crisis in recent years.
From January to October, Mexico has detained 228,115 people and deported another 82,627, numbers that had not been seen for more than 15 years. According to Migration statistics, the authorities have detected an increase of more than 1,000% in the migratory flow from Venezuela in the first nine months of 2021, compared to five years ago.
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This includes disappearances, executions, extortion, rape, torture and other harassment, as well as violations of the human rights of migrants to which the authorities have responded only with patches. The volume is such that criminal organizations dedicated to trafficking in persons have gained in strength and presence until they “become independent” from the traditional cartels, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard recognized this week, who valued the money these organizations move each at 14,000 million dollars. anus.
The political context has also contributed to the rise in prices that the polleros drive. With the reactivation of the immigration program “Stay in Mexico” by court order, the US government of Joe Biden recovers one of the most cruel anti-immigrant policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump. Starting in early December, asylum seekers arriving at the southern border of the United States can be returned to dangerous cities on the Mexican border, where they must await their appointment with a judge and expose themselves to kidnapping and extortion. Although the details are unknown, it is expected that the program, which has begun to be implemented in Ciudad Juárez, will be expanded to other border points such as Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.
To resume this plan, the US president had the approval of his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who has become the most effective policeman in the Border Patrol. For the first time, both governments acknowledged having negotiated the implementation of the program. It includes points to alleviate the risks of those expelled, such as the maximum limit of 180 days to stay in Mexico. However, the border remains a hostile and dangerous place for families fleeing threats and persecution with children in hand. Until now, most Central American migrants were delivered to Mexico under the format of ‘hot returns’ whereby they were expelled almost immediately after being intercepted by US immigration authorities. But in recent months, expulsions have also begun to be carried out by plane to points in the south of the country such as Tabasco, Chiapas or Campeche, where the National Migration Institute (INM) picks them up and expels them to Guatemala or Honduras. Throughout this deal, López Obrador has been a loyal partner in getting rid of migrants.
Less than a year after suspending “Stay in Mexico” (also called “Migrant Protection Protocols” or MPP), Biden has reactivated the program by court order and the new expelled by the MPP will join the those who are returned by Title 42, the decree with which Trump legalized the express expulsion with the excuse of covid-19. Despite Biden’s promises, Trump and the most belligerent Republican collectives continue to have powerful allies. With this panorama, migration returned to its previous format and ceased to be collective, in broad daylight and on busy roads, to once again be individual, nocturnal and vulnerable. Migrant families, who before the pandemic and MPP surrendered to immigration authorities in the hope that they would release them while a judge decided their asylum cases, had to return to the shadows.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.