Is Mexico doing the US's ‘dirty work' when it comes to migration?

Marilyn Lomas had finally made it to the Suchiate River, the southwestern most part of the 956 kilometer (594 mile) border between Mexico and Guatemala.

Is Mexico doing the US's ‘dirty work' when it comes to migration?


Marilyn Lomas finally made it. The Suchiate stood in front of the Ecuadorian, her husband and their children. The waters of this mighty river can be dangerous to migrants at times. It marks the southernmost part of the 956 km (594 miles) border between Mexico, Guatemala and Mexico.

The situation [in Ecuador] has deteriorated. The crime rate is high. She said, "It's bad." Her family and she crossed the river in a flimsy boat with about a dozen migrants, who paid a dollar each to local guides for assistance.

The family was not stopped by the Suchiate from crossing the border from San Marcos, Guatemala to Chiapas, Mexico. In the past, migrants from the south faced little or no restriction in Guatemala and Mexico. This dramatically changed in 2019.

Then-United States president Donald Trump, in May that year threatened to impose tariffs upon all Mexican goods entering the US if Mexico failed to limit the number Central American migrants crossing through Mexico.

Trump tweeted on June 7, after intense negotiations, that a deal was reached between the two nations. Mexico would 'take measures to stem migration through Mexico and to our Southern Border'.

Mexico's Defense Secretary announced two weeks later that 15,000 troops were deployed along the US-Mexico Border. This was in addition to the 2,000 National Guard members who had already been deployed on Mexico's southern border to Belize and Guatemala. The 4,500 troops that already occupied the area included 2,000 National Guard members.

But enforcement has been chaotic and sporadic, or, as a former Mexican top official put it, "inefficient."

Tonatiuh Guillen was the commissioner of Mexico's National Migration Institute from 2019 until now. He resigned after only seven months because he disagreed strongly with the decision of his boss, President Andres Manuel Obrador, to "militarize Mexico’s borders."

Mexico became a control area, [a place] of severe migration policies, detentions and deterrences, as well as expulsions. We must also acknowledge that these harsh measures have not been effective despite their severity. When we compare the numbers of migrants who entered Mexico in 2018 and the year after, the measures were implemented. These numbers have tripled, or even quadrupled.' Guillen said to CNN.

Guillen responded that Mexico's immigration policy was aligned with US goals and strategies under Trump and, now, Biden.

As another immigration deal shows, US migration policy is still heavily dependent on Mexico. The White House announced earlier this month that Mexico had agreed to accept migrants from Cuba and other countries, including Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, beginning May 12, the same day Title 42 was terminated. This is the first time that the US has deported non-Mexicans across the border.

This is not about dirty work for the United States

Mexican President Obrador denied that Mexico was doing the US bidding in terms of migration.

On March 2, he stated that cracking down undocumented immigration was needed to protect victims from smugglers.

"This is about migrants' protection. The president stated, 'Just look at the tragedies that have occurred, so many involving migrants in trailers. In San Antonio, Texas, 51 migrants were found dead inside a semitruck last June in hot and humid conditions. Two months later, 47 more migrants were discovered alive in a truck in Matehuala, Mexico (San Luis Potosi State).

Lopez Obrador said that a part of the solution was to 'cooperate with the U.S. Government so there is no chaos and much less violence at the border. We are also helping [Mexico’s] Southeast [border] to protect migrants. The president stated that he has received information that there are more smugglers than usual and many people traffickers who offer to transport migrants at a price between $8,000 and $10,000.

Guillen's former immigration commissioner points out that tragedies also occur in the course immigration enforcement. He was horrified by a fire that killed forty mostly Central American migrants in a facility of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso in Texas.

This tragedy is one of the worst examples of how his country has failed to deal with its migration problem humanely.

During the summer of 2019, clashes between National Guard members and migrants at the Mexico-Guatemala Border became more frequent. In the years that followed, there were also clashes which suggested the Mexican authorities did not have enough numbers or a strategy to effectively combat the problem.

According to Mexican government statistics released Monday, from September 2021 to June last year, almost 23,458 Mexican armed forces members were deployed at the country's border to enforce Mexican immigration policies. During that time, the military detained a total of 345 854 migrants.

Mexico seems to be trying to strike a balance between a strict enforcement approach and an open-door policy. CNN reported that the National Migration Institute, located in Chiapas, a state bordering Guatemala, processed 81,000 migrants between November 1 and May 6. These migrants came from more than 100 countries.

The Ecuadorian migrant family Marilyn Lomas hoped to get a permit that would allow them to cross Mexico without any problems and then enter the United States.

She said, "With God's blessing, anything is possible."