Joe Biden took office promising to put a friendlier face on U.S. immigration policy. He ended a program forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico, pledged to restore America’s asylum system and pledged to spend $ 4 billion to tackle the root causes of migration by Central America.
But as more and more unaccompanied minors arrive at the southern border of the United States and create an internal political crisis for the American president, he turns to a tactic used by his predecessors – including Donald Trump: the outsourcing of immigration enforcement in Mexico.
Trump pressured Mexico to deploy its new national guard to its border with Guatemala in June 2019, having threatened to hike tariffs on Mexican imports.
Analysts are seeing something similar happening in Mexico – but this time with more promises of cooperation on issues such as the sharing of Covid-19 vaccines, rather than threats of economic disaster.
“I don’t see why Biden should change a foreign policy [on migration] when it worked for the United States, ”said Javier Urbano, coordinator of the program on migration affairs at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City.
“Whether we like it or not, what Donald Trump has achieved is a certain type of US control over Mexico’s border migration policy with Central America,” he added. “If this policy significantly reduces migration, why should they change their strategy?”
High-level US diplomats will travel to Mexico City on Tuesday for talks on tackling the flow of migrants from Central America.
US Border Tsar and former Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson and Director of the National Security Council for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González, said their meeting was to “develop an effective and humane plan of action for manage migration, ”according to a statement. of the White House.
“The main theme will be cooperation for development in Central America and southern Mexico, in addition to joint efforts for safe, orderly and regular migration.” tweeted Roberto Velasco Álvarez, Undersecretary for North America at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mexico recently deployed police, members of the National Guard and immigration officers to its border with Guatemala. Their stated aim was to protect migrant children, who National Institute of Immigration said were “used by criminal organizations as a safe passage document” to transit Mexico. (Mexico recently enacted a law banning the detention of children in migrant detention centers.)
Police in riot gear, immigration officials and members of the National Guard marched through the streets of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of the southern state of Chiapas, on Friday in a show of force.
Mexico has also restricted non-essential travel to its northern and southern borders for health reasons – a rare occurrence in a country, which has not suspended flights from countries hard hit by Covid-19 and has no Covid-19 testing required to enter.
The deployment, along with the decision to restrict movement at the border, coincided with the US government’s acceptance to send 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to its neighbor to the south. (The U.S. government will also provide 1.5 million doses of vaccine to Canada.)
Both governments have denied that the vaccines were sent to Mexico with certain conditions – and Mexico will provide the United States with the equivalent number of doses at a later date. Mexican officials hailed the vaccination as a warm gesture of friendship and the rebirth of North American cooperation – a relationship that appeared to be fading under Trump.
But the situation has stoked a sense of déjà vu in Mexico, especially after four years of Trump’s hardball on migration issues – in which Mexico effectively became the President’s wall preventing migrants from heading to the United States. North.
Even before Trump’s tenure, Mexico unveiled a plan known as the Southern Border Plan in 2014 to slow the exodus of migrant children from Central America.
“It’s no surprise because we’ve seen it before,” said Carlos Heredia, professor at the Center for Research and Education in Economics, of the perceived exchange.
“Migrants,” he added, “have become a bargaining chip.”