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Migration: a challenge of integrity?

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Martha Garcia

It is no mystery that Mexico has always subdued itself towards the desires of the United States of America, the imposing neighbor of the north. However, the extremes to which the current government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is willing to go are rather alarming. He claims it is all done in the name of security, when in reality it is only putting a band-aid in a huge and bleeding wound. On one hand he claims the migration policyof Mexico is focused on preserving human rights, and on the other he continues to deploy more and more military forces to the country borders.

Since Donald Trump’s administration, the government of the U.S. has pressured Mexico to take more action to stop such massive flow of people looking to apply for refugee status. In addition to putting more pressure, after Trump threatened to impose higher tariffs to all Mexican products crossing the border, triggering a possible trade war; Andres Manuel decided to militarize even more the migration policy of the country and criminalize migrants. On March of 2021, 8715 soldiers from the Guardia Nacional, SEDENA and the Secretaria de Marina (National Guard, Navy Secretariat, and the Ministry of National Defense) were deployed in the north and south border of Mexico. Soldiers who are clearly not trained to deal with people in transit and who have committed serious human rights violations against migrants: in 2020, 51 complainsagainst the brutal and aggressive actions of soldiers towards migrants, were filed. Likewise, from 2014 to 2019 nearly 3000 complains regarding military abuses were cataloged; abuses raging from arbitrary detentions to physical assaults and torture.

Nonetheless, the strategy to militarize borders, push migrants to other countries as if they were ‘someone else’s problem’ and claim is all for security purposes is neither a new one, nor Mexican-exclusive. Guatemala has a long history of using military and police force to violently stop the advance of different migrant caravans. Nowadays, it has around 20 checkpoints with military soldiers and federal police officials. Furthermore, in Joe Biden’s administration two of the most harmful policies continue to be enforced: Title 42 and the Remain in Mexico Program. Title 42 allows U.S. Border Patrol and Customs to carry out expulsions of anyone who can be a threat to the country’s health; called expulsions since they are not carried under immigration law. Up till now, 2,276,871 migrant arrests have happened, from which 63% resulted in this type of expulsions. Moreover, the Remain in Mexico program is as shocking because it forces Central Americans to return to Mexico while their claims are processed. Returning migrants most of the times means putting them in back in the dangerous situations they tried to escape from in their countries.

Evidently, the militarization of the social phenomenon of migration is not new. Rather than it being done in the name of security, these actions violate the security of people in transit. Migrants face many forms of violence: kidnapping, rape, ransom, torture and even death. Now they also must deal with travelling through more dangerous routesdue to the inhumane deployment of military forces and the all-around militarization of migration policies. Plus, another factor that is quite disconcerting is how Andres Manuel is turning this militarization into a nationalist narrative;  just like the U.S. and Guatemala. The heroism of troops dealing with such ‘intense’ situations is constantly commemorated, without understanding that it is just a narrative to hide highly repressive tactics. Every time the army is involved it cannot be forgotten that it is a display of hard power. Thus, the tactics done so far only promote racism, xenophobia and aporophobia.