The humanitarian crisis that is occurring, of children who emigrate from Central America, pass through Mexico and remain in legal limbo in the United States or get deported, has become a serious political problem. It's happened before, but never on such a scale and with such an impact as it's having now. For several days it's been the main topic in U.S. news. It's given Republicans the chance to reclaim power with their border policies. It's provoked protests among those living around the border and compassion among charity organizations. It's put President Obama on the defensive, trying to look like a strong humanitarian, but it simply isn't working. To avoid conservatives’ blows and leave them with the bill, Obama has asked Congress for additional resources. His position has reignited criticisms of a lack of leadership. Some see the problem as an issue of national security, while others look at it as more of a humanitarian crisis. Either way, what's missing is an integrated response, something Mexico could help with.
There doesn't exist any one answer. Modifying former President Bush's decree of further tightening the border wouldn't solve anything. Close the border even more, when in the last few years there have been more deportations than ever? Asking Congress for more funding to help the children wouldn't work. Nor would pressuring the Mexican government to close its southern border.
What needs to change is the focus. It needs to happen at this time of surprise, doubt and frustration. It needs to happen now when U.S. counter-insurgency strategies in Iraq and Syria are shown to be severely limited, now when the situation in the Middle East is again in shambles due to the rise in violence between Hamas and the Israeli government, and when terrorism is reviving fears in the U.S. and forcing it to take new security measures in its airports. It's clear that police and military-based solutions, though they may provide a quick fix, are simply not enough and can even prove to be counterproductive.
We ought to ask ourselves about the true level of desperation the parents of these children from Honduras and Guatemala face, knowing the risks they run in sending their children to the U.S. What risks must they face in their countries, what complete lack of opportunities leads them to such an extreme decision?
A different kind of political focus is necessary. Conditions inside the United States are not favorable. The recovery of its economy is still weak. The political polarization of the government has reached extreme levels. Any form of bipartisan cooperation has become almost impossible. Still, this crisis has garnered so much attention that there exists a small window of opportunity for a political initiative. Mexico could be part of a new, integral initiative if we just took some action. Instead of focusing on controlling the situation through force, the focus should be on consolidating democratic institutions, the development and rights of our neighbors to the south and regional cooperation to achieve a humanitarian policy for the migrants.
In the wake of this humanitarian crisis and pressure from the United States, Mexico cannot limit itself to complying with the same old orders from the empire, playing the role of the ostrich hiding its head, pretending there's nothing happening. The increased pressure from public opinion in the U.S. opens the door for a change in focus, for a democratic, political initiative. Mexico should take advantage of it.