Recently, Alex Mensing of the organization People Without Borders has been the subject of continuing interrogations by immigration agents every time he enters Mexico or the United States:
They ask him repeatedly, “What do you do for a living? … Who organizes the caravans that come from Central America? Who provides you with money, or what do you live on?”
Also, his photo is increasingly shown as a “most wanted” photo to migrants who cross and are detained in the United States:
The immigration agents repeatedly ask the detained migrants, “Have you seen him? … What type of information does he give you? … Is he one of those who organizes the caravans?”
This practice has resulted in the criminalization of Mensing and every People Without Borders member who has accompanied the migrants fleeing from violence and squalor in Central America.
But the attacks against this organization and its members reached a worrisome level when Mexican Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero, during her official visit to Washington last Thursday, blamed the group for organizing the caravans that are still continually reaching the borders of Mexico and the United States.
“That is completely false,” Mensing declared in an interview with La Jornada.
“We have not organized even one of the caravans that have multiplied in recent months. The last caravan that we organized was over a year ago. And we have only accompanied the defenders of human rights and the migrants who are fleeing poverty and violence.
“The problem is that the immigration program has slipped out of the hands of the Mexican government … First they spoke of an open border policy and of granting humanitarian visas. But then they pivoted to a more restrictive policy … The ambiguity in their handling of policy is the direct cause of these caravans that organize spontaneously,” he added.
Ironically, Mensing’s criticisms have coincided with those of Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who has accused Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of being directly responsible for this increase in the caravans.
“The immigration regularization policy of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s new administration contributed to the arrival of large groups to the United States border,” McAleenan testified at a recent Congressional hearing.*
But, unlike U.S. officials who blame Mexico for the increase in caravans, Mexican officials point at defenders of human rights.
“That’s why they want to make us scapegoats while they continue doing the United States’ dirty work,” Mensing argued.
Mensing’s criticism addresses not only the criminalization of various organizations like People Without Borders, but also linking migrants to gangs like Mara Salvatrucha.
In addition, his criticism also addresses how Mexico has become the doorman or goalkeeper for the United States government, which has unilaterally decided to return Central American immigrants who request asylum, to cities like Tijuana to wait for answers that often take months or years – as President Donald Trump himself has recognized.
In turn, Irineo Mujica, one of the People Without Borders who is also on the American and Mexican blacklists, claimed that “Mexico accepts the people that the United States expels, despite the fact that their legal proceedings are occurring in the United States. The new government of Mexico, by accepting Trump’s plan, is implementing a policy of ‘safe third country’ without acknowledging it, and allows a violation – a profound one – of Mexican sovereignty.”
The criminalization of activists from various organizations has occurred courtesy of continuous surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security.
Last November, NBC News revealed that the DHS maintains ongoing surveillance regarding the supposed caravan leaders and participants in these journeys leaving from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The use of undercover agents who are planted in the caravans has become an important source of information. Surveillance of text messages shared among the migrants has become another tool for DHS agents.
But the information that DHS has collected is complemented in many cases by data or value judgments that have allowed President Trump’s administration to criminalize migrants and the activists who assist them.
It appears that this information has been shared with the government of Mexico.
“For us it is strange, that, at the beginning, even people such as Tonatiuh Guillen (current director of the National Institute of Migration) met with us to talk about the issue of caravans. That is, we spoke of cooperation. But, afterwards, we were faced with these kinds of attacks that only seek to criminalize us,” Mensing said.
The criticism from these activists adds to the increasingly widespread perception that Mexico’s government has become a surprising ally of the immigration policy that Trump promotes.
“Breaking with decades of asylum practice, the Mexican government has also allowed the Trump administration to send more than 120 men, women and children to Tijuana while they await decisions on their asylum applications in the United States.
“The program could be expanded to other border crossings as soon as next week,” The New York Times reported Friday in its digital edition, in this way documenting the criticism of unidentified Mexican government officials who believe that the Mexican government has turned into a strange ally of Trump.
* Editor’s Note: While translated accurately, this quote could not be independently verified.