The new American immigration plan for Mexico to reduce the irregular flow of migrants toward the U.S. border arrives at its first 45-day evaluation. The intimidation game once again presents issues that concern the American electorate. In the past, the “war” against drugs brought mechanisms such as evaluating and sanctioning cooperation, but was useless in combating narco-trafficking. The schemes look very similar, although the important difference is that the “blacklists” at least had legal support in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 while, under the migration agreement, that support exists only in an agreement between current administrations, at least until Donald Trump’s reelection.
The rating will be positive, even outstanding, after Trump thanked the Mexican government “for doing a great job of deploying 21,000 soldiers along the dividing line. We didn’t expect that much!”* In contrast to the old anti-drug certification, Trump is not required to present a report to Congress in order to continue pressuring a safe third country to contain the migration. A unilateral declaration is sufficient to make a discretionary judgment concerning the neighbor before carrying out threats to trade. This is, incidentally, an example of the margins of power of American leadership in the face of institutional controls, especially if they serve the electoral offer of ridding the country of immigrants by the thousands. ... Border wall, raids, cancellation of asylum.
The intimidation worked in Mexico’s case and the country becomes, in practice, a safe third country, even without major legislative debate concerning the impact on human rights and sustainability of the methods agreed on this past June by both governments. Perhaps there is some disagreement at the declarative level, such as President of the Chamber of Deputies Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, in recognition of that new status, with the proclamation this week of a new U.S. law that limits the right to asylum. Given the lessons from the anti-drug struggle, discussion over the migration plan cannot be reduced to applause from the government for the evils that were avoided by accepting “the agreement” as salvation of the homeland.
The successes of Trump are not the successes of the Mexican government regarding migration because, as in the “war against drugs,” simple responses to complex problems lead to nowhere but higher costs. Persecution and criminalization are not going to make immigration disappear and, instead, will leave a humanitarian crisis. Mexico always gave its approval to the anti-drug certification process, but this never helped reduce narco-trafficking and the war left a human rights crisis.
The anti-drug qualification was eliminated in 2002 when terrorism displaced drug cartels as the principal threat for the U.S. electorate and their government made it a priority for security policy. However, in Mexico the war against drugs opened up the most violent period in modern history. As a matter of fact, the European Union condemned the use of armed forces to manage migration in Mexico due to the risks to human rights and the dignity of migrants, but its criticism is weaker than with other issues because there are calls in their own countries to “close the borders” and establish a plan for an external safe third country.
The electoral motivations behind Trump’s anti-immigration policies are well known, but there has been little discussion of their long-term sustainability. Mexico did the work in the first month and a half of the agreement: It increased deportations by more than 50% between May and July, from 14,000 to 22,000 migrants, with the entry of the National Guard. Detentions at the U.S. border dropped 30% and more than 20,000 migrants are in Mexico waiting for a response to their asylum application, which can take up to three years. But how long can we maintain the effort before the repression invites xenophobia, hate and violence against the migrants?
*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated from the original, could not be verified.