The Border in Flames

It has been many years, perhaps decades, since such serious, tense, violent and authentically alarming events have occurred on the border between Mexico and the United States.

During the events of last weekend, a group from the migrant caravan attempted to force its way in by breaking part of the border wall bars and was answered with rubber bullets, tear gas and a complete rejection of their attempt to enter the country.

During the current decade, the governments under Barack Obama (2008-2016) and Donald Trump (2017 to date) became the two United States administrations that have deported the most Mexicans and Central Americans in history. Their tactics of detention, arrest, registration centers and express deportation have worked with the greatest efficiency. Even so, the United States government still contends that many people are entering the country, and that in addition to the illegal immigrants, there is a criminal component, an assertion which, to date, has not been proven.

The attitude of Trump’s administration has abandoned humanitarian criteria. He has tried to change the law on political asylum, pressured congressional Democrats to declare a state of emergency and, even worse, demands, based on these developments, the appropriation of a budget of $25 billion for the construction of the promised border wall. After the Nov. 6 electoral results, in which the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, starting in January 2019 it will be practically impossible to obtain the funds, because it is precisely the House that approves the budget.*

That is the reason for the hurry, the urgency, the National Guard and the Army on the border and the rhetoric about a “national emergency” and “threats to national security.” The timing of the emergence of certain Central American leaders, extremely violent, disguised, defiant of the Border Patrol and the U. S. armed forces − in fact emphatically so − at the time that the Mexican offer of asylum was rejected is interesting. There has been much speculation regarding whether behind all this is a campaign orchestrated by officials from the Pentagon or the CIA to build the case for a national emergency and to pressure Congress. However, until now no evidence has been found.

What is known is that the number of days for action continues to dwindle, the crisis is growing and the new Mexican government has gotten things wrong more often than it has gotten them right. First the brotherly policy of open arms; then the hare-brained offer from Olga Sánchez Cordero, the next secretary of the interior,** to grant a million temporary work permits in Mexico; and today, the necessity of deporting violent individuals whose intent is to spark a problem on the border, according to the images coming from San Ysidro in the last few days.

Mexico is being confronted by a crisis of unimaginable dimensions, and not just because of the repeated threats by Trump to close the whole border to solve the problem, causing serious damage to the economy and to commerce, but particularly because of the serious humanitarian crisis of thousands of ignored but insistent migrants traveling across Mexican territory and demanding transport, food and services.

Enormous red flags and warning lights in Tijuana warn of a potential social explosion facing a militarized border, where at any moment there may be bloodshed. And there are no responsible politicians in the Mexican government seeking solutions and alternatives. There is talk of the next secretary of foreign affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, working very hard in Washington, only to face the brutal rejection by Trump of any compromise.

The border is on fire and nowhere can credible mechanisms be seen that would pacify or calm the Central American migrants. As the highest priority, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador should order the caravans − of which there are already four, with another two developing − to be stopped at the Guatemalan border and prevented from reaching the north, thereby reducing the problem and the tension and also controlling the unbounded growth of future migrant camps in Mexico.

*Translator’s note: The author is overstating the role of the House; while it must approve federal budgets, the Senate’s consent is required and final approval rests with the president.

**Translator’s note: In Mexico, the secretary of the interior oversees a wide array of programs; the particularly relevant functions in this context are immigration and public security.

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