In June, the Mexican government detained 29,153 migrants, 1,000 a day. In addition, the United States returned 20,000 people to border cities in Mexico. For now, the number of people being arrested in Donald Trump’s raids is low, but it must be remembered that half of the people living in the United States without legal permission, who total several million, are Mexicans. Many of them have lived and worked here for many years.
In addition to the thousands of people detained by immigration officials right after crossing the border, and the thousands who have died trying to cross, the focus is now on millions of workers who have been living in unstable working conditions with low wages. Consequently, they live crowded together, and in addition, they are being robbed outright of the remittances they send to family members in Mexico. Many of them are being fleeced by Ricardo Salinas Pliego’s Banco Azteca, to which the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador entrusted the accounts of the elderly. There are some 8.5 million such accounts, multiplied by 2,550 pesos each, or 21.7 billion pesos (approximately $1.12 billion) every two months. That comes out to 130 billion pesos annually, or 780 billion pesos (approximately $40 billion) over a six-year presidential term. Management fees for the portfolio will generate tens of billions for Banco Azteca, just for managing the accounts of the elderly. In addition to these accounts, others have to be added, including the accounts of the so-called “NiNis,”* almost 3 million trainees working for businesses, but paid by the government.
Conflicts between the migrants and the National Guard occur daily, although President López Obrador has tried to downplay their importance. It is the same with the mistreatment at the immigration checkpoints, not to mention the situation in the makeshift refugee camps, which are looking more and more like concentration camps.
In fact, Mexico has become a safe third country. The consequences of this for Mexico will be huge, and unpredictable in many aspects. We are already in a humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations high commissioner for refugees has stated that he is concerned about the increase in numbers of detentions and deportations, or the return of foreigners.
During recent months, there have been 200,000 returns or deportations from the United States. Under the measures imposed by Trump, many of those immigrants will be sent to Mexico. Faced with this, there is no capacity to provide more than a few of them with refuge. It is ridiculous to claim that 3,000 immigrants have been taken in, when it is already in the hundreds of thousands and could reach millions.
This head-in-the-sand approach repeatedly advocated by President López Obrador, saying that “domestic policy is the best foreign policy,” has brought us to the brink of the abyss.
Confronted with Trump, Mexico chose to “avoid threats and shouting matches,” and have been reduced to servility in the face of his ultimatum. In the words of Porfirio Muñoz Ledo: “Paying taxes in human flesh is not worth it.”
Transitioning from a vulgar anti-Americanism to submissiveness, pretending that there is nothing else we can do, is the result of not having crafted a foreign policy consistent with a 21st century community, something which can’t be avoided.
Demagoguery in the old style of former Mexican President Luis Echeverría Álvarez was never a real option, and neither were treaties in the style of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
In the face of immigration and the whole relationship with the United States, it is time to think about forming a North American union.
*Translator’s note: “NiNis” refers to a cohort of young people in Mexico (and elsewhere), from 15 to 29 years old, who, in Spanish “Ni trabajan, Ni estudian,” which means that they neither work nor study (go to school).
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