September 4, 2019 — The Trump Administration is using Mexico and Central America as a border wall meant to block migrant flows. Last week, during his visit to El Salvador, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, signed an agreement with Salvadoran President Nayib Bukelele aimed at slowing migration.
According to a statement by the Department of Homeland Security, the agreement aims to strengthen “border security and law enforcement operations” recently implemented by the Bukele administration. The agreement also calls for collaboration between El Salvador and the U.S. to share information, counter gang activity, and promote investment to support El Salvador’s efforts to “develop asylum and protection capacity.” President Bukelele assured that the letter of intent does not constitute a “safe third country agreement,” under which asylum seekers would be required to apply for refuge in El Salvador instead of the United States. Such an agreement would resemble the one recently signed by Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, which is currently being blocked by the country’s Constitutional Court.
The purpose of the pact between El Salvador and the United States is not yet clear, but – as covered previously by Alianza Americas – an agreement indicating that any Central American country is “safe” for asylum seekers is dangerous and problematic. Instead of promoting border patrols or militarizing borders, Central America needs support in creating and expanding social programs meant to tackle the inequality that fuels violence, poverty and motivates the Central American exodus. This is the only way Central America can foster stability in the lives of its people so they are not forced to flee to the United States in search of protection. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is betting on flawed strategies that ignore attacks on anti-corruption and anti-impunity efforts which, as seen in this week’s dissolution of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
Following a collaborative fact-finding delegation to Honduras and El Salvador with one of our member organizations, Centro Presente and our allies at Lawyers for Civil Rights, a joint report was released this week with recommendations on how to address the underlying causes of the exodus. The report can be found here.
Migrants and asylum seekers face serious challenges
Meanwhile, migrants in Mexico are forced to navigate the country’s practices of containment, detention and deportation. These same practices have sparked concern from The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Many people migrating through Mexico face the threat of deportation and apprehension. Others are not eligible for deportation, and refuse to return to Guatemala due to the precarious economic and social problems of that country. Some people are trying to survive by settling in towns located across the border, avoiding returning to their countries of origin and hoping that immigration policies will change. Many others become victims of violence and are kidnapped, executed or go missing.
African migrants insist on their right to seek asylum in the United States
Last week we reported on the humanitarian crisis faced by more than 3,000 African migrants who are essentially stranded in Tapachula as a result of new restrictions on mobility in Mexico. Suppression from the state has motivated them to organize and demand that the Mexican government stop violating their rights.
In a statement published last week, the Assembly of African Migrants presented the following demands to the Mexican government: 1) A document that recognizes their right to seek asylum in the United States and Canada 2) A process free of bureaucracy and barriers for those who wish to seek asylum in Mexico 3) Emergency humanitarian assistance addressing people’s physical and mental health 4) An end to repressive practices enforced by state security officials. These requests were put forth by the Assembly at a press conference in conjunction with a peaceful march. These African migrants have called on allies and all people of conscience to speak up and to pressure Mexican authorities to honor their dignity and recognize their right to live free of violence.
The migration policy blocking migrants of African origin is a direct result of an agreement between Mexico and the United States that was signed in June. The agreement will be evaluated during a meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on September 10th in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the Mexican government credits the agreement for reducing the number of crossings to the United States by 52%.