June 3, 2019 — After months of increasingly draconian measures to limit access to asylum at the US southern border, this week the Trump Administration turned to threats against Mexico. The administration announced escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports, if that country did not halt the flow of Central American asylum seekers. The US government apparently hopes that Mexico will act as a buffer to block Central Americans from seeking refuge in the United States. This latest announcement comes on the heels of a series of policy changes aimed at undermining asylum protections, including family separations, metering at border crossings, extended detention, and the dangerous “remain in Mexico” policy. In addition to the potential humanitarian implications, analysts on both sides of the border generally deplored the new policy and being both economically and socially untenable.
This latest political grandstanding comes on the same day that Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan entered into a quieter but equally disturbing arrangement to deepen US migration enforcement presence in Central America. Acting Secretary McAleenan spent the week in Central America, where he signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Guatemala, promising DHS officials to assist with “training” local enforcement agencies to stop drug and human trafficking and to stop the flow of children out of Guatemala. This “carrot and stick” approach still fails to address the real crisis– the causes that are driving forced migration in the first place.
The punitive tariffs announced by The Trump Administration begin with a 5% penalty on Mexican goods, with a projected escalation to 25% if Mexico does not comply with the US demands to stop Central American migrants. Mexican President, Manuel Lopez Obrador, responded swiftly, remarking that “social problems are not resolved with taxes or coercive measures.” A meeting to discuss the matter, between the respective Secretaries of State, Marcelo Ebrad from Mexico, and Mike Pompeo, from the US, is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5.
The two countries appear to have differing expectations for the meeting, with the Mexican President signaling hope for a positive resolution, but President Trump continuing to escalate the negative rhetoric, calling on Mexico to match words to actions. In any case, the results are not likely to be good for human rights and humanitarian protection, especially if Mexico doubles down on militarization of its southern border.
A broad coalition of 24 civil society organizations from Mexico, the United States, and Central America carried out a Human Rights Observation Mission last week to document conditions for migrants and refugees in Southeast Mexico.
Over an intensive two days, the coalition visited several different sites, including Migration Stations that are serving as detention centers. The group also met with local, state and federal authorities, as well as international agencies with a presence in the region. The findings illustrate a complex set of structural problems in both policies and practices of managing migration in southern Mexico. The Mission found repeated instances when human rights and protections were subordinated to a militarized security approach to migration.
The mission concluded with nine recommendations to the Mexican government aimed at moving toward a human security approach to migration, including improving inter-institutional coordination, eliminating migration detention, and assigning budgetary resources.
On May 2, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented to the Mexican government its recommendations for an Integrated Central American Development plan. The plan consists of four pillars: 1) economic development; 2) social well-being; 3) environmental sustainability; y 4) a human-security framework for managing migration flows. The Mexican Secretary of State, Marcelo Ebrard, has stated that he hopes the United States will contribute $10 billion dollars to the plan. This issue will presumably also be discussed at the June 5 meeting between Ebard and US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
On June 1st, Nayib Bukele assumed the presidency of El Salvador. The presidential speech was only an announcement of the periods of collective efforts and sacrifices that will come to heal a country, that he described as an ailing child, and he announced in broad terms that he will try to generate mega-development projects. The expectations around the challenges that the country is facing and his vision on migration, including those who are now leaving the country, Salvadoreans living abroad and those who are deported, should find answers in his governmental actions in the coming days. Migrant led organizations are keeping an eye on developments.
Honduras underwent two days of protests in which demonstrators demanded the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernández. Expressions of discontent are in response to the approval of legislation that restructures and transforms the health and education systems, promoting their privatization. Some of the demonstrations took place in front of the US Embassy, which suffered some damage. Demonstrators indicators that the damage was in fact caused by unknown individuals who infiltrated the protest, and they detailed abuses of protestors by the Police.