Mexico turns to investments in Central America and militarized borders to avoid threats from Trump

Photo: Presidency of El Salvador.

June 25, 2019 – Mexico has taken new steps to curb migration and comply with agreements made with the United States. Last week, the Mexican government announced a new reforestation and employment initiative in Central America called “Planting Life”.  The Mexican plan calls for a total $100 million investment in Central America, with $30 million already allocated to El Salvador and the goal of creating 20,000 new jobs. On Wednesday, June 19, the presidents of El Salvador and Mexico met in Tapachula, Chiapas to commemorate the beginning of this program, with the support of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC).  

Mexico expects to obtain resources from the United Nations and other international agencies to  fund an “integrated development” program with Central America. Last week, Mexico’s undersecretary of Foreign Relations to Latin America and the Caribbean confirmed that Mexico would be requesting $20 million in credit from the Inter-American Development Bank to improve migration enforcement infrastructure in the southeastern region of the country.  The government justified the credit increase request by citing an “unexpected” increase in migration flows, a somewhat doubtful claim since the current migration patterns have been in place at least since October of 2018, when the Central American “exodus” was made visible by migrant caravans.

Over the coming weeks, we should have a better sense of what the program will actually achieve. If Mexico is to be successful in obtaining additional international support, it will need to demonstrate that the program can protect the human rights of migrants and asylum-seekers AND create decent jobs with dignified salaries.  Addressing one without the other is not sufficient according to, a preliminary report on drivers of forced displacement in El Salvador, produced by its Human Rights Prosecutor’s office.   Additionally, a recent UNHCR report shows that El Salvador was the primary country of origin for asylum seekers in 2018, with a total of 33,400 asylum applications submitted and 71,500 internally displaced persons.

The ongoing political instability in Honduras is a source of additional and renewed concern and could generate additional forced displacement from the country.  In the last few days, there have been numerous protests in different regions of the country calling for the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Several outlets report violent reprisals and since June 22, there have been three deaths.

New federal agencies involved in migration containment

Mexico’s plan to deter and restrain new flows of migrants at the southern border has had direct consequences for National Institute of Migration (INM), the federal agency tasked with implementing migration policies, where poor work conditions have recently led to around 600 resignations from border agents.  

To address the shortage of workers within the INM, the federal government has designated divisions of the Federal Police and National Guard to serve as migration enforcement agents.  One of the most concerning aspects of this strategy is that neither the federal police nor the National Guard are adequately trained in migration, or prepared to provide adequate care for migrant populations.  Without proper protocols and accountability in place, human rights violations of migrant populations in Mexico will likely increase as a result of these new efforts to militarize migration enforcement.

Deaths at the border continue

Last week we learned of the death of a Salvadoran woman after a migration operation in Chiapas, Mexico. This week there have been more migrant deaths on Mexico’s northern border with the US.  On Sunday, June 23, a young father and his daughter from El Salvador died in the Rio Grande while trying to cross into the US.  That same day, the bodies of a woman and three children were found in the south of Texas, in an area where migrants often cross the border. These tragedies are a result of policies that prioritize deterrence, pushing migrants to cross in locations that put their lives in danger.