In pressuring Mexico to stop the caravan of migrants, Trump is asking the impossible

The caravan of Central Americans heading to the U.S. border has, for President Donald Trump, become a polemic against immigration — and Democrats — in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

He’s called on Mexico to stop the movement of around 7,000 people fleeing violence and poverty from countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.

The president has also tossed in a few threats for good measure, vowing to cut aid to countries from which the migrants originate and promising to seal the U.S-Mexico border, which would jeopardize the free trade deal (one he called the best deal ever signed).

The president has a long track record of disparaging Mexican migrants and workers in the U.S. in a similar fashion, and seems to think that the countries of origin “send” the migrants to the United States or Mexico.

Mexican authorities have vowed to do what they can to halt the caravan, which includes women and children, many of them in rough shape, who have been on foot for weeks under tough conditions.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray on Friday said his country would face the “challenge” of dealing with the caravan, on the same day that Mexican security forces clashed with the caravan trying to cross the border from Guatemala to Mexico.

Reuters reported that migrants were running head-first into a wall of armed Mexican forces, shaking fences and making a run for a nearby bridge to enter the country.

But thousands are already making their way through Mexico, putting authorities there in one hell of a fix.

As Ariel Ruiz Soto, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told NBC:  “The conundrum that Mexico finds itself is on the one hand trying to be diplomatic and ensure the human rights of migrants, as they ask the United States to do, and on the other hand facing threats from the U.S. and hoping to have a good relationship with the new administration.”

In his campaign, Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended the human rights of migrants, and his incoming undersecretary for immigration, Alejandro Encinas, has already declared that Mexico is “not going to chase migrants. We are not going to criminalize them. We have to stop looking at immigration as an issue of public security or national security, or the national security of the United States.”

But even as President Trump accuses Mexico of failing to do enough, the fact is, Mexico has deported more people from the three main countries of origin for the migrants (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) than the U.S. has.

Quoting data from the Migration Policy Institute, NBC reports that Mexico deported more than 94,000 migrants in 2017 (the U.S. deported 74,800 from those countries in 2017), and as of August of this year, had deported more than 86,000. The peak of deportation for Mexico — none of which were voluntary — was in 2015, when the country deported 165,000 people from those points of origin.

Having already accepted around 1,000 applications for asylum from people from the caravan, Mexico has asked the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees for help in the process.

Other than processing applications and establishing some sort of safety in the flow of the caravan, it’s unclear what more Mexico can, in fact, do. International law allows for people to seek asylum at the border — as does U.S. law — so, preventing someone from doing so would be unlawful.

Still, there are concerns among rights groups that things can go wrong, which is why Amnesty International has sent a group of observers to travel with the caravan this week, documenting their treatment.

According to the rights group, those who have applied for asylum in Mexico are being detained pending the outcomes of their application.

“The Mexican authorities must respect everyone’s right to claim asylum and avoid detaining them or using force against people who are only trying to find safety for their families,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement released on Wednesday.


Source: thinkprogress