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Immigrant deaths in Mexico have highlighted US policy that has shifted immigration enforcement south


fire related At least 39 immigrants died In a detention facility in Ciudad Juarez, just across the US border with Mexico, he likely had several contributing factors.

There was a direct cause of the fire, apparently the mattresses They are set on fire by desperate men at the center in protest of their imminent deportation. Then there is the obvious role of guards, He is seen on video walking away from the fire.

but as a Immigration policy expertI think there is another part of the tragedy that cannot be ignored: the decades-long immigration enforcement policies of the US and Mexican governments that have seen a number of The people kept in such facilities are rocketing.

In the aftermath of the fire, Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Comment on Twitter The massive use of immigration detention leads to tragedies like this.

And the United States is a big part of that “heavy use” on both sides of the border.

Prolonged stay and fear of deportation

Mexico today maintains a very large detention system. He. She It includes dozens of short- and long-term detention centershousing More than 300,000 people in 2021.

By comparison, the US immigration detention system is the largest in the world. He. She It maintains 131 facilities It consists of government-owned service processing centers, privately operated contract detention facilities, and a variety of other detention facilities, including prisons.

Mexico It has laws in place that are supposed to guarantee That detained immigrants only endure short periods and are given due process, such as access to lawyers and translators. The law also stipulates that they must be provided with adequate conditions, including access to education and health care.

But in fact, what immigrants often face in these detention centers is Poor sanitary conditions, overcrowdingAnd Long periods and despair About the near certainty of deportation.

The fire broke out in Ciudad Juárez after the immigrants – men from Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador – learned that they returned to those countriesAnd according to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Deportation would have dashed their hopes of asylum in the United States

US immigration enforcement is shifting south

Why Mexico deported, not the United States, has a lot to do with how the two countries cooperated to control illegal immigration destined for the United States, especially since the turn of the century. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the US authorities have increasingly looked into it Immigration as a matter of security – An axis that affected not only US domestic legislation on immigration but also its bilateral relations with Mexico.

In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón joined President George W. Bush’s efforts On Merida’s initiative To wage a war on drugs in Mexico, build a “21st century US-Mexico border” and shift immigration enforcement to Mexican territory.

These efforts are supported by Huge US fundingcomplete today.

With this money, I founded Mexico Naval bases on its rivers, security cordon, and drone surveillance. It has also set up mobile highway checkpoints and biometrics checks in immigration detention centers, all with the goal of largely detecting, detaining, and deporting. Central American immigrants trying to reach the United States.

The intent was to shift US immigration enforcement south of the border. In this regard, the policy was successful. Figures from Guatemala’s Immigration Institute show that of the 17,882 immigrants heading to the United States Deported to the Northern Triangle region of Central America – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – In 2022, Mexico returned 92,718 compared to 78,433 in the United States.

Prevention through deterrence does not work

Arrests and deportations in Mexico have done little to stem the flow of migrants entering the country on their way to the United States

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin estimate that from 2018 to 2021, The annual average is 377,000 immigrants Entered Mexico from the Northern Triangle region. The vast majority were headed to the United States to escape violence, drought, natural disasters, corruption, and extreme poverty.

Migrants pass through Mexico by the thousands from several other countries as well, fleeing conditions in countries like Haiti and Venezuelalike So are African countries.

Meanwhile, recent years have seen a tightening of border enforcement policies targeting asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. This began under the Trump administration but has been continued by President Joe Biden Despite the Democrats’ campaign promises A more “humane” immigration system.

Since 2019, Washington has adopted a series of policies that have forced migrants to present themselves at the US southern border to apply for asylum while they remain in Mexico or be expelled back to their countries of origin.

This has suffocated hundreds of thousands of migrants in Mexican border towns and increased the numbers entering detention facilities in Mexico.

By 2021, the number of migrants detained in these centers will reach 307,679, Almost twice as much as it was in 2019.

As a result, many centers, including the one involved in the fire, have They suffer from overcrowding and deteriorating conditions. 2021 report by the Migration Research Center’s Global Detention Project It has extensively documented how the conditions and practices of immigration centers in Mexico led to widespread protest by detained immigrants. Riots and protests are becoming more common, with incidents occurring at facilities in Tijuana and the southern city of Tapachula in recent months.

No end in sight

The tragedy in Ciudad Juárez is unlikely to affect the steady stream of migrants entering Mexico hoping to make it north of the border. For many, the options to take a different path to safety in the United States simply aren’t there.

Only a few can apply for refugee status in the United States from abroad, and the wait is long. Bidenhumane parole“The program — which allows up to 30,000 people a month to enter the United States — is only an option for those who live in a handful of countries. It is also being challenged in court. And for the lucky few who have been able to apply for asylum in the United States, rates remain high rejection – 63% in 2021 While the backlog of immigration cases means that fewer cases are being decided. Only 8,349 asylum seekers They have already been granted asylum by US immigration judges in 2021.

Meanwhile, the “transit ban” contained by the Biden administration means that anyone seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States from May 11, 2023 without having first applied for asylum en route will be swiftly deported, many to Mexico. .

The possibility is that the policy will only exacerbate the bottleneck in Mexico’s migrant processing, and increase pressure on the country’s already patchy system of detention facilities.

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