Donald Trump threatened to close the U.S.-México border this week unless México started to intercede Central American immigrants intent on reaching the United States. Yesterday, Donald Trump said that México “deported 1,000” immigrants in one day, insinuating that he had strong-armed México into doing America’s immigration work. But like everything else about immigration, all is not what it seems. Enter Programa Frontera Sur, a Mexican immigrant control plan launched in the summer of 2014.
Yes, you read that right, in the summer of 2014 the Mexican government launched a program to control the flow of Central American immigrants trying to reach America.
What many readers may have forgotten is that in 2014, the United States government declared a “humanitarian crisis” on its southern border mostly because of the number of children seeking asylum in the U.S. No, it wasn’t Trump that was screaming a border emergency, rather it was Barak Obama who declared the border emergency. As a result, and with the help of the American government, former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto launched the Programa Frontera Sur on July 7, 2014.
The program established a Mexican border crossing card for citizens of Belize and Guatemala to give them short-term access to southern areas of México. Ten official border crossing points were established along the Guatemala border and two others with Belize.
Additionally, humanitarian centers were established and regional multinational strategies to alleviate the migrant problems were established. The goal was to lower the number of unaccompanied child immigrants reaching the U.S. border.
The Mexican government deployed police, immigration agents and the army to control the flow of Central American migrants via the program. In addition to interceding migrants headed to the United States, the program also captures the biometric data of immigrants. Those are sent to the U.S. for pre-screening purposes.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol statistics, in 2014, there 67,339 unaccompanied children reaching the American border. In 2015, after the Programa Frontera Sur was implemented, the number of unaccompanied children reaching the American border dropped to 39,399 and it further dropped to 20,164 in 2016.
One of the results of the program was a significant increase in asylum requests to stay in México made by Central American migrants. In 2013, about 1,300 migrants sought asylum in México. By 2017, over 20,000 asylum seekers in México were projected by the U.S. government.
In a June 2017 WOLA research report presented to the U.S. Justice Department, the Programa Frontera Sur resulted in “a sharp increase in the number of migrants and asylum seekers” who intended to stay in México, and “decreased migration flows” through México to reach the American border.
The program remains active and the policy of the government of México today.
In 2016, the Human Rights Watch published a report accusing the Mexican government of violating the human rights of the immigrants it was interceding. Human Rights Watch is an American non-governmental organization (NGO) that is funded via donations. The HRW is an American-based organization that wields power via reports of human rights violations across the globe.
The 2017 WOLA report also noted that “crimes and abuses against migrants” were at “alarming rates.”
The Mexican government continues to be criticized for the interdiction program supporting American immigration policies on México’s southern border.
In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The U.S. government expects México to help control Central American migration patterns while other Americans criticize México for abuses.
Although the program remains controversial the Mexican government has stayed the course and has kept it operational.
Ironically, Donald Trump and other American anti-immigrant advocates argue that México’s own immigration policies are draconian. But at the same time, they argue that México should stop the Central American immigrants from traversing México to get to the U.S. border.
Through all the vitriol, México continues to be a good neighbor and help America deal with its own problems. It is important to point out that Programa Frontera Sur is an American scheme. México must do better in how it treats immigrants that traverse through the country.
But when Donald Trump argues that México does nothing to help America it is an outright lie. Programa Frontera Sur proves this.
Clearly, Donald Trump has no understanding of how lucky America is to have a neighbor like México on its southern border. Imagine a Venezuela or a North Korea on America’s southern border? Trump and cohorts should thank their lucky stars that México is America’s neighbor each day.