Mexico is taking its own illegal immigration problem — caravans of thousands of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and elsewhere — seriously, cracking down on border-crossers at its own southern border, and now critics are convinced that President Donald Trump, unable to get a physical border wall built, has convinced Mexico’s president to be come his de facto “border wall.”
The Guardian reported Sunday that “Mexico has become Trump’s wall,” faulting Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador for increasing hostility among Mexican law enforcement agents toward migrant caravans.
Although Mexico was, initially, allowing these thousand-plus person caravans to cross its southern border on the promise that they would head directly to the United States’ southern border to seek amnesty, the Mexican government has since taken an active role in interdiction, blocking passage through Mexico’s southern border and even firing tear gas into unruly crowds of migrants trying to push through into Mexico.
“López Obrador’s government greeted migrants in a more hostile fashion,” the LA Times reported about incidents that occurred last week. “Mexican National Guard troops in full riot gear blocked their way and fired tear gas canisters to disperse those seeking to breach the nation’s border with Guatemala. Hundreds of people were put on planes and buses back to Honduras, where most of the migrants in the latest caravan began their journey.”
There were no major injuries, though there were around 800 arrests, according to reports. Before things got hostile, the Mexican government says they offered migrants work visas and the chance to remain in Mexico’s southern states, but the migrants refused.
“The president, generally referred to as Amlo, once railed against the abuse visited on migrants. In opposition, he pleaded for Mexico to provide safe passage to people heading for the US border,” the Guardian reported in horror. “But 13 months into his presidency – and under the looming threat of US tariffs – Amlo has assumed a new role: immigration enforcer.”
This is a stark difference from just one year ago, when Mexican authorities were, largely, turning a blind eye to so-called migrant caravans, offering them temporary visas to travel through Mexico on their way to seek amnesty in the United States. Occasionally, the government would attempt a “crackdown,” but only when Mexicans were overly burdened by the caravans, and even then, the Mexican government typically offered migrants temporary work visas or free rides back to Central America.
Now, things have changed both at the southern border and in the board room. The Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which has those individuals seeking amnesty stay south of the border while their claims are processed rather than remain in the United States pending a hearing, has made life for Mexicans in border towns difficult (and it has cut down significantly on the number of migrants seeking amnesty). President Donald Trump also threatened Mexico, last year, with tariffs and a trade freeze if Mexico did not enforce its own immigration laws.
But it’s not all Trump’s fault, regardless of what the Guardian may believe. The LA Times notes that Obrador is copying Trump’s “America First” strategy with a “Mexico First” attitude, taking a particular interest in domestic policy and mostly ignoring Mexico’s foreign entanglements.
But the Trump administration is, at least, pleased with what’s happening.
“The efforts by the Mexican National Guard and other officials have thus far been effective at maintaining the integrity of their border, despite outbreaks of violence and lawlessness by people who are attempting to illegally enter Mexico on their way to the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement this week.