EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — As Mexico negotiates a last-minute deal to avoid the Trump administration’s threatened 5% tariff, advocates in El Paso worry it will place additional hardships on Central American migrants.
In talks with the United States, Mexico has offered to send up to 6,000 members of a new national guard to secure its southern border with Guatemala in order to contain migrant flows, according to national news reports.
A Mexican delegation is in Washington to try to avert import tariffs on Mexican goods if the country does not do more to halt the flow of migrants to the United States.
Already, Mexican officials have tightened immigration enforcement in the southern state of Chiapas, the entryway for many Central, South American and Caribbean migrants of late.
“Again, Trump is trying to deal with the immigration issue as a public safety or military threat when it is a socioeconomic phenomenon. He is trying to force Mexico to treat migrants as if they were criminals,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of El Paso Border Network for Human Rights.
“What we can expect with this is more human rights violations.”
Marisa Limon, deputy director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, agrees that using the military to curtail transnational migration could lead to abuse.
“Human rights violations are already happening all along the migrants’ journey,” she said, noting that the agency she works for has been in personal contact with many migrants who’ve come seeing asylum in the United States in the past few months.
“Increasing the military presence is a way of addressing a social problem with force… hopefully, it will never come to violence but the proclivity for it is much higher when you bring in the military.”
Both immigrant advocates said the Trump administration is trying to make the Mexican government solve the immigration problem for them.
“A militarized approach is one that the United States has been pursuing for so long, and we know that the results are not positive, that it has not resulted in deterrence. More people are coming through the Southern border despite all of the administration’s efforts; we are still seeing the flows” north, Limon said.
Garcia said he would be traveling to the Mexico-Guatemala border later this month to evaluate the situation on behalf of his organization.
Lawmakers like Republican Will Hurd, who represents a portion of Far East El Paso have proposed tightening U.S. asylum laws to deter migrants without a strong claim from coming here in the first place.
One of his suggestions, as stated in his Asylum Reform Act of 2019, includes making migrants who come through Mexico or Canada file asylum petitions in those countries first. If either says no, then the migrant would be eligible to continue on to the U.S. border to file a claim here.