Ever since a caravan of Central American migrants started heading north from Southern Mexico in early April, President Trump has used the occasion to accuse the Mexican government of doing nothing to prevent migrants from reaching the United States.
But that isn’t true. In the summer of 2014, when record numbers of Central American children and families were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Obama administration pressured Mexico to stop the migrant flow closer to the source: At its own southern border with Guatemala.
Mexico readily complied, deploying unprecedented numbers of immigration agents, police, and military to shut down migrant routes, primarily in the southernmost state of Chiapas. By some measures, the so-called Southern Border Program was successful: In its first two years, immigration arrests in Mexico shot up by 85 percent, according to an analysis by the Washington Office on Latin America.
But four years later, it’s clear that the Southern Border Program has created more problems than it’s solved.
The migrant crisis is far from over, and will continue as long as intense violence, poverty, and political instability push Central Americans to flee their home countries. Instead, the crackdown has pushed migrants onto more remote and dangerous routes, where they’re vulnerable to predatory criminals who rob them — or much worse.
Those migrants who are apprehended often wind up stuck for months in southern Mexico while they await for their cases to be processed. Many apply for asylum in Mexico, but even they, in many cases, want papers only so they can continue their journeys north undisturbed.
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