Mexico president: Detaining, containing migrants is not enough

HUIXTLA, Mexico – Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Thursday expressed frustration over a strategy to contain migrants in the south and said he would write to US President Joe Biden to insist that the country be his preferred Contributes to development projects in the region.

“We can’t just imprison; the causes need to be addressed, ”said López Obrador during his daily press conference. “It is not advisable to anchor the immigration plan only in containment, it is shaky,” he said.

The president’s comments came after groups of 200-300 migrants leaving the southern city of Tapachula for days. The Mexican National Guard and immigration agents have broken up the groups and arrested many, in some cases with violence that has been heavily criticized.

The Biden government has expressed its willingness to address the root causes of migration, particularly from Central America. Biden has appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the effort, and she has visited Mexico and Guatemala to gather information.

But López Obrador has proposed that the US fund its tree-planting and youth employment programs, without much success. On Thursday, he said the funding could help the two programs create 330,000 jobs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador within six months.

The majority of the migrants who have left Tapachula in the past few days are Haitian asylum seekers, tired of waiting in the southern city for the overwhelmed Mexican asylum system to process their cases. Accommodation space is limited and many are forced to live in unsanitary conditions. You want to work legally in Mexico and be able to move around freely.

Haitian migrants walk the highway in Huixtla, Chiapas state, Mexico, on their journey north to the United States on September 2, 2021. Marco Ugarte / AP

Before sunrise on Thursday, a group set off from the city of Huixtla in the southernmost state of Chiapas. They had left Tapachula earlier this week. Some were carrying young children or holding them by the hand as they walked up the edge of the freeway, their few belongings in backpacks or plastic bags.

Shortly before noon, the group of immigration officers and hundreds of national guards with large plastic shields intercepted blocking the highway. Many of the migrants were arrested and others fled into the bushes, effectively breaking up the group.

On Wednesday, authorities pounced on another group seeking shelter from heavy rain.

Last Saturday, immigration officials were filmed kicking a migrant who was already on the ground. You were suspended this week. On Wednesday, López Obrador insisted that the government not violate the human rights of migrants.

But his comments on Thursday seemed to signal a possible break with the containment strategy Mexico has been pursuing since the Trump administration at the behest of the US administration. Just last Friday, Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said the main goal of the armed forces and the National Guard was to “arrest all migration” and “to cover the northern border, the southern border with soldiers”.

While Mexico is unlikely to stop efforts to contain migrants, Mexico could try to put pressure on the Biden government to provide more support.

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