Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala is suffering a serious and unprecedented increase in the trafficking of unaccompanied minors.
It is a modality adopted by families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to try to enter US territory and obtain a visa that allows them to work and live in that country.
But the reality is very different, far from the dream of converting children into a passport for family unification due to a policy that violates human rights implemented by former President Donald Trump, who unceremoniously separated minors from their families. It was thought that with Joe Biden, who publicly condemned and rejected Trump’s actions, the situation would improve, but little or no progress has been made in this regard, rather it has worsened to the extent that in March alone the United States returned 171,000 migrants to Mexican territory or to their countries of origin.
For Mexico, however, the greatest pressure has shifted to the southern border, which is growing almost as fast as the northern border is being vacated, because so far there has been no stimulus to slow down or counteract the Central American exodus.
The difference with what was happening before the Covid-19 pandemic – which stopped the migrant caravans – is the child factor, as it is estimated that up to 20,000 minors are left at the mercy of traffickers every month to be taken north by their families.
This situation is the Mexican government’s argument for reinforcing military attention and surveillance on the southern border – although President López Obrador rejects this term – with 12,000 troops, who are called public servants because they come from different federal agencies.
The “red light”, as Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called it, is worsening due to the criminal activities of bandit organisations dedicated to human trafficking, and the government has decided to strengthen the National System for the Integral Development of the Family with a view to caring for children under 18 years of age.
“We are going to take care of the children, that was an instruction I gave this morning, because the traffickers, one or several mafias, are using minors and this is a very serious violation of human rights”, Ebrard said.
López Obrador asked his Central American counterparts to help Mexico and not to use children, because this is not the right way to obtain work and welfare.
What is certain is that there is a real escalation to try to gain acceptance to enter the United States, and the worst thing is that the publicised attack on the social, economic and violent causes of migration has not even begun, and so far is limited to isolated efforts by Mexico.
The US, which had been promised $4 billion under Trump to participate in development and welfare programmes in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and southern Mexico, has not given a penny, and now Biden has pledged to deliver, but this year will only give a little more than $800,000. But there is speculation that there was an agreement between all the parties, including Mexico, to strengthen military surveillance on the border with Guatemala, when the most important thing is to concretise and increase financial contributions for social programmes and eliminate the current red hotspot.
But the reality today, Foreign Minister Ebrard admitted, “Is that we are more than overwhelmed on the border and we will have to take on many more minors than we had anticipated”. (PL)