Anti-immigration measures are reminiscent of those imposed during the Trump administration

The imminent re-implementation of the Stay in Mexico program by the US Government recalls one of the most dramatic episodes for migrants, when they were returned to Mexican border cities to wait there for their asylum applications.

The program, officially called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), was implemented by the administration of President Donald Trump in January 2019, with this plan it managed to fulfill its campaign promise to prevent irregular migration, although it was at the cost of the suffering of thousands of migrants who waited — and still wait — in Mexico, in makeshift shelters and in precarious conditions, an opportunity to present their cases.

Under that program, some 70,000 people were sent to Mexican border cities, including more than 15,000 Guatemalans.

But apart from the reactivation of the MPP, the express returns of Guatemalan and Central American migrants to El Ceibo, Petén, which began in August, have also become a practice considered “cruel” by human rights defenders, since many of them have assured that They were not allowed to seek asylum in either the US or Mexico.

The first returns of this type raised strong criticism because the migrants were left abandoned, without any guidance or help in El Ceibo, a small town in Petén on the border with Mexico.

“To expel asylum seekers without allowing them to present their cases is a violation of the Convention on Refugees, the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, treaties of which Mexico is a signatory” the organization Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

He added that Mexican immigration authorities can only return migrants to their country of origin and that they cannot send them to a third country. Likewise, they have to notify the government of the recipient country and coordinate the process with it, as well as provide transportation, food and water to the people.

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These returns show “the lack of concern for the human rights of the president — of Mexico, Andrés Manuel— López Obrador,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch.

Apparently there is already an agreement for these deportations to be carried out by plane and only to the Guatemalan capital; however, these will continue for at least September.

Deported arrive at the Guatemalan Air Force. Returns from the US are down because this country is returning them to Mexico. (Free Press Photo: EFE)

Although upon his arrival at the White House, President Joe Biden canceled the Asylum Cooperation Agreement signed between the United States and Guatemala, in practice, the objective of this agreement remains, since many Hondurans have entered El Ceibo , Salvadorans and migrants of other nationalities who claim they were not allowed to request asylum in that country.

More restrictions

In addition to the above, the United States continues to apply Title 42, a regulation that was also launched by the Trump administration and that allows – in order to reduce the risks of the pandemic – the immediate expulsion to Mexico of any foreigner.

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In other words, the situation does not appear to have changed much in the first months of the Biden administration relative to the Trump administration, at least for asylum seekers and refugee applicants and for those who have tried to reach the US in the face of the false expectation that the new government would be more flexible with irregular migration.

They devalue the migrant

Oscar Chacón, executive director of the Alianza Americas organization that fights for the rights of migrants, lamented that with its anti-immigrant measures, “the US government continues to promote the false notion that migration and migrants are harmful. for that country ”.

The organization believes that migration should be considered as a synonym for economic, social and cultural development for the United States and for the countries of origin.

Some sectors fear that the treatment of migrants could worsen because the midterm elections in the United States are approaching, in 2022, and in 2024 they are the presidential elections and this issue becomes crucial, because the two parties try to take advantage of it politically.

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“That is why the Biden-Harris administration is focused on reducing or minimizing migration on the southern border, so that a bad image is not generated in the media in the face of the elections,” says Guillermo Castillo, a Guatemalan who lives in USA and that analyzes the immigration issue.

The government no longer wants more political wear, especially since the conflict in Afghanistan seems to be taking its toll, he adds. Republicans and pro-Trumps will be watching everything that happens with migration on the southern border to take advantage of it, Castillo said.

Makeshift shelter in El Chaparral, Tijuana, Mexico. With the reactivation of the MPP, it is expected that thousands of migrants will be returned to that country while they await a response to their asylum requests. (Free Press Photo: EFE)

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, the Mexican government has deported 4,542 people to the El Ceibo border in just over a month, 27% minors, however, the figure does not include hundreds of migrants who entered in the first days of August until the 22nd. 55% of the total returnees to that border are Hondurans, while 32% were migrants from Guatemala.

In total this year, Mexico has deported 26,263 Guatemalans, 66% more than last year, while returns from the United States have decreased by 76%, from 16,709 in 2020 to 3,992 in 2021. This, according to experts, is due to the tightening of immigration restrictions in Mexico.

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