“We are migrants, not criminals,” shout the demonstrators in Tapachula as word of the salvation spreads. There are hugs, tears of joy – and finally a perspective. What so electrifies the refugees from Venezuela, Cuba and Central America is spreading like wildfire in the southern Mexican city.
Thousands of migrants have been holding out here for months. Detained by the Mexican authorities, who refuse to allow them to travel further north. There were demonstrations, road blockades and occasional violent riots.
On Wednesday, however, came the redeeming news. The Mexican government of left-wing populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is allowing 11,000 migrants to move north. Just in time for the America Summit in Los Angeles from June 6th to 10th, the caravan makes its way to the US border and could thus dictate a topic that worries the entire region.
Hundreds of thousands are already waiting at the Mexican-American border to apply for asylum in the United States. But a few days ago, a US court extended the “Title 42” rule, which allows border crossings to be refused because of Covid-19.
Shortly before, even the US health authority CDC had declared the rule no longer necessary, but a federal judge had agreed with 24 plaintiff states – including the direct neighbors Texas and Arizona – and prohibited the repeal. Mexico’s president knows that the tiresome issue of migration is the Biden administration’s weak point and is making all sorts of demands.
With the 11,000 migrants he is now allowing towards the northern border, he is increasing the pressure on US President Joe Biden. “For two years, the US government has used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to deport asylum seekers at the southern border. The so-called Title 42 regulation enables the USA to detain people who seek protection at the border and quickly bring them out of the country again,” criticized the organization Doctors Without Borders, which takes care of the refugees on site.
The accusation: Democratic President Biden is also hiding behind the controversial regulation in order to postpone the problem. Republican predecessor Donald Trump wanted to build a physical wall to stop migration. Under Biden, Title 42 is a useful regulatory wall to bounce migrants off the southern border.
The accusation from Doctors Without Borders reveals the dilemma in which the American government finds itself: During the election campaign, the Democrats had promised a more humane migration policy than Trump. Now the NGOs are getting impatient because they feel left alone with the problem at the border. Although the Biden government has publicly criticized the court decision, both Vice President Kamala Harris, who is responsible for migration strategy, and Biden are missing the last effort to actually want to change things.
“The US is using its economic and political power to force other governments to prevent people from traveling north and reaching the US border. President Biden has tightened these policies despite promising a more humane approach to immigration,” Human Rights Watch’s Tyler Mattiace told WELT AM SONNTAG.
Mexico has therefore deployed 30,000 soldiers to forcibly detain migrants, introduced new visa regulations that make it difficult for Brazilians, Ecuadorians and Venezuelans to travel to Mexico, and forced its own citizens to pass through military checkpoints. “Mexico didn’t pay for the wall; Mexico is the wall,” says Mattiace.
Meanwhile, the problem continues to grow. More than 105,000 migrants from Cuba alone were counted at the US border after the suppressed social protests last year. The influx from Venezuela, which is also governed by socialism, does not stop. Tens of thousands of migrants from Central America have been trying to get to the USA for years. The southern neighbor bears the brunt.
The situation at the US border has been escalating for months. Should Title 42 fall before the US midterm elections in November, hundreds of thousands of migrants could suddenly try to assert their right to apply for asylum. The danger for the Biden government: organizational and political overload – captured on TV pictures.
Above all, Mexico’s President López Obrador is now positioning himself as an opponent of Biden. In fact, he is ideologically closer to the Democrat than to the Republican Trump. But López Obrador got on much better with Trump. Now he apparently plans to position himself as a kind of Latin American counter-president to Biden.
“The truth is that they didn’t invest,” he criticizes the US, pointing out that the promised US investments of four billion dollars in Mexico and Central America to combat the causes of migration have never been implemented. López Obrador thus represents a mood that is brewing south of the Rio Bravo, with the United States increasingly abandoning its southern neighbors. And they are now reacting by directing the migration flows northwards.
Before the America summit, Mexico’s president even brought up a boycott of the meeting of heads of state and government from all over America should the USA not invite the three left-wing dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – all migration hotspots. Heads of government such as Xiomara Castro from Honduras or Alberto Fernández from Argentina joined the sharp criticism. So who will actually appear in Los Angeles in the end will probably only be decided at short notice.