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No Solution to US Illegal Migration Including Residents of Arizona

While others describe a sense of tranquility on either side of the border, there is an underlying tension, too. Drug trafficking is of particular concern, but not everyone wants to talk about it.

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A long line of people, winding past a chain-link fence and a turnstile, distinguishes the boundary separating San Luis, in the U.S. state of Arizona, and San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. Otherwise, it would just appear to be desert.
US illegal Migration, VOA

A long line of people, winding past a chain-link fence and a turnstile, distinguishes the boundary separating San Luis, in the U.S. state of Arizona, and San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. Otherwise, it would just appear to be desert.

At the U.S. port of entry, temporary farm workers leave their families and queue up daily before dawn to catch a bus to the fields, just outside town. Residents from Arizona join them.

On one nearby date palm farm, men and women wear handkerchiefs to protect themselves from the fine desert sand and temperatures that reach 41 degrees Celsius; but, Mexican farmworker Juán González voices few complaints. The work is steady for 11 months of the year, he says, and the border is calm.“There aren’t many problems,” González said. “There’s crime, but not like in other large cities.”

While others describe a sense of tranquility on either side of the border, there is an underlying tension, too. Drug trafficking is of particular concern, but not everyone wants to talk about it.

It’s complicated

A mix of workers on temporary visas, permanent residents, and U.S. citizens with Mexican family members, residents of San Luis, Arizona, say it’s normal to have a foot on both sides of the border.

Among the Latino-majority population, residents quietly acknowledge that the deployment of the Arizona National Guard to the area — to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in monitoring illegal activity — isn’t the worst idea but has a caveat: “if it’s for narco-trafficking and trafficking of persons.”

“It’s good to end that because it’s dangerous for anyone here along the border,” said Candelario Vizcarra, a San Luis farmworker who lives in Mexico.

A mix of workers on temporary visas, permanent residents, and U.S. citizens with Mexican family members, residents of San Luis, Arizona, say it’s normal to have a foot on both sides of the border.
Desert from where migration is happening, VOA

“They don’t go and attack nobody,” added Greg, a U.S. citizen who works in sales. “It’s just to protect the borders, and I agree.”

Others with business ties in San Luis agreed with Greg, who didn’t want to share his last name with VOA. But they were careful not to voice their opinions out of concern they might appear to be anti-immigrant.

María Herrera, a minimum-wage farmworker, mother, and permanent resident in Arizona, agrees that drug trafficking is a problem and that it is affecting the town’s children, some as young as 12.

“They don’t have work, there is no work, there’s nothing,” Herrera said. “And their best option a lot of times is to go the easy route: rob, use drugs, or act as drug mules (carry drugs) across the border.”

Creating more well-paying jobs would be her suggestion. Absent that, Herrera is skeptical of the National Guard troops’ presence. She worries about the effect of a militarized border on the undocumented.

“Like all Latinos, we worry about what happens to other families like our own, because one way or another, many are family or relatives of some friend of ours that we have in common.

“In the worst cases, they’ll deport the father,” Herrera continued, “and the mother and kids remain here — protected by whom?”​

Common ground

In Calexico, California, 127 kilometers northwest of San Luis, across subtropical desert, a section of 9-meter bollard-style replacement fence towers over the palms and brush to its south. Border Patrol sector supervisor Jorge Rivera says he is grateful for the upgrade because of another issue: the safety of his agents.

“Criminal organizations come over and they attack us with rocks; they throw any type of object toward us to avoid us apprehending any type of illegal activity,” Rivera told VOA.

In fiscal 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol in the El Centro Sector of southern California reported 21 assaults against agents and seized more than 200 kilos of cocaine, 690 kilos of methamphetamine and 70,000 grams of heroin.

But unlike San Luis, some residents concerned about illegal immigration in El Centro bring up a line of reasoning more in tune with pro-Trump areas of the country, including the narrative that those crossing the border illegally are an economic burden on society.

At the U.S. port of entry, temporary farm workers leave their families and queue up daily before dawn to catch a bus to the fields, just outside town. Residents from Arizona join them.
Residents of Arizona are joining migration, VOA

“They are leeching our system, and I pay so much (in) taxes every month,” said Steve Andrade, who runs a security management company. “It … (makes me angry) that all my money goes to those people. … I get nothing out of it!”

Ironically, Andrade admits to once being homeless and an undocumented immigrant himself, crossing multiple times from Mexicali until he successfully evaded the U.S. Border Patrol and settled in California in the early 1980s.

He maintains the Mexican border town was different then.

“In my time, there was nothing, no opportunities … to even survive Mexicali,” Andrade said. “There were no shelters to help you or anything.”

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Andrade makes his stance on the wall clear — “go for it!” — but others who claim illegal immigration is a danger have other ideas.

Bill DuBois, an El Centro-area resident and owner of a local firearms store, holds firm that “if one illegal crosser gets across, the border is not secure.” But unlike Andrade, the lifelong Californian doesn’t subscribe to the idea of a wall.

“The only way to solve the problem of illegal immigration is to make things better in the other people’s home countries,” DuBois said. (VOA)

 

Next Story

Mexico-US Tariff Deal: Questions, Concerns for Migration

Washington and Mexico City both took victory laps Saturday over a deal

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Mexico, US, Tarrif
People enter the U.S. at the Otay Mesa port of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, Calif., June 8, 2019. - U.S. President Donald Trump touted on Saturday his deal averting tariffs on Mexico, a plan economists warned would have been disastrous for both nations. VOA

As Washington and Mexico City both took victory laps Saturday over a deal that headed off threatened tariffs on Mexican imports, it remained to be seen how effective it may be, and migration experts raised concerns about what it could mean for people fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.

Other than a vague reiteration of a joint commitment to promote development, security and growth in Central America, the agreement focuses almost exclusively on enforcement and says little about the root causes driving the surge in migrants seen in recent months.

“My sense is overall the Mexican government got out of this better than they thought. The agreement though leaves a lot of big question marks,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. “It’s good that the two sides reached an agreement which allows both of them to save face, but it’s not clear how easy it is to implement.”

Guard deployment

Mexico, US, Tarrif
Migrants sleep on a sidewalk in Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico, June 8, 2019. President Donald Trump has put on hold his plan to begin imposing tariffs on Mexico, saying the U.S. ally will take “strong measures” to reduce the flow of Central American migrants toward the U.S.border. VOA

The deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops appears to be the key commitment in what was described as “unprecedented steps” by Mexico to ramp up enforcement, though Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero said that had already been planned and was not a result of external pressure.

“I have said before, migration into Mexico also has to be regulated … orderly, legal and safe,” Sanchez Cordero told The Associated Press. “So the National Guard that we were going to deploy anyway, we’re going to deploy. It’s not because they tell us to, but rather because we’re going to do it anyway.”

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Mexican measures

Mexico was already increasing enforcement with detentions, deportations and checkpoints. In recent weeks it broke up the latest migrant caravan, snuffing out most of the appetite for traveling in large, visible groups.

If Mexico does more as promised, it’s likely to be seen in intensification of those same efforts, experts said — raids on hotels where migrants stay or on bus companies transporting them north to the U.S. border. The two countries also agreed to share information on and disrupt people-smuggling networks, a new focus seen earlier this week when Mexico arrested two migration activists and froze accounts of over two dozen people alleged to have organized caravans.

A concern is that even more aggressive enforcement could put migrants with legitimate asylum claims at risk of being deported from Mexico to the dangers they fled in the first place. Also, Mexican security forces are known for often being corrupt and shaking migrants down for bribes. A renewed crackdown is seen as making migration through Mexico more difficult and more dangerous, but doing little to discourage Central Americans desperate to escape poverty, hunger and violence.

Mexico, US, Tarrif
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard gets ready to talk to reporters as he leaves the State Department in Washington, June 7, 2019. VOA

“People are fleeing their homes regardless of what the journey might mean and regardless of what chance they may have for seeking protections in Mexico or in the United States,” said Maureen Meyer, an immigration expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, “simply because they need to leave.”

Human element missing

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“It seems like in all these discussions [about tariffs and immigration], the human reality of these people and why they’re leaving Central America was lost,” she continued. “It was ‘what can we do to stop them,’ and not ‘what can we really do to create the conditions in their home countries so that people don’t have to leave.’ ”

Another key element of the deal is that the United States will expand a program known as the Migrant Protection Protocol, or MPP. According to Mexican immigration authorities, since January there have been 10,393 returns by migrants to Mexico while their cases wend their way through U.S. courts.

MPP has been plagued by glitches and so far has been introduced only in California and El Paso, Texas, and Selee said there are logistical hurdles to further expansion. Right now the MPP figure of 10,000 or so represents “a drop in the bucket” compared with overall migration, he added.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who led the negotiations, said the agreement does not include any quotas.

Mexico, US, Tarrif
A woman waves a Mexican flag prior to a speech by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at a rally in Tijuana, Mexico, June 8, 2019. VOA

If MPP does roll out on a mass scale along the United States’ entire southern border, it could overwhelm Mexican border cities. Mexico promised to offer jobs, health care and education for returnees, but has little infrastructure to do so. Currently most shelters and support programs are run by the likes of NGOs and the Roman Catholic Church.

And if the program were to include places like Tamaulipas, the Gulf coast state where cartels and gangs control large swaths of territory, migrants could be at even greater risk.

Dangerous area

“This is an area that the U.S. government considers that it’s not safe for any American citizen,” Meyer said, referring to the State Department’s highest-level warning against all travel to Tamaulipas because of crime and kidnappings. “And yet it’s OK for us to send people back there?”

Still, the deal was hailed by many in Mexican industry and politics.

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Arturo Rocha, a Foreign Relations Department spokesman, tweeted late Friday that it was “an unquestionable triumph for Mexico.” Avoiding tariffs sends a calming message to ratings agencies worried about a possible trade war, he said, adding that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government had won U.S. recommitment to Central American development and resisted “safe third country” designation, a concession sought by Washington that would have required asylum seekers to apply first in Mexico.

However, Abdel Camargo, an anthropologist at the Frontera Sur College in southern Mexico, said that by accepting MPP returnees, “Mexico does not become a safe third country but de facto is going to act as one.”

Some such as ex-President Felipe Calderon of the conservative opposition National Action Party questioned whether Mexico was truly master of its own migratory policy. But Jose Antonio Meade, a five-time Cabinet minister who lost last year’s election to Lopez Obrador, praised Ebrard for avoiding damaging tariffs “in the face of very complex conditions.”

In San Jose del Cabo for a summit of North American mayors, Juan Manuel Gastelum of Tijuana, across from San Diego, said he’s fine with more migrants being returned to his city as long as the federal government invests in caring for them. He added that the threat of tariffs may have been necessary to force his country’s hand.

“How else was Mexico going to understand that it is not right to leave migration uncontrolled?” said Gastelum, who is also a member of National Action.

Tijuana rally

Meanwhile, a rally later Saturday in Tijuana that Lopez Obrador called to defend Mexican pride and dignity was expected to take on more of a festive atmosphere.

“It was [originally supposed to be] a meeting to show support for the incoming governor … that turned into a demand for peace and respect on the tariffs issue,” local restaurateur and businessman Francisco Villegas said. “But since the tariffs issue was sorted out by having Marcelo Ebrard and his team up there, it is now turning into a celebration.” (VOA)