¿Mi migrante es su migrante?
Most readers of this site are aware of the fact that undocumented immigration into Mexico is an administrative offense at best, and the idea of “illegal immigration” just doesn’t occur to us. After all, about half of all “illegal aliens” in the United States are Mexicans.
But, those “illegals” tend to be people who have settled into new lives north of the border, and have been there for several years, reflecting a huge decline in the last few years of Mexicans crossing into the United States without authorization, and about a million Mexicans who had been living in the United States without authorization having decided to return home.
None of which has changed the dynamic of “illegal entry”… most land crossings by migrants still being from places along the Mexico/US border. That many cannot cross means our border cities have seen an influx of foreigners in irregular situations. While our geographical neighbors to the south (and recently further south) have some cultural similarities, and are at least likely to speak the same language as the local citizenry, our new migrants are not so fortunate.
From yesterday’s (9 October 2016) La Jornada (As always, not a literal translation, having made a few changes for clarity and to conform more to English-language writing conventions):
New Migrants Among Us.
For many decades legal foreign migration to Mexico’s northern border [seeking to enter the United States] had a well-defined profile. The numbers of those who tried to gain entry this way were mainly from Central America and later included South Americans — people facing different different political or economic circumstances, but responded to a geographical logic that only occasionally showed significant alteration. Involvement by Mexican authorities in the process was limited to the routine administrative exercises required at any border, mostly issuing authorizations, permits, and the like.
In recent years, however, that quiet dynamic (developed more or less independent of the complex issues raised by irregular migration) have been affected by the arrival of people from places on the map that are not geographically “natural” for our country. Of course, these are not simple tourists passing through Mexico, but migrants with little or no resources, expelled from their countries by natural disasters, economic deprevation, social conflicts, and in some cases, political issues.
Most are transported clandestinely and deposited without guidance on a Mexican coast, deprived of livelihoods and perhaps with closely guarded minimal guidance to obtaining by legal means the mythical “American Dream”. Thousands of men, women and children from Haiti and African countries huddle on this side of the northern border (especially in Tijuana and Mexicali) waiting to be admitted into US territory.
Thus, the always sticky problem for Mexican migrants crossing to the “other side” without papers is shared by those foreign migrants lacking papers, and short of resources.
The result is that the national government here is facing a situation that at least at the moment it does not know how to solve. The number of foreign migrants here has not dropped, but the demographic has changed. According to data from the National Institute of Migration, the number of Africans in the country increased over the last year by 500 percent. And although several agencies show different figures, in all cases they far exceed 10,000.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the US authorities permit these people to enter theri country, regardless of the skills and knowledge that they possess; in fact, it does not seem likely to do so for even with a substantial percentage. The social situation in the north of the Republic, and particularly in the cities mentioned, is in danger of becoming contentious.
Immigration authorities have decided to extend to new migrants a permit valid for 20 days in which to regularize their stay here or to abandon Mexico. But given that many of them manifestly express their intention to enter the neighboring country, the extension does not resolve the situation, but only temporarily freezes the need for any action.
The fact that migrant shelter staffers have been denouncing the harassment and discrimination faced by Africans and Haitians making their way through Mexico highlights the need to quickly resolve not only the visa issue, but also our own need to critically reaffirm our traditional solidarity with migrants.
Solis, Gustavo “Thousands of African migrants coming to U.S. through Mexico” [Palm Springs] Desert Sun, 23 September 2016.
“500% Rise in African Migrants Crossing Through Mexico in 2016” Telesur, 9 October 2016
“Mexico issuing transit visas to African migrants flocking to U.S.-Mexico border” Fox News Latino 3 September 2016