As members of the National Guard began patrolling the southern border, Mexican officials detained nearly 800 undocumented migrants on Saturday in one of the biggest swoops against illegal immigration in recent months.
The apprehension came as Mexico steps up efforts to reduce a surge of migrants toward the US border under pressure from US President Donald Trump, who vowed to hit Mexican goods with tariffs if Mexico does not do more to stem illegal immigration.
Mexico made a deal on 7 June with the United States to avert the tariffs, setting the clock ticking on a 45-day period for the Mexican government to make palpable progress in reducing the numbers of people trying to cross the US border illegally. As part of those efforts, Mexico has pledged to deploy 6,000 National Guard members along its border with Guatemala.
Most of those caught attempting to enter the United States are people fleeing poverty and violence in three troubled Central American nations, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Migrants are routinely transported through Mexico in packed semis, sometimes in dangerous conditions without food or water or sufficient fresh air.
Government video showed officials breaking the lock on the door of one cargo truck and helping migrants out. The Mexican Police is wearing riot gear and using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse or keep away the crowds of asylum seekers, which count many women and children.
But reports of immigrants from African countries attempting to cross the US – Mexico border are also increasing. Undaunted by a dangerous journey over thousands of miles, people fleeing economic hardship and human rights abuses in African countries are coming to the border in unprecedented numbers, surprising Border Patrol agents more accustomed to Spanish-speaking migrants.
In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants. That is more than double the total of 211 African migrants who were detained by the Border Patrol along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) US – Mexico border in 2018.
“We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area,” Raul Ortiz, head of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector, told the New York Times.
The explosion in immigration to the United States from sub-Saharan Africa coincides with a steep drop in the migration flow across the Mediterranean to Europe after European countries and two main embarkation points — Turkey and Libya — decided to crack down. From 1 January to 12 June, only 24,600 migrants arrived in Europe by sea, compared to 99,600 over the same period in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Many migrants were taken to Portland, where the mayor, Ethan K. Strimling, said they welcomed African migrants. A donation campaign for them had raised more than $20,000 in its first 36 hours. Over 200 African migrants came to Portland over the weekend.
“I don’t consider it a crisis, in the sense that it is going to be detrimental to our city,” Mr. Strimling told the New York Times. “We’re not building walls. We’re not trying to stop people. In Maine, and Portland in particular, we’ve been built on the backs of immigrants for 200 years, and this is just the current wave that’s arriving.”
Trump’s election promise to build a wall has proved difficult to fulfil. On 22 December 2018, Trump’s demand for funding caused the US government to shutdown and earlier this year, President Trump was sued for declaring a national emergency to secure funding for a wall along the southern border with Mexico and in his State of the Union address, Trump warned the southern border was soon due for a “tremendous onslaught” and added that the “lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well‑being of all Americans.”
In fact, apprehensions of undocumented foreigners at the southern US border are at the lowest levels since the early 1970s. The 403,479 apprehended in 2018, was slightly higher than apprehensions in 2017, but significantly lower than the 1.67 million apprehended in 2000 or the more than 1 million per year throughout the 1990s.
Yet Trump has engaged in a political, legal and social assault against immigrants and
refugees since his inauguration. His administration has been responsible for forcibly removing over 2,000 children from their parents or guardians since the initiation of the “zero tolerance” immigration policy in April 2018. The new policy was denounced by the UN human rights agency, US politicians and immigrants’ rights activists and the scathing criticism escalated after an NBC news report revealed the Texas immigrant detention centre only allowed the children to play outside for 2 hours each day.
Despite formally ending the policy of family separations last summer, immigration advocates in Texas have reported that young children are still being torn away from their parents when they cross the US – Mexico border.