As Mexican authorities crack down on undocumented migrants entering the country from Central America, the government’s immigration agency is going through internal turmoil because of mass firings and restructuring.
The National Immigration Institute (INM) has fired around 500 agents for corruption since the beginning of the year when Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero announced the agency would be “purged” because of reports of extortion of migrants.
INM Head Francisco Garduño, who took office on June 14, says he will not tolerate corruption in the ranks of the INM.
“We’re going to clean up, from top to bottom and side to side,” he told the newspaper Reforma.
Agents have been fired for offences including accepting money in exchange for immigration documents, using the threat of deportation to extort migrants and being involved in human smuggling networks.
Garduño said the INM is preparing an official report about the firings, which he promised will contain “surprises.”
Since April, the INM has been working to hire new agents. But the new hires — 239, according to Garduño — have been insufficient to cover the gap left by the purge and the increased demand for agents because of the migrant crisis. Garduño said the INM’s goal is to have 3,000 agents, more than twice the 1,400 it currently has.
To help cover that gap, the agency made an agreement with the Federal Police to temporarily commission 600 Federal Police officers to work in immigration enforcement.
The Federal Police will disappear at the end of the month and the majority of its members will be incorporated into the National Guard. But around 600 officers who did not meet the physical requirements for the National Guard have been commissioned to work for the INM.
Trouble and little training for migrants: how Mexico deploys its National Guard
Thousands of National Guard troops and members of other security forces are deploying on Mexico’s border with Guatemala this weekend, while Mexican authorities are trying to comply with the recent agreement with the US government to reduce the illegal migration
The mobilization, which Mexican officials say is a cornerstone of the agreement with Washington that avoided imposing tariffs on exports to the United States, is expected to be completed on Tuesday. But the operation has stopped at the best of times.
The new force had not been scheduled to begin formal operations throughout the country until the end of this month. “A great effort has been made to accelerate the pace,” Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, acknowledged on Friday.
Critics worry that the rush to deploy the new National Guard in some functions for which it was not created, could have a great cost for migrants and for Mexico.
According to analysts, taking security forces out of urgent police tasks, such as the battle against drug cartels, could harm the strategy to fight crime and reverse the high levels of violence. In addition, migrant advocates question whether new recruits have received the necessary training to prevent human rights violations.
“Everyone should calm down and think about the short, medium and long term,” said Claudia Masferrer, an immigration expert at the Colegio de México. “The Mexican government should say: ‘Wait, we have to solve our things.'”
But the clock does not stop.
The agreement with Trump, announced on June 7, gives the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador 45 days to show that it can reduce the number of migrants who cross from Mexico to the United States.
The agreement includes the Mexican authorities’ commitment to send some 6,000 National Guard troops to the Guatemalan border, and another provision to expand a system in which migrants seeking asylum in the United States must remain in Mexico, while await the outcome of your requests.
López Obrador’s government authorities presented the agreement as a victory for Mexico, mainly because it prevented the imposition of tariffs and gave them time to prove that their proposals could help reduce illegal migration flows. Their national security plans had already provided for the use of the National Guard along the southern border, although not as fast.
And officials from both countries said the agreement consists mainly of measures that Mexico had already proposed in previous talks with the United States.
But in Mexico, critics have accused the government of sacrificing its sovereignty, apparently giving in to the demands of a foreign government, especially by accelerating the deployment of a national security force that might not be prepared for its new responsibilities.
The new force was not planned to move so quickly: the first National Guard recruits had to graduate by the end of this month, according to the authorities, and López Obrador told reporters that the “formal, national operation” of the units It would start on June 30.
On Friday it was still unclear if members of the National Guard had received any training to safeguard the border or the application of immigration policies.
“The National Guard, let me say it with kindness, is a work in progress,” said Alejandro Hope, a leading security analyst in Mexico City.
Mexican officials have refused to say how many troops have been mobilized and to which regions as part of the campaign to control migration in southern Mexico. Residents and reporters in Tapachula, a city near the southern border, say they have not yet seen National Guard personnel in the area.
But Ebrard, in a press conference held on Friday, said the deployment not only involves the National Guard but also Army and Navy forces.
This week we consulted the López Obrador government in search of greater clarity about the evolution, size, training, deployment and new functions of the National Guard but we did not get a response.
The new force caused intense debates in the Mexican Congress and civil society. During his campaign, López Obrador criticized his two predecessors, who deployed the military to fight drug traffickers and other violent criminal groups.
But, shortly before taking office last December, the president changed his mind and proposed the project of a National Guard led by the military as part of a new strategy to combat violence that has reached very high levels.
The Mexican Congress finally approved the creation of a National Guard formed by members of the Federal Police, as well as police units of the Army and Navy. But due to pressure from human rights groups and the international community, which were concerned about the use of the military in police work, legislators determined that the new force should be under the civil authority of the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection .
Now critics question the new functions of this force that was created to face violence – which is one of the most pressing problems in Mexico – but now it is going to take care of migration.
The National Guard was created “to deal with organized crime and security, not to intercept migrants, who are not a threat to the security of Mexico,” said Adam Isacson, who is the director of the Vedado de Defensa en la Washington Office for Latin American Affairs, a research group.
The nation’s security forces “need all the strength they can have” to deal with the wave of violence and widespread insecurity, Isacson said.
For their part, human rights defenders and migrants believe that the deployment of a paramilitary security force, whose training has not been proven, is inappropriate for confronting migrants fleeing poverty and violence.
Salva Lacruz, coordinator of the Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center in Tapachula, said that many migrants are fleeing life threatening conditions and seeking protection in Mexico. According to Lacruz, with the deployment of the National Guard those asylum seekers will now be received by “an insurmountable wall of military personnel”.
“This is a staff that is not used to dealing with people with a human rights approach at all,” he continued. “He’s going to be a barbarian.”
Luis Raúl González Pérez, president of the National Human Rights Commission, an autonomous government agency, said this week that he was concerned about the lack of human rights training for National Guard troops. Many of the migrants that you will find will be families with children.
“There is no knowledge about human rights or restraint of force in this type of event,” González told Mexican media.
Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said this week that officials were developing a “protocol of action” for the deployment of the National Guard, and expressed a special concern for children who migrate alone to Mexican territory.
“We are very concerned about unaccompanied migrant children,” he said. “It’s critical.” The Lopez Obrador government has scheduled a meeting for next week in order to discuss this issue with several United Nations agencies and the International Organization for Migration, said Ebrard.
Anticipating a large increase in arrests, Mexican officials plan to expand the system of government detention centers in southern Mexico.
In recent months, Mexican authorities, under pressure from the Trump government, have dramatically increased the detention and deportation of undocumented migrants. As a result, detention centers in the region are reaching their maximum capacity.
But despite the increase in arrests, the number of migrants detained in the southwestern border of the United States has continued to rise.
Some migration experts say that the deployment of the National Guard could be effective in preventing some illegal cross-border migrations and could regulate migrant smuggling along Mexico’s main roads.
But this pressure could also lead migrants to take more remote and dangerous routes, including the attempt to travel by sea, and ultimately benefit the most powerful and organized criminal groups, which would be better equipped to manage the new migratory routes, the analysts warn.
“Everyone talks about who won and who lost” in bilateral negotiations last week, Hope said. “I’m not sure, but it’s pretty clear to me that the migrants lost, traveling through Mexico is a very dangerous experience, now it’s going to be more dangerous.”
Source: mexico news daily, infobae, universal, reforma
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