While Democrats and Republicans battle over what to do about the United States’ southern border — particularly over whether to fully fund President Donald Trump’s signature project, a full-scale border wall — the newly elected Mexican government is taking drastic steps to curb illegal immigration in their own country, cutting off passage across their own southern border.
In a move that will likely shock pro-immigration activists, Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and his administration have agreed to close the border between Mexico and Guatemala, largely to prevent more migrant caravans from crossing into Mexico’s southern states.
According to The Washington Times, a Mexican Interior Minister told media that border security “is no longer an issue.”
“Do you know why it is no longer an issue? Because in five days this administration solved the issue, five days,” she continued. “The United States was impressed.”
In addition, the Mexican government is reportedly promoting a “Christmas at Home” campaign, The Washington Times reports, encouraging migrants already camping out at the U.S.-Mexico border to board free transportation back to their homelands so that they can spend the holidays with their families.
The change in Mexican immigration policy seems to the be the result of two recent developments: one, a conversation that newly-elected President Obrador had with President Donald Trump to discuss “migration and job creation,” according to the Toronto Star, and public opinion in Tijuana, where migrants are camped out at an official U.S. border crossing, waiting their turn to declare asylum and enter the United States as refugees.
Residents of Tijuana are having a difficult time handling the influx of refugees. The Guardian reports that conditions have gotten so bad that Tijuana residents have launched a series of protests begging the government to consider native Mexicans first before providing aid to members of the migrant caravan. So far, migrants have been housed at a soccer stadium in town, but Tijuana residents say they are spreading filth and leaving garbage all over one of Mexico’s top tourist cities, making the town nearly uninhabitable.
The Guardian puts the count of migrants staying in Tijuana at between 3,000 and 7,000. The line to request asylum at an official border crossing is nearly 10,000 names.
Mexican authorities say they want to head off these types of problems, greatly limiting the number of people who can enter Mexico along its southern border. The Mexican government hasn’t specified how they intend to stop the migrant caravans, but one solution may be to direct all traffic from Guatemala into Mexico across a single bridge.
“In the south there will be only one entry, on the bridge,” one Mexican border enforcement agent told media. “Anyone who wants to enter illegally, we are going to say: ‘Get in line and you can enter our country.’”
The border control policy doesn’t come free for the United States, however. The Toronto Star reports that Mexico is asking for help in creating a “Central American jobs program,” that will help the residents of developing nations like El Salvador and Guatemala find opportunities at home, rather than seeking them abroad. Mexico is looking for a U.S. commitment of approximately $20 billion dollars — no small ask.
“In respectful and friendly terms, we spoke about the migration issue and the possibility of implementing a joint program of development and job creation in Central America and our country,” Obrador tweeted about his conversation with Trump.