Things That Matter

Mexico Tells The US There Will Be No ‘Safe Third Country’ Agreement And Here’s What That Means For Migrants

Over the summer, Trump came down hard on Mexico and other Central American nations in an effort to make his base happy by reducing migration to the US. He threatened to slap tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Mexican goods bound for the US unless Mexico did more to stem the flow of migrants making their way to the US border.

Mexico agreed and implemented several of their own inhumane policies targeting migrants and deployed a new national guard force to its southern border with Guatemala. Now, as apprehensions at the US-Mexico border have dropped, the US is still pushing for a ‘safe third country’ agreement with Mexico. And Mexico is saying no thank you!

Mexico’s Foreign Minister rejected calls for a ‘safe third country’ deal because other policies are already working.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico doesn’t need to take any new measures to reduce the number of undocumented migrants bound for the U.S. because the current strategy is proving successful.

Ebrard said Mexico’s efforts have reduced undocumented migration from Central America by 70% and that he expects the trend to be irreversible. Ebrard said he also told Trump that a Safe Third Country agreement, which would make refugees apply for asylum in Mexico before the U.S. and has been sought by acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, doesn’t have support from Mexico’s Senate nor president.

The Foreign Minister led a Mexican delegation on Tuesday for meetings at the White House that included a brief conversation with President Donald Trump. Ebrard said that he explained the importance of the steps Mexico has taken since June, including the deployment of the National Guard, and also expressed concern about guns flowing south from the U.S.

Even Trump himself had praise for the ‘progress’ being made by Mexico.

Trump took to Twitter to tout the major decline in apprehensions at the Southern Border. Of course, in typical Trump fashion, he claimed credit for the decrease. Trump had threatened to slap tariffs on Mexican goods bound for the US back in June, unless Mexico played a more active role in preventing migrants from reaching the US border.

Since then, Mexico has bolstered its immigration enforcement, deploying newly formed National Guards units and other officials to its southern border with Guatemala. The government there has also worked with U.S. officials as the Trump administration expands the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program

A ‘safe third country’ agreement, like the ones agreed to by Guatemala and Honduras would put migrant’s lives at an even greater risk.

Although the two countries don’t have a safe third country agreement in place, Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is effectively the same thing.

A statement from Pence’s office after Tuesday’s meeting said the nations agreed to implement “to the fullest extent possible” the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” More than 42,000 non-Mexican migrants have been sent to Mexico to wait weeks or months for their U.S. legal processes since the program began in January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Human rights advocates say this makes them vulnerable to the violence that plagues many of the cities on Mexico’s northern border.

And, meanwhile, the US court system has allowed the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy to resume for migrants who cross into New Mexico and Texas.

The Ninth Circuit court has temporarily lifted a nationwide injunction against President Donald Trump’s effort to deny asylum to immigrants who enter the U.S. after passing through another country.

The ruling basically lifted the injunction that was put in place blocking Trump’s expansion of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. Now, with this ruling, Trump can expand his policy to the border states outside the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction – New Mexico and Texas.

One of the central arguments against safe third country agreements, is that it creates extra pressures on governments already struggling to help refugees.

Many experts say that Guatemala and Mexico lack the resources to handle so many asylum claims and point to State Department warnings that asylum seekers are at risk of violence in both countries. Many also say that such agreements don’t address the root causes that push people to flee and may just encourage them to find different routes to the United States.

Crimes against migrants largely go unsolved and unpunished.

The State Department’s own advisory for Tamaulipas (a state where migrants are returned to under the ‘Remain in Mexico policy) warns against all travel here. “Federal and state security forces have limited capability to respond to violence in many parts of the state,” it says.

“For us, for everyone, it’s very dangerous,” agreed Pastor Aarón Méndez Ruiz, who runs the Casa del Migrante Amar, a shelter in Nuevo Laredo.

Migrants have long been frequent targets of crime here. The risks are high enough that rather than let Mexican deportees walk from the border bridge to the state migrant reception center nearby, officials transport them in vans.

Criminals were making such easy prey of migrants coming and going from one migrant shelter that the federal police posted a permanent, round-the-clock sentry across the street.

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