Bye bye to Mexico's southern border agency
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Bye bye to Mexico's southern border agency

Mexico’s controversial immigration initiative has come to an end as quickly as it started. Just one year after President Enrique Peña Nieto introduced the Office for the Attention of Migrants on the Southern Border, the program has been disbanded, according to La Jornada.

Some policy analysts believed the plan filled a much needed policy vacuum in the region. But, activists working in southern Mexico claimed it led to human rights violations.

“You’ve actually now got a Mexican strategy for the southern border, when before you had a policy vacuum,” Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Washington-based Wilson Center, told the Christian Science Monitor in July 2015.

“Instead of ensuring the safety of migrants, much more violations of human rights in all forms are being committed,” Chiapas-based immigration lawyer Elvira Gordillo said in June 2015.

The reason for the change was not stated, but the duties and roles of the organization will be transferred to other agencies.

Migration surge

The plan was laid out in July 2014 after a surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America’s Northern Triangle flooded the US-Mexico border. Its intended goal was to protect these migrants coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala as they cross Mexico’s southern border.

Photo: Anna-Catherine Brigada

Photo: Anna-Catherine Brigida

The U.S. pledged $86 million to the Programa Frontera Sur through the Merida Initiative, which provides aid to Mexico to fight drug trafficking and increase security in the country. Yet, former director Humberto Mayans Canabal reported to La Jornada that the agency worked on a yearly budget of 102 million pesos, or about $6 million.

During the year the plan was in place, the journey became more difficult and dangerous for migrants. Deportations rose sharply. Mexico deported more than 90,000 migrants from Central America from October 2014 to April 2015, compared to less than 50,000 in the same time period the year before, according to a report by the Washington Office on Latin America.

The speed of the infamous freight train “La Bestia” increased making it more dangerous for migrants to board, according to the LA Times. Police raided the train more frequently in the months after the plan was introduced.

Activists and human rights organizations criticized the plan in recent months leading up to the disbandment of the agency.

Former coordinator Mayans Canabal, a PRI senator for the states of Tabasco, will return to the Senate.

“I don’t see the need to create a special police force for the border, much less one like United States Border Patrol,” Mayans Canabal told El Universal in a Spanish-language interview with the publication.

So are human rights organizations rejoicing at their victory?

Not necessarily.

“We don’t think that there is going to be any change with this dismantling, and much less a positive one,” said Diego Lorente Perez de Eulate, general director of the Center for Human Rights Fray Matias de Cordova. Lorente Perez works with migrants in southern border state Chiapas, Mexico.

“The plan was merely a false show, like so many things the federal government does. So, the policy of control and violence is going to continue,” he said.

According to Mayans Canabal, plans to transform Mexico’s southern border region are still in the works.  The senator told El Universal he estimates it will take least 18 years, split into three six-year periods, to transform Mexico’s southern border region to improve security.

Until then, the migration continues. From the beginning of this fiscal year until the end of June 2015, nearly 18,000 unaccompanied minors and 21,000 women with children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have been apprehended at the US border.

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