President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened Mexican officials, saying he intends to close a section of the southern border if Mexico does not do more to curb migration to the United States.
“A very big Caravan of over 20,000 people started up through Mexico,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “It has been reduced in size by Mexico but is still coming. Mexico must apprehend the remainder or we will be forced to close that section of the Border & call up the Military. The Coyotes & Cartels have weapons!”
In a subsequent tweet, the president went so far as to accuse Mexican enforcement officials of working with cartel members to intimidate the U.S. National Guard, adding, “We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!”
Trump’s threats come just one day after top Mexican officials reaffirmed their commitment to enforcing immigration policies. In a statement, Mexican Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero reiterated that the country will continue to register migrants, provide humanitarian visas, and patrol Mexico’s northern and southern borders.
“The federal government is doing everything it can to help these people and provide them with humanitarian assistance,” Sánchez Cordero said Tuesday. “Keeping control of our southern border is not optional, it’s an obligation of the Mexican government. This is what we are doing, in an orderly fashion and in compliance with the law.”
Tonatiuh Guillén López, commissioner of the National Migration Institute (INM) based in Mexico City, stressed that the recent influx of migrants, most of them women and children from Central America, Cuba, and South Asia, has nothing to do with the Mexico.
“One third of all migrants are now children, and that is worrisome,” he said. “This composition has nothing to do with the Mexican government. The fact that children are coming from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala is a problem these countries must address.”
“It’s a complex scenario. It’s not that it has no solution, it’s that we are working on the solution. Migrants receive all possible assistance at the immigration stations, but these centers are very pressed for space. We know that, but the situation is due in large part to the unusually high numbers of migrants. Many federal and state government institutions are making a huge effort to provide food, shelter and medical services,” Guillén López added.
Trump needs the support of Mexican and Central American officials in order to help curb what migration experts call the “root causes” of immigration. Threatening to either close the border or end foreign aid do nothing but erode those relationships. Even more concerning is that the majority of these threats are being leveled without any attempt to first communicate with the Mexican government. While Trump threatened to impose tariffs of 25% on cars manufactured in Mexico a few weeks ago, Mexico’s Undersecretary for North America Jesus Seade told BuzzFeed News that, “there hasn’t been any follow up, we are not expecting, we are not losing sleep about that.”
It’s not as though Mexico has done nothing to address migration. Mexico has amped up enforcement operations in recent months after Sánchez Cordero announced that, during the first three months of 2019, 300,000 migrants had entered the country. The Mexican interior secretary, however, reportedly has a history of inflating numbers of migrants. She claimed a caravan of 20,000 migrants had entered Mexico, but Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a group which has accompanied several caravans in Mexico, told the Associated Press that “there has never been a caravan of the size that Sanchez Cordero mentioned.”
Just this week, Mexican immigration enforcement officials targeted a group of 3,000 migrants which included small children in Chiapas. Those detained were sent to a shelter in nearby Tapachula, but officials did not clarify whether they would be deported. Last week, INM released a report stating 5,336 migrants were in shelters or immigration centers in Chiapas, and over 1,500 of them were “awaiting deportation.” Groups like the National Human Rights Commission are monitoring the situation to ensure that the rights of vulnerable migrants are not being infringed upon during their time in Mexico.