Column
Advertisement

Flow of migrants remains a challenge for Mexico’s newly-elected progressives

They have a plan to ease the burden of border crossers, but will need the Trump administration to play along.

Morena Party leader Ulises Garcia hopes to establish a good relationship with the Trump administration in dealing with Central American migrants, but warns that they won't tolerate being lectured by the White House (Photo by Sam Fulwood/ThinkProgress)
Morena Party leader Ulises Garcia hopes to establish a good relationship with the Trump administration in dealing with Central American migrants, but warns that they won't tolerate being lectured by the White House (Photo by Sam Fulwood/ThinkProgress)

MEXICO CITY — In Mexico’s capital, optimism for sweeping social and economic changes abounds, especially among the progressive political leaders who are coming into power following an overwhelming vote of confidence earlier this year.

In July, Mexico’s left-of-center political party, known as Morena, washed away the previously dominant PRI, which fell to a third-place behind the conservative National Action Party (PAN). It was worst-ever showing in a national election for the once invincible political party, which had ruled continuously from 1929 to 2000, and again since 2012.  

Morena’s strong showing was such that the members of the incoming class of lawmakers felt empoweredto declare their victories to be a mandate to enact the left-leaning ideas and policies that were advocated by the party’s leader.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, rode the crest of this historic, electoral landslide to claim the Mexican presidency, promising to bring the jobs and prosperity that had eluded the previous administration  What’s more, he ran on a campaign platform to end the cycle of corruption that nearly everyone points to as an an endemic problem in the region.

During a breakfast meeting last week, three Morena Party legislators, who recently won seats in the Mexican congress, told ThinkProgress that they held the political clout to make campaign pledges of stemming regional migration. But to fully implement these fundamental changes, the incoming lawmakers pleaded for understanding and cooperation from the United States, not bullying threats or economic pressures.

Advertisement

Diego Eduardo Del Bosque, an agronomist from one of Mexico’s poorer rural areas, told ThinkProgress that he is confident in the Morena Party’s ability to deliver jobs in the country, reducing the magnetic lure of U.S. employment on people in the region.

“Our party understands the problems associated with migration,” he said, through an interpreter. “It’s poverty, which is a result of policies and corruption from previous (Mexican) administrations.”

Ulises Garcia, another of the congressional leaders, said the party’s leaders — notably incoming President Andreas Manuel López Obrador — want to cooperate with the Trump administration to create “curtains of progress,” such as regional projects that create jobs for Mexicans, Central Americans, and migrants from the Caribbean who stream into Mexico seeking to cross the U.S. border.

But, Garcia warned, Obrador will not let the U.S. advance a policy of criminalization toward Mexico citizens. Nor will he stand for being hectored from Washington. “He is not willing to be manipulated by Trump,” he said.

Garcia said the migrant caravan, which became a political issue in the U.S. midterm elections, are “a huge issue” in Mexico. While thousands of migrants pass through Mexico annually, the sheer size of the caravans represents a never-before-seen challenge to communities and political leaders.

Advertisement

Approximately 500,000 migrants cross the southern Mexican border every year, officials estimated. Of these, about 180,000 are detained by Mexican immigration officials — a number that represents an decline in recent years because of U.S. enforcement polices, Garcia said.

Still, many escape detection and proceed to the northern Mexican states in their quest to cross the U.S. border, which in turn has produced angry and violent reactions toward migrants in these regions, he said.

“Mexico has an anti-immigration policy much like the U.S.,” Garcia said. “So we do the same things to them that we don’t want Americans to do to us.”

To solve this dilemma, the Morena party lawmakers say they plan to push the government to focus less on militarizing its borders and to concentrate on a “human rights framework” that produces jobs and recognizes that some migrants might be productive citizens in Mexico.

“We have to implement programs in border cities to integrate migrants who want to get to the U.S. but get stuck in Mexico,” Garcia said. “They must be integrated.”