'Migrant President' Joe Biden's asylum policies worry Mexico over boom in human trafficking cartels

'Migrant President' Joe Biden's asylum policies worry Mexico over boom in human trafficking cartels
President Biden and migrants at US-Mexico border (Getty Images)

The Joe Biden administration had pledged to improve the situation at the southern border at the very beginning but the expectations on the ground are far from being fulfilled. Now, even the government of Mexico has expressed anxiety that Washington’s asylum policies are encouraging illegal immigration and boosting organized crime, Reuters reported citing officials and internal assessments. According to the report, ever since Biden won the White House and vowed to reverse the hardline approach that his predecessor Donald Trump had taken, Mexico has hoped that the migration burdens imposed by the previous White House administration would end but also ended up bracing for a new influx of people.

Instances of detention on the US-Mexico border have gone up since Biden was sworn in on January 20. Mexico City has requested Washington to check the flow by providing development aid to Central America, the origin of most migrants who look for safer shelter because of a humanitarian crisis. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the day after having a virtual meeting with Biden on March 1: “They see him (Biden) as the migrant president, and so many feel they’re going to reach the United States.”



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“We need to work together to regulate the flow because this business can’t be tackled from one day to the next,” he added. The Reuters report added that details in the internal assessments that were previously unreported revealed that gangs are diversifying methods of smuggling and getting more clients as they look forward to Washington’s measures that will “incentivize migration”. These assessments are based on testimonies and intelligence gathering. 

Last month, apprehensions on the Mexico border touched levels that were unseen since mid-2019 and were the highest for that month in a decade-and-a-half, data obtained by Reuters showed. “Among U.S. steps Mexico worries are encouraging migration are improved support for victims of gangs and violence, streamlining of the legalization process, and suspension of Trump-era accords that deported people to Central America,” the Reuters report said. However, Mexican policies are also responsible for encouraging the flow of migration, one assessment said, as per the report. “It saw potential fillips in measures such as offering Covid-19 vaccines to migrants, as well as better protections for undocumented children,” it said. 


Nicaraguan immigrants wait on a US-Mexico border bridge for entry into the United States on February 22, 2021, in Matamoros, Mexico. US immigration authorities have begun allowing some asylum seekers with active cases into the US in a reversal of the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy (Getty Images)

One Mexican official who is familiar with the developments in the migration sector said on the condition of anonymity that organized crime started changing its modus operandi “from the day Biden took office” and now showed “unprecedented” sophistication levels. Those changes include briefing clients on latest immigration rules, using technology to bypass authorities and running smuggling operations in the guise of travel agencies, assessments showed. 


'Migrants have become a commodity'

The official conceded that the migrants have become a commodity who are as valuable as drugs for the gangs. “Migrants have become a commodity. But if a packet of drugs is lost in the sea, it’s gone. If migrants are lost, it’s human beings we’re talking about,” he said. 

Neither America’s federal nor the Mexican authorities responded to Reuters’s request for response on the story. Cesar Peniche, attorney general of Chihuahua, the Mexican state which has the longest border with the US, said that higher concentrations of migrants in the border areas have encouraged the gangs to recruit people as drug mules and kidnap others for money. He said both the countries should follow more clear-cut policies so that illegal immigration is not encouraged. 

Mexico has praised Biden for offering a pathway to citizenship for millions of American residents of Mexican origin and revering the policies that Washington followed in the Trump era to send back asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait till their court hearings materialized. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a news conference earlier this week that overwhelming the US-Mexico borders with migrants, including unaccompanied children, is part of the cartel’s strategy which would enable them to smuggle even more people into the US territory. “Because of the volume of people coming across, the border patrol that makes the arrest, they have to engage in quite literally, in babysitting,” the Republican said. “And while they’re doing babysitting, that provides an opportunity for the cartels to be able to bring other people across the border illegally,” he added. “This is actually part of the cartel strategy.”


Customs and Border Protection spokesman Matthew Dyman said border patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector have recently found immigrants wearing suspicious bracelets during several apprehension. “Information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman told Reuters. The Rio Grande Valley spans more than 34,000 square miles along the border in southeast Texas.


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