The border crisis has been taken off of the front page by more pressing concerns — most of which, these days, have to do with Ukraine — but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.
If you needed a reminder that one of the more pressing issues of the last decade isn’t going to go away, a report from Mexico on Thursday showed just how important border security really is.
According to The Associated Press, about half the trains inspected by Mexican authorities had migrants traveling on them.
The numbers were part of a wider crackdown on immigration by Mexican authorities after President Donald Trump had demanded the country tamp down on the problem.
A total of 178,917 migrants have been detained by the Mexican government in 2019, most from Central America.
Of those, 84,327 were deported.
Mexico said Thursday it has found migrants riding on about half of trains inspected. https://t.co/o9rlf0CHKK
— Laredo Morning Times (@lmtnews) December 27, 2019
Mexico also saw the number of individuals seeking asylum in the country more than double from 29,631 in 2018 to 66,915 in 2019. While Mexico has continued to refuse to be a so-called “safe third country” for asylum seekers — a designation which would mean Central Americans passing through Mexico would have to apply for asylum there first before traveling to and asking for asylum in the United States — the tighter asylum restrictions in the United States likely had something to do with this.
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However, the numbers are still daunting.
“While the largest number of migrants were detained while walking — 41,649 between June and Dec. 22 — many migrants walk along tracks hoping to hop onto a passing train,” the AP reported. “About 2,800 migrants were found hidden in trucks and almost 3,500 were detained aboard buses.”
The crackdown, which began in May, has borne some fruit.
According to Arizona NPR affiliate KJZZ-FM, Mexican officials say that the figures showed declining apprehensions along the United States-Mexico border, a positive sign that Mexico’s efforts are having an impact.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard noted that in May, U.S. authorities had apprehended 144,000 people at the border, a number which had been reduced to 43,000 in November.
That, according to Ebrard, was “the most significant reduction in those flows in the last few decades,” which he said was due, in part, to the fact authorities there had targeted trains for inspection.
There are two major takeaways here.
The first is obvious: Putting pressure on other countries to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants works. Mexico is touting these numbers, but why did the crackdown happen in the first place? It was because the Trump administration threatened Mexico with tariffs if they didn’t stem the flow of illegal immigrants, something that should have happened years ago.
The second takeaway should be that we need to be vigilant. There’s still a problem when half of trains inspected by Mexican officials have migrants stowed away in them.
Keep in mind, Mexico isn’t a totally willing partner in this; they’re not stopping illegal immigration from Central America on their own accord. They’re doing it because the United States threatened them with retaliatory measures if they didn’t do their part.
If a future administration wants to take this pressure off Mexico — if they decide they don’t particularly care about the costs imposed by illegal immigration — this is clearly something that could be negotiated away.
We need a robust infrastructure in place to prevent another spike in illegal immigration should this happen. This includes, among other things, a border wall.
The promise of a secure border was part of the reason Donald Trump got elected president. If he wants a second term, he needs to stress numbers like these — numbers that show exactly why we need to be tough on the border.
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