Mexico's human rights rethoric contradicts an increasing number of deportations of Central American migrants traveling north.
Mexico's National Institute of Migration (INM) commissioner Tonatiuh Guillen acknowledged Tuesday that authorities have detained about 11,800 undocumented Central American migrants between April 1 and April 22, and some 15,000 over the past 30 days.
According to INM data, detentions increased by in April by 40 percent over January when 8,556 migrants were arrested. Detentions are up by 125 percent this month compared to April 2017 when former right-wing President Enrique Peña Nieto was enacting his Southern Frontier Program, implemented under pressure from the U.S. government and meant to deport Central Americans as they tried trek north.
Despite the evidence, Mexican Secretary of Interior Olga Sanchez insists, "the current immigration policy is driven by the respect of human-rights and has not changed a comma," local media Animal Politico reported. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has denied any U.S. interference in his country's inmigration policies.
"In Mexico we make our own decisions," Ebrard said when journalists asked him if it was a "coincidence" that President Donald Trump congratulated Mexico for making more arrests.
When asked by journalists what immigration changes have been made for the better during the Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) administration compared to the previous, Migration Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas told reporters last week: "Things have changed profoundly. ... Go to Chiapas and see all the humanitarian assistance ... look, there is no more persecution," referring to a newly opened INM shelter for migrants in Tapachula, Chiapas.
"This photo says it all: In Chiapas, on Monday, they detained 2,000 migrants to be deported. How much dirty work does the AMLO government have to do to induce organized outrage in the North and the South?"
Human rights defenders do not agree with the official discourse. The Jesuit Migrant Service coordinator Claudia Leon affirmed that the old-fashioned practices still persist.
She says that AMLO's administration displays a "discourse more focused on human rights ... but, in practice, we see that things have not changed that much," from Peña Nieto's term. Leon told Animal Politico, "there is still persecution and criminalization of migrants, especially those who have had some sort of leadership within the migrant caravans."
The religious coordinator pointed out that migration agents collaborate with federal, state and local police to make arrests "as was done before," which is why social organizations do not understand the government's measures.
"Our concern is not knowing where the new policy is heading to. For instance, the 'humanitarian cards' provided to regularize migrants in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, were a very circumstantial measure, which didn't resolve anything. In fact, the government no longer offers those cards," added Leon.
On the other side of the border, there are similar opinions. Alianza Americas Director Oscar Chacon said that he has "concern and disappointment" over what's going on in Mexico.
When President Lopez Obrador won the presidency, there was "a desire to to make a difference," he said, adding that although Mexico emphasizes its sovereignty, its authorities seem to want to "ingratiate" themselves with the Trump administration.
"Beyond what Mexican officials say, I believe that... there is an intention to be on good terms with the U.S. government."
On Wednesday, President Trump seemed to remind Mexico what its actions should be.
"A very big Caravan of over 20,000 people started up through Mexico. 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!" tweeted the U.S. head of state Wednesday morning.
Trump also said he'd be sending more troops to the Mexico border responding to a claim he also made that "Mexico’s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers."