By RICARDO CASTILLO
The question of what to do with the thousands of Central American migrants passing through Mexico still remains unanswered. So far, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has opted to follow the same erratic policy begun by his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, only to see the flux of migrants grow exponentially.
The point being now that these migrants — mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — are wreaking havoc at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. On Monday, April 1, the CBP reassigned 750 agents to help process the literally thousands of asylum requests piling up on a daily basis.
The immediate effect of this reassignment was felt at the border. Reports from the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso crossing are that hundreds of trucks that make the daily trek taking merchandise in both directions are now forming long lines due to the slowness of procedures at the CBP.
The Juárez Carriers Association issued a statement saying that at least 100 drivers are spending the night inside the cabins of their vehicles so as not to lose their turn in the long lines. Juárez transit authorities counted 600 trucks in line waiting to arrive at the inspection lanes.
And, of course, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to bash Mexico on a daily basis. On Thursday, April 4, he issued a new threat to the Mexican government, giving it “one year” to stop the flow of migrants and drugs into the United States or else he will impose duties on cars manufactured in Mexico.
“If Mexico doesn’t help us, we’re going to put taxes on cars,” Trump said. “If the flow of drugs doesn’t stop, we will do it. I mean it, I’m not kidding.”
And, of course, everybody in Mexico is waiting to see what happens of Friday, April 5, when Trump visits the Calexico border. Will he actually go ahead and shut down the border? In fact, President Trump has markedly toned down his rhetoric on the threats to close the border in the last couple days.
In Mexico, AMLO is taking a barrage of criticism for taking a “no-confrontation” course of action in his response to what many consider “insults” coming out of Trump’s threats.
“It is not convenient to anybody to close the borders; it is not the most recommended move,” López Obrador said. “This is an issue we’re looking after.” This time around, AMLO did not use his customary “love and peace” and “I respect Trump” spiel.
What is lacking in Mexico is an emergency contingency plan to deal with the Central American migrants. They are stressing border cities, as well as charitable organizations. In Juárez alone, at one of the migrants’ housing facilities, there are reportedly 500 persons waiting for their turn at the CBP. The migrants manage to cross into El Paso to fill out forms and then are escorted back to Mexico, where they wait to be summoned again.
Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada has said that most of the migrants are penniless so the municipal government is having to foot the bill to support them. He warned that things are going to get worse as of Monday, April 8, when the CBP will start returning an average of 100 persons a day who made it into El Paso to wait for processing in Mexico. According to the mayor, there are some 3,500 migrants now living in Juárez.
Mayor Cabada also said that the federal government is disregarding the crisis as the border city is feeling the pinch from the migrants, who are mostly Central Americans, but there are also refugees from the Far East and Africa. Some of the migrants have been there months, waiting for their turn.
The mayor’s office issued a press release asking migrants to respect the laws, customs and regulations.
Local people are getting desperate over the presence of these migrants. In social media, memes abound disparaging the migrants. On Sunday, April 7, there will be a demonstration in Ciudad Juárez, demanding that the migrants leave the city. A local daily reported that, as of Thursday, April 4, 1,400 persons had signed up to participate.
That same day, Mayor Cabada announced that there are at least 6,000 trucks laden with products from the local in-bond maquiladora industries waiting to be transferred, “and things will only get worse with the closing of the commercial area” at CBP come Saturday, April 6, in one of three bridges that links Juárez to El Paso. CBP inspectors “are slow.”
Cabada said that he is working hard to try to speed things up and “avoid damage to the maquiladora industry.”