While Americans north of the U.S.-Mexico border are consumed with plenty of news about a new immigration crisis less than two months into the Biden administration, I am actually living south of Mexico’s southern border, spending the rest of this year in Guatemala.
The news headlines here contrast sharply with headlines from U.S. media. One of those headline’s appeared last week in Guatemala’s leading newspaper, Prensa Libre: “Mexico closes its border with Guatemala.”
That border is about 541 miles, while the U.S.-Mexico border is about 1,954 miles. So, arguably, it’s a little easier to control. However, Mexico seems to be taking its border with Guatemala much more serious than the United States is taking our border with Mexico. They also do not seem to be very happy with U.S. immigration policy since Joe Biden was sworn in as President – especially as Mexico, like all other countries around the world, is facing the COVID19 pandemic.
It is no secret here in Guatemala that it is now much easier to cross the U.S. border in these opening months of the Biden administration than it was during all four years of the Trump administration. While there may not be very much change in actual laws in the United States, there have been some procedural changes by the Biden administration that have at least sent a signal to those in Central America that it is now once again easier to make your way into the United States than it was over the previous four years.
This means more migrants who stayed home after they heard bold words about border security from President Trump, are now willing to uproot themselves from Guatemala and take the long and tedious journey through Mexico all the way up to the U.S. border. They have to journey well over 1,000 miles, possibly much further, depending on where in Central America they are coming from and where they plan to cross into the United States.
This also means more parents are willing to send unoccupied minors on a dangerous journey to the United States, in hopes they will find better opportunity. It also means more children – and other migrants – are preyed upon by human traffickers.
The bottom line is: over the past two months, more migrants are leaving places like Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador to go through Mexico to the United States, than they have over the past four years – and Mexico has obviously noticed.
Last week, the Mexican government announced it would begin restricting non-essential travel from Guatemala to stop the spread of COVID19 into its country. Officers from Mexico’s National Migration Institute were deployed on the banks of the river on Saturday. On Sunday, military troops arrived.
The Biden administration is clearly not taking the threat of immigration across the U.S. southern border seriously. That inattention is now causing a migration crisis from Central America. Mexico, on the other hand, is taking this crisis very seriously, as it is affecting their country, as tens of thousands of migrants attempt to make their way through.
One other factor is that in recent years the United States faces less migrants from Mexico than from Central America, where the economies are not as strong. As the Mexican economy has gained strength, there is less of a need for Mexicans to migrate elsewhere and thus less a desire by the Mexican government to see a porous border with the United States.
While there has always been historic sentiment in the United States that we are a land of opportunity, where immigrants are welcomed to start a new life, there seems to be very little education by some on the American Left, including the Biden administration, as to what effect such and overwhelming increase in migration has on the migrants themselves as they partake on a life-threatening journey to the U.S. border.
Mexico arguably also knows a bit more about these devastating effects on its country, its economy, and on the migrants themselves. And, they have stepped up to do something to put a stop to it. While Americans have become understandably frustrated with the Biden administration’s immigration policies, we might place more hope in the Mexican government’s efforts to control that migration first. Closing their border with Guatemala will do more to prevent migrants from Central America from taking that long and dangerous trek only to wind up in a detention facility along the U.S. border.
I only hope that reporting these findings from Guatemala will do more to awaken the American people to this reality: America’s border and national security are now protected more by Mexico than they are by the sitting U.S. president.
Francisco Gonzalez is a visiting professor at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City and is host of the Agents of Innovation podcast.