The release of a photograph of a father and his infant daughter from El Salvador lying face down on the bank of the Rio Grande after attempting to enter the United States has provoked worldwide indignation.
But while troubling, the photo’s dissemination is unlikely to cause much change, as both the Mexican and U.S. governments seem intent on restricting the surge in migration with polemic policies that are opposed by many of their countrymen and women.
In the United States, the Trump administration has been criticized for the policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico. And it is not only Democrats who believe the strategy is wrong. A union representing federal asylum officers said Wednesday that forcing migrants to wait years in Mexico while their asylum cases are decided is “fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our nation.” Leading Democrats, including presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, say desperate migrants denied speedy asylum hearings are more likely to take life-endangering risks to enter the United States.
The U.S. government has also taken flak for the squalid conditions endured by thousands of migrant children held in Border Patrol facilities. Although Health and Human Services officials say the system is overwhelmed – migrant detentions have increased by 144 percent this year – some critics have compared the shelters to “concentration camps.”
Despite these negative reports, polls still indicate that President Donald Trump has the support of many Americans regarding his hard-line immigration stance.
And while in Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces criticism from some quarters for acquiescing meekly to Trump, his strategy to halt the flow of migrants through the country by massive deployment of the National Guard is a largely popular measure and his favorability rating remains high.
The deployment of troops at Mexico’s southern border and other key regions of the country has started to produce results. The number of detentions and deportations of undocumented migrants jumped dramatically in May and June. The National Guard and Immigration officers are not only creating a “wall” to preventing migrants from traveling north from the southern state of Chiapas, they are also scouring bus stations along favored migrant routes to root out undocumented Central Americans, as well as record numbers of Africans.
In addition, Lopez Obrador has dispatched 15,000 National Guard troops to the northern border, a move that has been applauded by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. The Mexican president, however, stressed that Central Americans won’t be detained at the border. And he called on soldiers to act responsibly and with compassion after some were photographed preventing a women and her daughter trying to illegally cross over to the U.S. side.
One of the fiercest critics of Lopez Obrador’s migration strategy has been Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, the current president of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house), and a member of Morena, the president’s party. “We cannot accept that migration becomes a bad word.” Muñoz Ledo said. “Migration is a human right that must be respected. Our constitutions reflect this – all the way from (independence hero) Morelos – as do our international treaties.”
The veteran legislator accused Lopez Obrador of double standards: closing off the southern border to migrants while defending the rights of Mexican migrants in the United States.
In response, Lopez Obrador said it is “necessary to have good relations with the United States” and that he has never deviated from his commitment to protect the rights of migrants in Mexico.