The new US ambassador to Mexico, experienced in the debate on migration, takes office amid a crisis at the border – El Tiempo Latino

(c) 2021, The Washington PostKevin Sieff, Mary Beth Sheridan

When Ken Salazar was a senator, he believed that the United States was getting closer to solving the long-standing political impasse around immigration. He had helped craft a bipartisan piece of legislation to address the issue of border security and a path for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status in the United States.

That was 14 years ago. The legislation was never passed. Now, the Democrat from Colorado, who arrived in Mexico last week to assume his position as US ambassador to the neighboring country, finds himself in the midst of a much more polarized moment around the issue of migration – one with which now will have to deal from the other side of the border.

“The challenges have not gone away,” Salazar, who also served as secretary of the interior in the Obama administration, said during an interview with the Washington Post this week.

Immigration is one of the most important challenges facing the United States and Mexico as the Biden administration attempts a “reset” in relations. Former President Donald Trump vilified the country during his first election campaign, fulfilled his commitment to renegotiate NAFTA, and alarmed Mexicans by threatening to impose heavy tariffs if the government did not crack down on migration.

Salazar said the Biden administration is trying to broaden the agenda beyond Trump’s exclusive focus on migration – he spoke about a recent meeting of Cabinet members from both countries to discuss economic issues, and an upcoming session on security cooperation.

“We are in the middle of a reboot,” he said.

Still, as Republicans attack Biden for the surge in the number of migrants at the border, the issue remains the most pressing among neighboring countries.

US immigration agents have made more than 1.2 million arrests along the southern border in the past 12 months, the highest number in more than a decade. For the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, there is still no path to legalization.

In an attempt to contain the flow of migrants, the United States has once again requested Mexico’s help: The Biden administration has asked the country to stop the migrants on their way north. He has also sent quantities of planes with Central Americans to southern Mexico to make it more difficult for him to return to the border.

Mexico has started to complain about the seemingly endless number of requests from the US to increase its compliance efforts.

Salazar, one of the first Mexican-American senators and members of the Mexican-American cabinet, arrives at his new position at a time when the Biden administration tries to project an image of humanitarian sensitivity in relation to border security and at the same time tries to dissuade the migration. Depending on how you measure it, it could be said that it is achieving neither, adopting Trump-era measures that prohibit the benefit of asylum and at the same time failing to contain the flow of migrants.

The beginning of Salazar’s service here, some hope, may help refocus the matter. He is the first Biden ambassador to have been confirmed by the Senate.

Salazar once found an ally on immigration reform in President George W. Bush. Now, he is trying to establish a similar relationship with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. His first trip within Mexico this week will be to López Obrador’s home state of Tabasco, where Salazar hopes to visit the country’s porous border with Guatemala.

The authorities here have welcomed Biden’s efforts to broaden the bilateral agenda and take up the discussion of priority issues for Mexico such as the massive flow of weapons from the US to Mexico, a critical factor in the crisis of violence in the country.

“It is definitely a new era, with a fairly broad dialogue,” said Roberto Velasco, the highest authority for North America at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations.

However, Mexican authorities have been upset by what they consider to be a lack of action on the part of the US to deal with the factors that lead people to migrate in the first place, particularly from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and southern Mexico. . Since the Obama administration, the United States has relied on Mexican police authorities to detain migrants, even despite reports of human rights violations by various groups against repressive actions carried out by the forces. Mexican.

This year, Mexican immigration agents have detained 147,000 irregular migrants, according to the country’s immigration authority.

Mexican officials believe it is largely the flaws in the US immigration system that drive migrants to the border. Analysts have confirmed his growing frustration with the matter.

“US governments have tended to depend on Mexico to carry out their border security functions and thus not have to do it themselves,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. “Salazar is going to have to be open to Mexico’s concerns about increasing efforts in border security and at the same time opening a true path towards legalization for migrants.”

Mexican authorities argue that the lack of US investment in Central America has stalled progress in the fight against corruption and violence, the main factors that force people in the region to have to migrate. Salazar says he agrees that improving conditions through development assistance programs should be at the center of the US agenda.

“Why do people leave Guatemala or other places and come north?” It is because they have no hope, they do not have a job, they are hungry, they live in fear, ”he said. “What we have to do is help create hope in those places.”

Salazar met with López Obrador on Tuesday. The Mexican president presented him with a development project for southern Mexico and Central America that, through a massive reforestation program, would offer jobs to those who otherwise choose to migrate.

Other US officials have doubted the effectiveness of the idea, and some conservation groups have raised concerns about the environmental impact. But Salazar, drawing on his experience as interior minister, stated that he was interested in the idea if it could improve conservation efforts and create jobs.

“I think there is an opportunity to collaborate,” he said.

In a proposal prepared by the Mexican government last month, officials suggested that the US should incorporate López Obrador’s program into its regional development package designed to deter migration.

“The government of Mexico would provide technical support in the project design process,” Mexican officials said.

Authors Information:

Kevin Sieff has been a Washington Post correspondent for Latin America since 2018. He previously served as the newspaper’s chief in its offices for Africa and Afghanistan.

Read the original article here.

Leave a Comment