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LatAm in Focus: Making Sense of a New U.S.-Mexican Migration Deal

A Mexican federal police officer near the Guatemalan border. (AP)

A Mexican federal police officer near the Guatemalan border. (AP)

June 11, 2019

Expanding the Remain in Mexico program would place migrants in dangerous cities that could put them at higher risk for kidnappings. @Sleutert of the @StraussCenter discusses the consequences of a new U.S.-Mexico migration deal in our latest #LatAmFocus.
Expanding Remain in Mexico would worsen humanitarian services shortages in migrant shelters, says @Sleutert of the @StraussCenter. She talks with @CarinZissis about what a U.S.-Mexico migration policy could look in #LatAmFocus.

Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods is over—for now. The next question is how a U.S.-Mexican deal seeking to stem migration will take shape.

One thing we do know is there will be an expansion in the number of U.S. asylum seekers based in Mexico to await processing. Already, some 10,000 people are in Mexican border states as part of this program, dubbed Remain in Mexico and officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols or MPP. But how protected those migrants will be is less certain if MPP extends into border areas notorious for crimes like kidnapping, says Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law and a lecturer on Mexican migratory policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

As it is, MPP has shown signs of stretching border communities to the limit, she tells AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis. “A lot of the burden of Remain in Mexico has fallen onto the municipal governments,” says Leutert, explaining that there is not much in the way of a comprehensive federal plan to handle asylum seekers in this area, leading to shortages in humanitarian services for people waiting. “And if you saw a sharp increase through an expanded Remain in Mexico, that would only get worse,” she adds.

It’s a lot of money to fund 6,000 National Guard members to continue these operations.”

Meanwhile, on its southern border, Mexico plans to dispatch 6,000 National Guard troops to stem the upsurge in Central American immigrants as it runs against a Trump-imposed deadline to show results. Leutert notes this won’t mark the first time Mexico seeks to slow migration flows but, in the past, smugglers learned how to adapt. “Over time these smugglers found new outlets, found new tactics, found new people who they could bribe to get people through, and restructured their operations,” she explains.

“In the short term, could Mexico dramatically increase its apprehensions if it really had the political will across the board to do so? Yes,” says Leutert. “Could it sustain this over a long period of time? I’m less certain.”

Luisa Leme produced this episode. The music in this podcast was performed at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at