Mexican Corruption Helps Propel the Central American Exodus

By Jerry Kammer on June 11, 2019

The Wall Street Journal posted a story yesterday that offers both encouragement and a caveat to those who are counting on Mexico to help contain the exodus of Central Americans to the United States. "Police Check Buses, Trains in Migrant Crackdown" reads the headline above the story, which quotes a just-detained Guatemalan saying "Mexico doesn't want us here anymore."

The story concludes with a cautionary note about corrupt Mexican officials at roadside checkpoints that dot the route northward. The officials take bribes from migrants traveling on commercial buses. "If the checkpoints were working as they are supposed to rather than just as a way of generating bribes, that would work," says Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America.

Mexican law enforcement is riddled with corruption. Ten years ago, this blog reported on the shakedown of two Salvadoran men who were stopped at a checkpoint just south of the Texas border town of McAllen. A Mexican official told them they would be arrested and deported unless they reached an agreement with the official's friend.

As we reported then, the Salvadorans agreed to cooperate. Then: "The official called the friend, who arrived shortly thereafter and drove them to the Hotel El Sol, near the Rio Grande River. He said it would cost each of the men $1,000 to be allowed to continue. They were held there for two days, watching TV, until the money was wired from El Salvador. There were other migrants being held at the hotel, perhaps as many as 30."

In the coming weeks we will be hearing a lot from Mexico City about crackdowns like the one noted in the Wall Street Journal. But this will likely be good for the business of the uniformed bribe-takers. A great deal has been written about the need to address the "root causes" — corruption, crime, poverty — that drive emigration from Central America. If the Trump administration is serious about monitoring the Mexican government's commitment to stemming the human tide, it will blow the whistle on the corruption that is part of the brutal machinery of human smuggling.