Mexico Considers What to Do about Central American Migration

By Kausha Luna on November 13, 2015

Scholars and government officials gathered recently at a conference in Mexico City to address Mexico’s migration policy towards Central America. (Video of the two-day event, in Spanish, is here and here.)

The overall tone of the conference was similar to what you might expect from the political and intellectual elite of the United States: "let everyone through!"

The majority of the panelists prattled on about the need to reframe Mexico’s immigration policy from one of "state security" to "human security." Various panelists, including secretary of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, criticized Plan Frontera Sur (Southern Border Plan), an initiative announced last year by President Peña Nieto in response to the surge of Central American migration during the summer of 2014. Partly funded by the United States, the plan aims to bring order to migration in Mexico’s southern region while protecting the human rights of migrants who enter and travel through the country.

Conference speakers repeatedly emphasized the need to protect the human rights of migrants and to adopt more generous regional policies towards migrants. Such policies included a demand for Mexico to create jobs for migrants because Central American countries cannot sustain those being deported from Mexico and the United States. Others stressed targeting the root causes of migration, resting their hopes on U.S. Congress to provide the funds for Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle.

A statement by Reyna Torres Mendivil, Mexico's general director for the Protection of Mexicans Abroad, brought the conference into focus: "The elephant in the room [is that] the objective of the people is to cross through Mexico, not stay in Mexico." Torres Mendivil went on to explain if Mexico was to adopt generous immigration policies, such as transit visas, which have been considered by Mexico’s Congress, the consequences need to be taken into account – what happens when migrants arrive to the U.S. border and cannot cross?

It should be noted, however, that such permissive views are not shared by the general public in Mexico. Omar de la Torre, Head of the Migration Policy Unit of the Interior and panelist at the conference, said earlier this month that "seven out of ten Mexicans think foreigners create problems in the community."