WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
22 Feb 2017 | Commentary

Migration and Border Security under the Trump Administration

In an article published in the Mexican magazine Brújula Ciudadana, Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate for WOLA’s Mexico and Migrant Rights Program, analyzes the implications of President Trump’s border security policies and the challenges facing Mexico. The full article is available in Spanish here. Below is an English-language summary.

The first few weeks of the Trump administration have shown us that the president has every intention of following through on his campaign promises about tightening border security and immigration policies, even though the majority of the U.S. population does not the support these ideals.

In the article “Migration and Border Security under the Trump Administration” in Brújula Ciudadana, Meyer explains why building additional barriers along the U.S. southwest border—where 700 miles of fencing already exists—would be a poor use of funds and would do very little to stop the flow of migrants and illicit drugs into the country. For example, apart from marijuana, the majority of illicit drugs (heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine) that cross the U.S. border are trafficked in vehicles through official ports of entry. Moreover, a large number of the migrants crossing the U.S. border are minors and families who are fleeing violence in Central America; rather than evading U.S. authorities, many of these migrants turn themselves into Border Patrol agents in order to request protection in the United States.

Meyer also analyzes the possible effects that increased border personnel and infrastructure could have on migrants. Migrants could be forced to seek out more remote and harsh areas of the border to cross, which could lead to an uptick in the number of migrants that die in the desert while crossing. As we saw in the 1990s when the U.S. government made it harder to cross the border in California and Texas, thinking that the Arizona desert would serve as a natural barrier to migration, the cost in human lives can be dramatic.

On the other hand, detained migrants could be subject to further abuse by U.S. authorities. There is now a greater risk that investigations and sanctions of these incidents will be weakened and that migrants may be subjected to ill-treatment without the necessary controls and sanctions on agents.

Given the likely increase in deportations of migrants at the border, Meyer also stresses the importance of the United States and Mexico continuing to abide by the repatriation agreements that are already in place to ensure a safe and orderly repatriation process. Existing agreements include restrictions to limit nighttime deportations, require U.S. authorities to do their utmost to return migrants’ belongings (such as identification, money, and cell phones), and recognize the importance of protecting unaccompanied migrant children.

In conclusion, Meyer asserts that the Mexican government’s response should be focused on the protection of Mexican migrants abroad and Mexican migrants repatriated at the border, as well as Central American and other migrants who are in transit through Mexico or who decide to seek asylum in the country. Mexican consular services in the United States will have to be expanded, as will alliances with civil society on both sides of the border to document and report abuses by U.S. officials. At the same time that Mexico seeks to protect its citizens, it must increase its efforts to prevent abuses of migrants in transit through Mexico and to investigate and punish perpetrators.

The magazine Brújula Ciudadana (“Citizen’s Compass”) is a project by the Iniciativa Ciudadana para la Promoción de la Cultura del Diálogo, A.C., a Mexican organization that seeks to facilitate and promote dialogues and agreements between various actors in society, both nationally and internationally.