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Migrant advocate says Mexican gov't hindered by political realities

MEXICO MIGRANTS (ADDS VIDEO) | 12 de septiembre de 2019

By Juan Manuel Ramirez G.

Mexico City, Sep 12 (EFE).- A Mexican priest and activist who has been providing assistance to United States-bound migrants for nearly 16 years says President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is hampered on the immigration front by pressure from Washington.

After hearing first-hand for years about the grave dangers migrants face on their journey, Rev. Alejandro Solalinde opened his "Hermanos en el camino" (Brothers on the Road) shelter on Feb. 27, 2007, in the southern city of Ixtepec, Oaxaca state.

The shelter took in more than 400 people on its very first night and has continued to operate ever since despite acts of intimidation and even death threats.

"There's double pressure on Mexico, firstly because of the immigration issue and the (political) change we're having in Mexico and secondly because (the migrant flow) is an electoral pretext for (US President Donald) Trump, who knows he can't contain that migration," Solalinde said in an interview with EFE in Mexico City.

He recalled that the US "is a country that's 100 percent migrants and will continue to be (made up of) migrants" because that is how it was founded.

"The only ones in the United States who aren't migrants are the 1.2 percent of indigenous peoples ... but all the others are migrants," Solalinde said.

Asked whether the Mexican government is treating migrants well, Solalinde said it is acting within the bounds of what is possible.

Lopez Obrador's administration "came in with a lot of eagerness, a very good attitude and resolve, but not taking into account issues such as migration," which had been allowed to increase under the previous administration.

According to Solalinde, the structure for dealing with migration issues within Mexico's Government Secretariat is not very well defined because a single person (Alejandro Encinas) serves as undersecretary of human rights, population and migration.

"Because it's such a complex issue, migration should really have one specific person" responsible for it, while that individual's role should encompass not only migrants who come from the southern part of the hemisphere but also Mexicans living abroad, he said.

Regarding conflicts in the Mexico-Guatemala border region involving Central American migrants, and in recent weeks people from Africa and Haiti, Solalinde recalled that Lopez Obrador himself has stated that a balance needs to be achieved between US pressure to stem the northward flow of undocumented persons and human rights protections.

The priest said the US wants the flow to be cut off entirely and is not satisfied with the 56 percent drop since June that the Mexican government announced last week.

In May, Trump threatened to impose escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports in the coming months (up to a level of 25 percent by October) if Mexico did not take aggressive steps to halt illegal immigration.

But he agreed to suspend that threat after a bilateral agreement was reached on June 7, in which Lopez Obrador's administration vowed to crack down on migrant flows.

The steps taken by Mexico have included deploying a new National Guard force and more immigration agents to that country's southern border with Guatemala.

The Trump administration on Tuesday demanded that Mexico redouble its efforts to reduce the flow of undocumented migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border, but that same day Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard touted the government's success on that front, characterized the downward trend in border apprehensions as "irreversible" and said the possibility of the US imposing the tariffs is now more remote. EFE

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