President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador campaigned to protect the human rights of migrants.
Lopez Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, vowed not to do the “dirty work” of the United States after President Donald Trump demanded Mexico stop migrant caravans before they reach the southern U.S. border.
But a series of increasingly tough actions in Mexico suggest Lopez Obrador has turned his back on those promises and is tacitly cooperating with the Trump administration to stop the flow of Central American migrants passing through Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S.
In Tijuana, immigrant advocates have accused the Lopez Obrador administration of accommodating the Trump administration’s new “Remain in Mexico” program despite publicly claiming the U.S. acted unilaterally. The program forces asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their asylum claims are pending in the United States. It has drawn legal challenges from multiple groups in the U.S. who contend the program violates the law and puts migrants in danger.
In January, Mexican officials, apparently acting under pressure from the U.S., denied entry to two U.S. attorneys who provided legal advice to asylum-seekers, and also refused entry to several journalists who had photographed the large migrant caravan that arrived in Tijuana in November.
Mexican federal immigration authorities recently arrested and deported several people who had been helping coordinate migrant caravans as they passed through Mexico on their way toward the U.S.
On Feb. 15, videos posted on social media showed police shoving and punching migrants outside a shelter in Mexico City. In denouncing the incident, human-rights groups called the incident part of a growing “pattern of harassment” by various levels of the government against “human rights defenders” and migrants seeking to organize themselves.
Most recently, when about 2,000 migrants who traveled in the latest caravan arrived in Piedras Negras, hoping to cross the border and seek asylum in Eagle Pass, Texas, Mexican authorities responded by holding them in a makeshift shelter surrounded by a fence and armed officers. Then they dispersed the migrants by bus to other parts of the border.
The recent actions in Piedras Negras and other parts of Mexico seem to show that the Lopez Obrador administration is working closely with the Trump administration to help the United States block migrants from asking for asylum in the U.S., despite the Mexican president’s promises to stand up to Trump, said David Shirk, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of San Diego.