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Biden Admin Prioritizes Migrant Movement Over Security

It is clear that neither Washington nor Mexico City is serious about a common security strategy.

President Biden Signs Executive Orders To Modernize Immigration System
U.S. President Joe Biden talks with newly sworn in Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas before signing several executive orders directing immigration actions for his administration on February 2, 2021. (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Secretaries Antony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland, were joined by their Mexican counterparts earlier this month in Washington. During the October 13 U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue, the senior Biden administration officials boasted about progress and success on security cooperation. But they are not fooling anyone. Mexico continues to slide deeper into crisis, with 35 percent of its territory under cartel control, a broken police and judicial system, and over 30,000 murders annually, most connected to organized crime.

When the Biden administration’s open-border ideologues came to office, they in effect sent the word worldwide that clandestine migrants would be welcomed, and followed that word with deeds. The previously dire security situation became even worse. The Biden White House pitched U.S. border security and immigration law into chaos, and its actions and messages fueled the destabilizing movement of even more foreign migrants—some two million in the past year—into an already struggling Mexico at war with cartels and corruption. 

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Not only do these desperate migrants endure untold personal hardship as they seek to reach our border, they are endless fodder for criminal cartel exploitation and dirty profits. Mexican cartels earn up to $20 billion annually from migrant smuggling, a staggering figure that underlies the rampant violence and criminality that is crippling our proud Southern neighbor. This trade in clandestine migrants has ballooned in recent years, while the mass killings associated with it hardly get a mention.

Most U.S.-Mexican bilateral law enforcement, such as it was, froze after American officials arrested former Mexican defense minister and Army general Salvador Cienfuegos on a visit to Los Angeles in 2020. What little cooperation and intelligence sharing trust that existed between officials in both countries was seriously damaged, leaving northbound drug trafficking out of Mexico thriving, particularly the fentanyl now killing over 100,000 Americans annually. 

The State Department summary of the October 13 diplomatic dialogue reveals just how out of touch and unwilling both sides are in confronting the bilateral security reality. And for the most part, journalists who cover the U.S.-Mexico security crisis play right along. Where are the voices of the human rights activists who honestly understand how open-border policies wreak havoc on women and children who are trafficked and exploited?

Astonishingly, no one even mentioned at the security dialogue press conference the impact on Mexico represented in the fact that U.S. border authorities are likely to detain more than 2.3 million illegal migrants on the southern border in fiscal year 2022, a record-shattering total that far surpasses the 1.7 million the year before. U.S. officials have detained more than 200,000 migrants each month for the past half year, and these are the ones who turn themselves in, not counting those who disappear on their way north. 

Instead, when immigration came up at the press event, it turned into an opportunity for DHS Secretary Mayorkas to spell out the White House’s open-border doctrine. Referring to the situation of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans in Mexico, Mayorkas said: 

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Our program is based on a core principle of the Biden administration, which is when individuals are so desperate to leave the country that is their home, they are placing their life savings and their lives in the hands of smugglers who exploit them for profit, it is our responsibility to build safe, lawful, and humane pathways that create opportunities for them so they do not need to avail themselves of the more desperate and dangerous measures that the perilous journey involves.

No one really expects Biden policies to discourage Venezuelan migration. Neither Biden nor Mayorkas have legislative authority to build such “pathways,” but the DHS Secretary’s irresponsible rhetoric signals to foreigners to come because they will be welcomed at the U.S. border. 

Mexican officials should lambast the Biden administration for the criminality and corruption this policy is fueling in their embattled country. But the Mexicans say nothing, because the AMLO administration is as senselessly bound up in the destabilizing open-borders messaging and policy as is Biden-Blinken-Mayorkas. 

As Mexican Attorney General Gertz stated: “The problem, it comes to Mexico from all of Central America and all over the world. It comes to Mexico. We have to understand that this phenomenon is a very complicated phenomenon. Why? Because immigrants are not criminals. The criminal is the one that uses them and exploits migrants in an absolutely inhuman way.” 

Gertz believes in the same border policy as his U.S. counterparts. This muddled thinking – that economic migrants have an unfettered right to illegally cross borders to seek new opportunities – is alive in both Washington and Mexico City, and it is corroding the rule of law both in both countries. 

Biden and AMLO officials both ignore the fact that there is, for all practical purposes, an inexhaustible push and demand for migrants to fight their way to the U.S. border that will not be satiated by offering more visas or “humanitarian parole” permission to enter the country. Clandestine migration is stopped by protecting borders and promptly deporting those who enter illegally, not entertaining bogus asylum claims. Anything else undercuts and eventually destroys legal immigration procedures. It supports massive criminal organizations and appalling human rights abuses. 

Mexican Foreign Minister Ebrard, predictably, spoke about arms trafficking, focusing his concern on weapons purchased in the U.S. and smuggled south. Ebrard’s complaint, which is an issue the Mexicans constantly raise, does require more U.S. attention, but the lack of real progress on intercepting weapons being smuggled south must be ultimately ascribed to the neglect of Mexican authorities. The day Mexico becomes serious about its own frontier security by stationing adequate border protection and military assets in its northern states, is the day when it becomes serious about arms trafficking southward from the U.S. 

More noteworthy than anything said at the press event is the AMLO administration’s decision to reverse its plan to get the Mexican military out of the policing business. Coming to office in 2018, AMLO created a new non-military “National Guard” that was to replace Mexico’s “National Police,” the latter having been discredited through corruption and inefficiency. 

AMLO hoped to use the National Guard, controlled by the security ministry and not the defense ministry, to take the lead on domestic policing, but in the face of unrelenting criminality, the president has apparently abandoned this approach. After earlier speaking of a “hugs not bullets” policy in dealing with cartels, AMLO has decided to transfer his new National Guard into the defense ministry after all, quietly conceding that the struggle against the cartels is in fact the business of the military. 

AMLO’s new approach means significant militarization of domestic security in Mexico. Many observers criticize this policy as risking making Mexico’s military even more of a political actor in the country. They point to the Mexican Army’s bad record on human rights. The critics should worry more about the cartels, because Mexico is running out of security options.

Since the cartels have managed to penetrate and corrupt most Mexican state and local police forces, the Mexican Army (SEDENA) and Marines (SEMAR) remain the best security forces the government has, as I observed on the ground working with multiple Mexican security institutions. However, although SEDENA and SEMAR have performed well in pitched battles with the cartels, in the long term their fates are also uncertain. How effective they are in resisting the corrupting cartel cancer, which grows by illicit bribes and threats to family members, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, it is clear that neither Washington nor Mexico City is serious about a common security strategy, as both the Biden and AMLO administrations roll out the welcome carpet for massive clandestine migration and cripple the rule of law.

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