Doing the right thing is admirable. But on many occasions doing the right thing has unexpected consequences, some terrible ones. Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Joe Biden are discovering it in the worst way with the immigration issue. The first thing Biden did upon entering the White House was to announce the end of Donald Trump’s infamous policies against the entry of illegals into the United States. In reality they did not completely disappear due to the many resistance embedded in Congress and in the local and federal Administration, but the single complaint spread like a good news among multitudes of Latinos who had put their desire to try a leap into the American dream on hold. . Hundreds of thousands were on the move. Now Biden does not know what to do with the waves that crowd at his doors. Worse still, he can’t help but be beaten down by the easy attacks of his rivals who have blown a hole in his approval ratings. Many analysts assume that the immigration issue may be the scandal that paves Trump’s way back to the White House.
In another sense, something similar happens with AMLO. He also did the right thing when he defined the immigration issue in humanitarian terms, from the moment he arrived at the National Palace. Nobody leaves their home and theirs to drag extreme hardships out of pleasure, but out of desperation, he has said over and over again. He insisted that the problem had to be addressed from its true causes, poverty and social injustice. Therefore, they had to be addressed wherever the problem originates. This same week he issued the umpteenth call to the United States, in this case a personal letter to President Biden, reiterating the invitation for the two countries to pour out resources in Central America destined to generate the jobs and prosperity that allow people to stay in their homes. country.
But that this position is morally correct does not necessarily make it compatible with immediate reality. So much so that the Mexican president has been forced to act in the opposite direction: do what is necessary to give the impression that the government is willing to prevent, by hook or by crook, so many desperate people from reaching the United States . An ostensibly uncomfortable role for those who have been demanding solidarity and compassion in the face of the most needy of the continent.
The Government has neither the vocation nor the means to stop the caravans of Haitians and Central Americans who, after some friction and skirmishes, escape from the security forces. The result is that the government’s image is damaged on both sides. It neither can nor wants to repress, but isolated cases of abuse, some of them terrible, no matter how punished, end up in photos and videos of the news. And, at the same time, having neither the resources nor the intention to impose a heavy hand (fortunately), the task that has been set on his shoulders is a failure: to prevent the passage of illegals. All attempts to dissuade, process or even retain these caravans on Mexican soil have been unsuccessful. It does not repress, but it carries the reputation of repression due to the isolated cases of scandal that are disseminated; he pretends to try to stop, but cannot convince anyone.
How did we get to this? Simply and simply because of the sequence of decisions that force us to opt for a lesser evil. It should be remembered that Donald Trump twice imposed an ultimatum on our country, upset by the porosity of the Mexican territory to the passage of migrants. Before the coronavirus epidemic, Central Americans had already surpassed Mexicans in the number of illegal immigrants detained at the border. On the first occasion, Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican products; in the second, it decided to increase the commission charged for remittances, in order to finance the construction of the wall. Either measure would have been disastrous for Mexico, particularly in the context of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. 85% of exports go to the United States and, on the other hand, remittances represent an essential oxygen tank for millions of impoverished families. Both threats were averted at the last minute, thanks to the Mexican government’s commitment to act more diligently to control the flow of illegals. Quantitative goals were even set to be met to avoid retaliation, even when that term was not used.
It is not a decent deal, of course. We certainly don’t live in a fair world, I wish it were. Relations with the United States have never been between equals. As neighbors of a giant we have tried to maximize the advantages of proximity and minimize the many disadvantages of living next door. The Free Trade Agreement and its enormous economic impact for Mexico is an example of the former; the pressures to contain illegal ones and others is an example of the second. It is what it is.
What has the Mexican government done about it? First, give in-negotiate to save the specific crisis each time it has arisen. And second, to deal with the commitment assumed, although doing it with more fuss than effort. Mexico mobilized troops, rampaged illegally, offered incentives, and somehow met the quotas that Trump demanded. But that staging is no longer enough to stop the waves that generated the aftermath of the crisis and the change in signals sent by Biden. The scheme is falling apart. Hence AMLO’s insistence to return to his initial plan of attacking the true causes of migration. Something to which Biden does not refuse, but responds with the little enthusiasm of knowing that that does not solve the immediate effect and, therefore, does not save him from the political meltdown.
What follows is uncertain. Having a giant neighbor works both ways. Dangerous that he needs you for something (in this case containing other neighbors) and equally dangerous that he stops needing you, because that means that you are left without the main bargaining card. Biden needs Mexico to ease pressure from illegals; but there is a possibility that they might take a turn and harden their positions in the face of migration and stop needing us or do so to a lesser extent. Who knows what is worse for Mexicans.
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