U.S. State Department Officials Say ‘Full Court Press’ Underway to Address Mass Migration


The United States and Mexico are working together to address migration “for the first time” in history, U.S. State Department officials said during a news conference in Juárez last week. 

Ken Salazar, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and Richard Verma, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, spent two days in Mexico’s capital for talks on fentanyl and security before arriving at the border Wednesday, July 26, where they toured shelters in Juárez and then met privately with El Paso officials and Chihuahua governor, Maria Eugenia Campos, at the State Commission on Population office at the foot of the Paso del Norte International Bridge to discuss migration. 

“For the first time in the history of Mexico and the United States, we are doing this together,” Salazar said. “We have plans to create a border between the United States and Mexico that will be a modern border, a safe (border).” 

With 20 million displaced people in the Western Hemisphere alone, migration is a “global challenge,” Verma said. 

Verma described efforts to combat migration as a “full court press” that involved billions of dollars of investment in Central and South America from federal agencies and private sources. 

“We have come together collectively,” Verma said. “The United States can’t do this alone, Mexico can’t do this alone. We have to do this as a regional approach.” 

Despite much talk about investment and a binational commitment to ending smuggling and human trafficking, few specifics came out of the conversation. 

“We have to do our part using our diplomatic tools or economic tools or security tools in the region,” Verma said. “Train law enforcement, provide the kind of training and operational tools to prevent people from moving, to give different border facilities in the region more capabilities, but also that economic investment and diplomatic coordination.” 

The United States and Mexico are in talks to establish “Safe Mobility Offices” in southern Mexico, Verma said. 

Similar offices opened in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia in June. At each location, refugees and migrants of certain nationalities can make appointments to get help in finding a legal pathway to the United States.  

However, the current Safe Mobility Offices have strict parameters for who is eligible to make an appointment and their recommendations to migrants and refugees are still subject to the discretion of authorities at the U.S. border. If an office does open in Mexico, it would accept only Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans. 

The United States and Mexico are committed to ending the exploitation of migrants and refugees by smuggling operations, Salazar and Verma said. 

But in Mexico, migrants are frequent targets not just of smugglers who demand thousands of dollars to bring them across the border, but also of criminal organizations who kidnap them for ransom. 

Most of the migrants who crossed the Rio Grande en masse in December, for example, reported being kidnapped in the Mexican state of Durango. 

Even migrants who have a legal pathway or an appointment with CBP One are vulnerable to violence and exploitation as they wait in northern Mexico, according to reports by human rights and advocacy groups. 

While the number of migrants in need of shelter and other assistance in both Juárez and El Paso has dropped significantly since the end of Title 42 in May, governmental and non-governmental partners in both cities are constantly working to be prepared, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said. That includes seeking federal funds to cover the costs borne by the border communities. 

“As we all know, (migrants) are not coming to El Paso, they’re coming to the United States,” Leeser said. The Department of Homeland Security has been a partner in assisting El Paso with costs associated with migrant flows in the region, he added. 

On Operation Lone Star’s deployment of barriers such as the rolls of concertina wire that now line the bank of the Rio Grande in El Paso, Leeser would only say that he is against “mistreating people.” 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made a reference to “Biden’s open border” on Twitter as recently as July 24 to justify the controversial buoys that he installed in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass. 

“We’ll never support mistreating anybody,” Leeser said. “The border wasn’t open yesterday. It’s not open today.” 

Mexico filed a complaint with the International Boundary and Water Commission in June, while the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Texas on July 24 after Abbott refused to remove the buoys. 

“We don’t believe that the deployment has been legal,” Verma said.  “It’s not humane, not effective, not environmentally sound. So there’s a lot of reasons for our challenge, but fundamentally (it’s) not lawful.” 

Source : Elpasotimes