Ana Lorena Delgadillo and Alicia Moncada**
The Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, is visiting Mexico and Guatemala at one of the most critical moments of the migration crisis in the Americas. Although her itinerary has been predetermined, we cannot miss this opportunity to communicate what the Mexican government may not tell her.
The Biden-Harris administration says it is committed to reversing the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies such as the “Remain in Mexico” program (which officially ended this year), repairing the US asylum system, and implementing a comprehensive plan for safe, legal and orderly migration that combats poverty, insecurity and violence as structural causes of migration in the region.
The intentions of the US government cannot be achieved without considering the conditions of governance and security in the region. Investing resources and creating developing programs in communities disrupted by organized crime, without functioning security and governance mechanisms, will undoubtedly generate more risks than solutions.
Violence, impunity and corruption are not exclusive to Central America – they also affect Mexico. As long as Mexico and Central America do not strengthen the autonomy and independence of institutions for the procurement and administration of justice, it will be difficult to reduce violence and therefore some of the main causes of migration.
Harris should also be informed of the organized criminal networks that operate from Central America and Mexico and extend into the United States, which enjoy impunity and continue to reap economic benefits. Transnational organized criminal networks continue to disappear, kidnap, extort, kill, and subject migrants to trafficking and smuggling because the countries have allowed it.
An excellent point of departure to understand this phenomenon are the cases of massacres, kidnappings and disappearances of migrants. Ten years after the San Fernando massacres, we do not know whether prosecutors in the region have met to try to integrate a transnational perspective into their investigations.
Recently, the US Secretary of Homeland Security announced a new operation (Operation Sentinel) aimed at combating transnational criminal organizations related to the illegal trafficking of migrants. While it is an important initiative, it should not operate only around crimes that affect the United States (such as human smuggling and trafficking) but rather those that impact the region and that are considered serious human rights violations, including disappearances and killings, as well as the kidnapping of migrants.
It is essential to create extraordinary mechanisms with a transnational focus, which have guarantees of independence so that they have access to all the information and support necessary and are able to act without undue influence. These mechanisms must be composed of reliable and qualified personnel who can investigate state structures with the participation of victims and their representatives.
Finally, there are concerns that the Biden government supports Mexico and the countries of the Northern Triangle as they increase military presence at the borders in an effort to curb migration and externalize their borders, despite knowing that the armed forces operate in these countries without oversight or transparency and have a long history of committing systematic human rights violations.
It is important that Vice President Harris enters into dialogue with the authorities of the countries with whom she will meet during her visits, but she cannot stop listening to affected populations and human rights organizations. Listening to only one party will result in the implementation of distorted measures that will not benefit the most vulnerable people in the region.
* Column originally published in Diario La Reforma.
** Ana Lorena Delgadillo is Director of Fundación para la Justicia; Alicia Moncada is a researcher for the same organization.
Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin