Migrant rights defenders concerned by new agreements that further militarize the borders of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras

Published by Brent Patterson on

Mexican soldiers in Chiapas near the border with Guatemala. Photo by Isaac Guzman/Agence France Presse.

On April 12, Common Dreams reported: “Human rights defenders expressed concern Monday after the Biden administration announced it reached agreements with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala for those countries to boost their deployments of military forces to stop the flow migrants trying to make their way to the United States.”

That article highlights that White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that under the agreements Mexico will keep 10,000 troops at its southern border, Guatemala will have 1,500 police and military personnel on their border with Honduras, and Honduras will have 7,000 police and military to disperse large contingents of migrants.

And it quotes Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas director at Amnesty International, who accused US President Joe Biden of “repeating the mistakes of past administrations by securing agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to further militarize their borders in a bid to stop people who are fleeing from state repression, violent crime, food insecurity, and the devastating effects of the climate crisis.”

The militarization of these borders is not new.

This report co-authored by the National Human Rights Network All Rights for All (Red TDT) in September 2019 highlighted:

“The current regional trend towards the militarisation of borders to contain and reduce migration has increased the risk of a wide range of human rights violations for migrants and refugees. PRAMI and Red TDT as well as many other NGOs in the region have long documented how in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, the deployment of military forces to address civilian issues increases instances of forced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killings.”

That report adds: “The militarisation of borders and migrant routes does not reduce the flow of people in transit through Central America and Mexico seeking to reach the United States. Rather, it diversifies the flow and makes it more complex, resulting in negative implications for nearly all actors but especially for the migrant population and their allies.”

The American Friends Service Committee has also previously commented: “Over the past four decades, policies under every presidential administration – regardless of political party – have systematically militarized southern border communities, criminalizing millions of immigrants and creating repressive conditions from California to Texas.”

In this recent interview with The Guardian, Vancouver-based migrant rights activist Harsha Walia commented: “There’s been a lot of emphasis on the ways in which Donald Trump was enacting very exclusionary immigration policies. But border securitization and border controls have been bipartisan practices in the United States. We saw the first policies of militarization at the border with Mexico under Bill Clinton in the late 90s.”

She further notes: “What we need to understand is that migration is a form of reparations. Migration is an accounting for global violence.”

And she cautions: “More and more people are being forced out of their land because of trade agreements, mining extraction, deforestation, climate change.”

The Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project works closely with Red TDT and the Saltillo Migrant Shelter near the border between Mexico and Texas. The Shelter provides clothes, medicine, food, rest and care to hundreds of migrants transiting through Mexico to reach the United States. Because of their migrant justice work and the militarization of the border, Shelter staff have suffered harassment, surveillance and threats.

Video: Saltillo Migrant Shelter director Alberto Xicotencátl Carrasco turns away the police attempting an illegal immigration check at the shelter in July 2019.


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