It’s nice that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government is issuing humanitarian visas to refugees fleeing Guatemala and other violent Central American countries. But how many will stay in a country with a crime epidemic of its own?
Instead of deploying federal police to block illegal entrants, Mexico is fast-tracking applications for one-year permits that grant migrants free movement and work authorizations. More than 12,000 humanitarian visas were issued in the first six weeks of 2019.
Yet Lopez Obrador’s pivot from border enforcement to “protection” is a futile move as long as his country remains swamped by its own crime wave.
Chilapa, in southwestern Mexico, has the highest homicide rate in the world, according to a recent news report calling it a “war zone.” Three other Mexican cities ranked in the top five.
In one of those crime centers, Tijuana, the violence is the worst since that border town witnessed all-out war between the local Arellano Félix syndicate and the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Another survey ranks Los Cabos, Mexico, No. 1 with a bullet. It lists six Mexican cities on the Top 10 most dangerous list – and all have homicide rates higher than the current U.S. murder capital: St. Louis.
Amid the endemic violence south of the border, it’s fair to assume that many migrants who chance their way through Mexico’s badlands won’t tarry on their trek to the United States.
Transiting across Mexico, Central American migrants and refugees are “preyed upon by criminal organizations, sometimes with the tacit approval or complicity of national authorities, and subjected to violence and other abuses — abduction, theft, extortion, torture and rape — that can leave them injured and traumatized,” according to Doctors Without Borders.
Little wonder that northbound caravans accelerate through Mexico en route to the U.S. Temporary humanitarian visas are no protection against knives, guns and the predations of criminal cartels.
In an ironic journalistic twist, USA Today’s March 15 edition devoted virtually its entire front page to detailing migrants’ deadly predicament. Immediately below was a report that the U.S. Senate voted to block additional funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
“This check on the executive is a crucial source of our freedom,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said from his comfortable Capitol Hill quarters after opposing the president’s national emergency declaration.
It all evokes Kris Kristofferson’s immortal lyric: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.