The administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) diverted more than $4 million from a regional development fund to immigration containment last year, according to a new report from the Associated Press (AP).
The diversion of funds from the ‘Mexico Fund’—which provides financial support to development projects in Central America and the Caribbean—to immigration enforcement is an unprecedented move. It highlights Mexico’s increased desire to address uncontrolled migration flows that have plagued the country for years.
The Mexican government spent the $4 million funds to renovate its immigration detention centers, add increased ground transportation for migrants, and to better track and register migrants passing through Mexico.
The decision to focus on migration issues comes after President Trump threatened to place a tariff on all Mexican imports if it didn’t address the flow of migrants coming through its country to the U.S. last year. U.S. authorities apprehended more than 144,000 migrants in May of 2019—a monthly figure not seen in roughly a decade.
The move to spend more money on immigration enforcement also comes after Mexican citizens complained about migrants taking limited job opportunities and depressing wages—a similar phenomenon occurring in the United States.
The surge of migrants coming through Mexico in 2019 was partially due to its own ineffective immigration enforcement policies. At that time, it had minimal immigration enforcement personnel, an extremely porous border with its southern neighbor Guatemala, and a limited system to track illegal migrants in its country.
With these surges occurring, AMLO’s administration had to address its mass migration problem quickly. Mexico’s trade relationship with United States was at stake and it could not afford to lose billions of dollars in economic opportunities with its largest trade partner. Additionally, its own citizens were being undermined by migrants taking job opportunities for lower pay.
After complying with President Trump’s demands and finally enhancing its immigration enforcement with more personnel, funding, and tighter immigration policies, apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have fallen by roughly 100,000.
While the COVID-19 pandemic and other U.S. immigration restrictions have contributed to this decline, there is no question that Mexico’s interior enforcement assisted with this reduction. Simply put, uncontrolled mass migration can bring serious repercussions for any country—and Mexico experienced it directly.