Seeking to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship.
An Update on Security, Migration, and U.S. Assistance
New Report by the Washington Office on Latin America
In a report released today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) reveals that, far from deterring migrants from making the journey north, the most notable effects of Mexico’s Southern Border Program have been a significant uptick in apprehensions and changes in where and how migrants are traveling. These changes expose migrants to new vulnerabilities, while isolating them from the network of shelters established along traditional routes.
From when it was announced in July 2014 to June 2015, Mexico’s stepped-up migration enforcement resulted in a 71 percent increase in apprehensions of Central American migrants and potential refugees, compared to the same period one year earlier. Based on research and visits during the last two years to Mexico’s southern border zone, WOLA researchers found that Mexico’s increased apprehension and rapid deportation of migrants has not been paired with a greater capacity to screen them for protection concerns, leading many to be deported back to dangerous situations in their home countries.
The border between Mexico and the United States is one of the most dynamic in the world. The United States and Mexican border states together represent the world’s 4th largest economy, see more than $500 billion dollars per year in bilateral trade, and house 56 crossing points where nearly 300,000 vehicle crossings take place on a daily basis.
Our countries have always had a complex and intertwined relationship and have established different and successful mechanisms to manage border matters. At present, the level of cooperation between Mexico and the United States on border issues is the highest testament of the maturity and strength of the bilateral relationship. Positive synergies are now in place, our common values and cultural ties are nowhere more visible than at our shared border, benefitting both societies.
This essay aims to offer a holistic approach and view of the border region. It focuses on the key aspects that comprise it, and also explains the mechanisms established by Mexico and the United States, describing the strong collaboration that has been accomplished by both countries.
The Wilson Center’s Urban Sustainability Laboratory and Mexico Institute, along with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, are pleased to invite you to the event, “Innovation in Colonias on the Texas-Mexico Border: Building on Border Assets.” While public discussion often focuses on the challenges facing low-income communities living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, the region’s assets can be leveraged to advance local economic development. A panel of experts will discuss opportunities to promote development, entrepreneurship and job creation for the colonia populations living along the border. Panelists will discuss how policies for affordable housing, infrastructure, education, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and health can be integrated with efforts to build an inclusive economy and strong community networks and cooperation. On-the-ground innovation in the border region and in the colonias offers important new models for development in underserved communities.
A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, “Las Colonias in the 21st Century: Progress Along the Texas-Mexico Border”, provides context for the discussion. Texas colonias, home to an estimated 500,000 people, represent one of the largest concentrations of poverty in the U.S. This report offers a comprehensive profile of Texas border colonias, assessing the opportunities, successes, and challenges facing these communities.
The terrorist attack on 9/11 in effect closed America’s borders. The drawbridges were raised, airports and seaports shut down and cross-border traffic at land ports of entry was reduced to a trickle. Defense and security and enforcement became the exclusive orders of the day.
The U.S. reaction generally and particularly on the Southwest Border was understandable, though it remained more instinctive than considered. We had experienced a new vulnerability in our “homeland,” a concept that seemed foreign, strange and distant before 9/11. Reflexively we retreated behind our borders and hunkered down behind the boundaries of Fortress America.
It soon became evident that the costs of “hunker down security,” i.e. the impact of closing the borders, would deliver an unacceptable, catastrophically self-defeating blow to our economy. The events of 9/11, accordingly, initiated a wrenching turn in the way Americans viewed globalization and the manner in which their government understood and practiced internal security and external defense. Policymakers were compelled to formulate new theories of action and respond to a dramatically altered threat environment. Specifically, policy makers grappled with the challenge of how to secure the homeland in a world that was increasingly borderless. The evolving policy and operational results may be the lasting legacy of September 11, 2001.
This paper examines these developments from the perspective of the relationship between Mexico and the United States and their shared management of a common border. Although the emergence of a U.S. homeland security doctrine has significantly affected all trade and travel to and from the United States, it has had special importance for and a distinctive impact on U.S. – Mexico bilateral relations.
The above text is an excerpt from the introduction to the essay. This essay is part one of our series “The Anatomy of a Relationship: A Collection of Essays on the Evolution of U.S.-Mexico Cooperation on Border Management.”
The conventional wisdom among those who study the border is that following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States unilaterally imposed significant additional security requirements on the management of the U.S.-Mexico border, and that the measures taken to meet these requirements have made the border more difficult to cross for not only illicit but also licit traffic, including the trade and travel that is the lifeblood of cross-border communities. There is much truth in this interpretation, but it largely portrays Mexico as a passive receptor of U.S. policy, which could not be further from reality.
Rather, the increasing relevance of transnational non-state actors—terrorist groups, organized crime networks—posing border and national security threats in the region have demanded increased international cooperation to monitor and mitigate the risks. At the same time, the U.S. and Mexican economies have become ever more deeply integrated, causing significant growth in cross-border traffic and placing the efficient management of the U.S.-Mexico border as a first-order national interest for both countries.
The post-2001 border management framework has pushed away from the traditional understanding of the border as a line in the sand and moved toward an approach that seeks to secure and (in the case of licit travel and commerce) facilitate flows. This focus on transnational flows has expanded the geographic scope of what were traditionally border operations and thus required an internationalization of border management, the development of partnerships and cooperative methods of border administration.
Over the past decade and a half, the United States and Mexico have transitioned from largely independent and unconnected approaches to managing the border to the development and implementation of a cooperative framework. With contributions from government officials and other top experts in the field, this collection of essays explores the development of cooperative approaches to the management of the U.S.-Mexico border. The essays will be released individually throughout the fall of 2015 and published as a volume in early 2016.
Honduran migrant Gerardo Cruz never saw the face of the man who pushed him off the train’s ladder as he rode through Chontalpa, Mexico. But through the black of that March night, 20-year-old Cruz said he could make out the white lettering of “Policía Federal” or “Federal Police” on the man’s dark blue uniform.
When Cruz fell, he said, his left arm landed on the tracks and the train’s wheels severed his limb.
“The government officials were the cause of this problem,” Cruz said of his injury, speaking in Spanish. “There should be compensation because this is a crime.”
Mexico’s Southern Border Program was launched in July 2014 in response to an influx of Central American migrants crossing through Mexico, creating a crisis that included tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving at the US border. The program was designed to manage Mexico’s 750-mile border with Guatemala and Belize while protecting migrants settled in the country or en route to the US.
Day 3 of our on-going article excerpts. Check out the blog again on Monday for more, or head straight to our website for the remainder of the article.
Water Scarcity Could Deter Energy Developers From Crossing Border Into Northern Mexico
by Keith Schneider
Coahuila Says It’s Ready
Whether the shale gas fields of Coahuila and its neighboring states are included in the offering, though, is not certain. The national government has expressed concern about low gas and oil prices, and about security. Northern Mexico is the base of operations of “Los Zetas,” the most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous Mexican gang, which has infiltrated the state’s coal sector and terrorized several energy exploration teams.
The Governor of Coahuila, Rubén Moreira Valdéz, among the industry’s biggest boosters, is not intimidated. Moreira is pressing the national government to open bidding for development rights in his state to keep a promising oil industry job boom going. Earlier this year, during a shale development conference in Mexico City, Governor Moreira told attendees that “the economic development of shale oil and gas, and related investments, has generated more than 800 shale gas and shale oil jobs” in Coahuila.
Executives of Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company, join administrators in Mexico’s Ministry of Energy in projecting much larger returns. Two years ago the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that northern Mexico reserves held 13 billion barrels of shale oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, ranking the region as one of most potentially productive shale energy zones on the planet.
Pemex anticipates that the oil and gas producing basins of Coahuila and neighboring Nuevo Leon could attract over $US 100 billion in investment to drill 8,000 to 10,000 oil and gas wells. Coahuila state authorities added that they expected $US 64 billion of that total to be invested in their state, and that 240,000 jobs would result. Earlier this year a report by the University of Texas at San Antonio, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos, and the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute was similarly enthusiastic. The report asserted that Mexico is in an ideal situation to reap the benefits of unconventional extraction techniques.