Jul 11, 2020

AMLO-Trump, An Ugly Alliance Against People's Movements

When Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was making his first diplomatic trip abroad to thank Donald Trump for being a good friend to Mexico, at first I didn't believe it would really happen, mainly because I couldn't want to conceive of such an enormous betrayal of principles and coherency.

Why on earth would a left-leaning leader of the nation that has experienced the worst of Trump's white supremacist attacks decide to travel to Washington in the middle of a pandemic to pat him on the back? And mostly, four months before elections, why would he set himself  up to be a ploy in Trump re-election campaign? Couldn't he stay home like he has for the past year and a half? After all, his country is roiled by a deadly disease and unnecessary travel over the border is banned (for the poor--if you can pay for a plane ticket, you can come and go as you like).

Trump doesn't do anything these days that isn't directly related to his bid for reelection, which is clearly flailing. He needs to woo the Latinx vote--a tough crowd given the reign of terror he has unleashed on them and their families since taking office.

Shortly after Trump's inauguration, we spent more than a month traveling the border with The Caravan Against Fear, organized by the SEIU, Global Exchange and others, to register the reaction of mostly Mexican-American border communities. We talked to Dreamers who had built careers and futures and were terrified that they would lose it all, to families who no longer went to the neighborhood park for fear of raids, to mothers who couldn't drive their kids to school anymore because the short drive could result in a one-way ticket to Mexico, to people whose towns were occupied by the border patrol, to common citizens who spent their weekends searching for bones or dying migrants in the desert.

Things didn't get any better after that. Although deportations didn't soar immediately, the fear continued. One after another, a hail of executive orders, rule changes and obsolete laws came down, steadily constructing Stephen Miller's vision of a white America and cutting away at migrants' already limited rights, pushing them into self-deportation, detention or forced removal. Families that harbored dreams of living together in safety were shattered and the open racism of the "thieves and rapists" and "bad hombres" comments led to a spike in hate crimes against people of Mexican and other Latino origins. Racial profiling went from bad to worse.

In Mexico, what happened stunned many of us who work in migrant rights. Lopez Obrador, the defender of Mexican sovereignty, bowed to Trump's every whim and Trump's whim was overtly anti-immigrant. Instead of rallying the international community to support Mexico when Trump used trade as a billy club to get Mexico to block migrants and refugees traveling north, AMLO sent his foreign minister to negotiate around it. What he negotiated, or rather accepted, was a program that is unprecedented in a sovereign nation--to warehouse third-country asylum seekers awaiting hearings in the United States. After first hiding it, Trump literally waved the agreement to the press bragging 'Look what I got out of Mexico!'

So this Washington meeting is, as a broad group of Mexican immigrant organizatons put it on a letter also signed by teh Americas Program "a slap in the face to Mexican families in the U.S. who have sufferd 4 years of constant attacks from Trump's anti-immigrant administration."

Going back to the Washington meeting... Amarela Varela, immigration export and arights activist, expressed what many of us on both sides of the border were feeling. Here's the translation:
[López Obrador] thanked him for the "respectful treatment of Mexico. Was he referring to the ICE detention of mothers and fathers of families with mixed immigration status outside their children's schools, the families who are torn apart? Or the 6,000 children in cages in teh 21st Century and separated from their families, forced to "declare" in courts alone? Or the squads of nativists who assassinate migrants in the desert?  ...He said that the U.S. hasn't imposed anything on Mexico--does that mean that the 4T decided for itself to sign and put into practice the Remain in Mexico or MPP program that has left 65,000 asylum seekers surviving, exposed to the elements, on Mexico's northern border?
Over the past week, I've given reasons for why this meeting should never have happened:

1) It wasn't necessary--the USMCA was already signed, ratified and in force and needed no ceremony, signing or statements. The ony purpose was to give Trump a stage to say he kept a campaign promise (to renegotiate NAFTA) and for Lopez Obrador to use the agreement to attract foreign companies, most of whom are already in Mexico because we have had essentially the same agreement for the past 26 years.

2) It insults and endangers the 36 million Mexicans and their families who live in the United States. Although small groups came out to welcome AMLO, all the statements from major migrant organizations opposed the visit. Strengthening Trump, especially in the context of re-election, endangers their lives, their livelihoods and their famlies.

3) It would be a direct endorsement of Trump's candidacy and a boon to his campaign. This was obvious. So obvious, that here in Mexico rumors that the AMLO government would actually prefer another Trump administration are rampant.

4) The least said by an "anti-neoliberal" president about the USMCA, the better. One could understand it being seen as a necessary evil after two decades, but the over-the-top acclaim was cringeworthy among anyone who is committed to national sovereignty, fair trade and social justice. A new study from the Global Development Policy Center found that free trade treaties including the USMCA actually inhibit the ability of developing countries to respond to the crisis.

5) A major increase in foreign investment is a non-starter as the central strategy to respond to the crisis. For one, it is unlikely to work, and more importantly, the ansolute reliance on export-oriented foreign investment is a major cause of Mexico's social and environmental crises today.

6) It ignores the largest movement in the history of the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice and equality. AMLO set aside his discourse on transformation and purposely fortified Trump who has repeaetedly attacked the movement and stands for everything this movement is against.

If any readers can find anything new about these promises that we didn't hear in 1994 with the first NAFTA, please tell me in the comments section below. Here is the statement: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/joint-declaration-united-states-mexico/ 

Same with the speeches. Many defenders of the AMLO-Trump show have called the Mexican President's speech an historic occasion of the defense of national sovereignty. I have read it over and over and I have no idea what they are talking about. Readers can read it here to weigh in: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-president-lopez-obrador-united-mexican-states-signing-joint-declaration/

LA NETA: All that is important, but not the most important.

The betrayal, the unfathomable part of it, is that Donald Trump is heinous. He not only has initiated open season on migrants in the United States and, with the full cooperation of Lopez Obrador, in Mexico, he also is a buffon who lies, cheats, bullies, denigrates and abuses women and leads the effort to roll back our rights, responds to demands for racial justice with repression and is confronting the largest and one of the most radical and hopeful movements in US history with hate. Days before the meeting, he tweeted a "White Power" video (and then removed it), and just two days before, on July 6, issued an order to revoke student visas for students attending schools where in-person classes have been suspended to protect lives during the pandemic.

On the world stage, he has withdrawn the wealthiest nation in the world from the World Health Organization when more than half a million people have been killed by COVID-19 and his own country has more fatalities than any other in the world, He also withdrew from the climate change accords as the planet faces the real possibility of not being able to sustain the lives of our great-grandchildren.

For Lopez Obrador to go out of his way to praise this man as a statesman in the middle of a re-election campaign is not even political pragmatism--it's simply immoral.


Success or failure? The debate rages on. Time will tell, just as we discovered decades later that the pundits who predicted the success of NAFTA were wrong when they promised the agreement would reduce migration, close the wage gap, create more equal economies, cut poverty, develop Mexico and raise the standard of living for the majority. None of that happened.

What's disturbing is that the AMLO administration, and especially Ebrard, seem to be banking on and actively apromoting what for most of the world is the worst-case scenario: another four years of Donald Trump.

FUTURE CHECKLIST: Here's the list of claims by the presidents for the USMCA so we can go back in a few years to assess whether the trip benefited Mexico and if the ugly alliance was worth it:

Trump's claims:
* "will bring countless jobs from overseas, back to North America, and our countries will be very big beneficiaries." AMLO reiterated this claim.
* "will bring enormous prosperity to both American and Mexican workers and Canada"
AMLO's claims:
* "reverse North American trade deficit with the rest of the world
* "volumes of our country’s imports [to] the rest of the world may be produced in North America at a lower transportation cost with reliable suppliers"
* attract investments from other places of the hemisphere, bringing those investments to our countries"






May 31, 2019

AMLO's letter to Donald Trump: "I am not a coward, I act on principles"

Here is our translation of the letter sent by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to US President Donald Trump. While we have criticized the Mexican government's immigration policies and actions in recent months-- and will no doubt continue to do so-- this letter represents a welcome turning point in what has been a disappointingly conciliatory attitude on the part of the AMLO administration toward Trump's most aggregious anti-immigrant and anti-Mexico positions.

Look for the full analysis on www.americas.org 


President Donald Trump,

I am aware of your latest position related to Mexico.  First, I want to express to you that I do not want confrontation. The people and the nations that we represent deserve that, when faced with any conflict in relations, however serious, we rely on dialogue and act with prudence and responsibility.

The best president of Mexico, Benito Juárez, maintained excellent relations with the  Republican hero, Abraham Lincoln. Later, at the time of the oil expropriation, the Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, understood the profound reasons that led the patriot president Lazaro Cárdenas to act in favor of our sovereignty. By the way, President Roosevelt was a titan of liberties. Before anyone else, he proclaimed the four fundamental rights of man (sic): the right to freedom of speech, the right to freedom to worship in one’s own way, the right to freedom from fear, and the right to freedom from want. 

This is the basis of our policy on immigration. Human beings do not abandon their homes because they want to, but rather out of necessity. This is why from the beginning of my government, I proposed to choose cooperation for development and aid to the Central American countries, with productive investments to create jobs and resolve the root causes in this unfortunate matter.

You know that we are complying with our responsibility to avoid, to the degree possible and without violating human rights, transit through our county. It is pertinent to recall that, in a short time, Mexicans will no longer need to turn to the United States and that migration will be optional, not forced. This is because we are fighting corruption--the main problem in Mexico-- as never before. And in this way, our country will become a great power with a social dimension. Our countrymen and women will be able to work and be happy where they were born, where their family, customs and culture are.

President Trump: social problems are not solved with taxes or coercive measures. How can it be that the country of brotherhood for migrants of the world be converted, from one day to the next, into a ghetto, an enclosed space that stigmatizes, mistreats, persecutes, expels and cancels out the right to justice of those who seek, through their effort and work, to live free of want? The statue of liberty is not an empty symbol.

With all respect, although you have the sovereign right to express it, the slogan “America First”· is a fallacy because until the end of time, even above national borders, universal justice and fraternity will prevail.

Specifically, Mr. President: I propose to you that we deepen dialogue, search for alternatives that go to the root of the migration problem, and please, remember that I do not lack courage, that I am not a coward nor timid, but that I act on principles: I believe that politics, among other things, was invented to avoid confrontation. I do not believe in the Law of Talion, with its “tooth for a tooth” and “eye for an eye” because, if that is where we take this, all of us will be toothless and blind. I believe that statesmen and even more, nations’ leaders, are obliged to seek peaceful solutions to controversies and to put them into practice, for example, the beautiful idea of non-violence.

Lastly, I propose that you instruct your officials, if you find it appropriate, to sit down with the representatives of our government, headed by Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations who will depart tomorrow to Washington to arrive at an agreement that benefits both our two nations.

Nothing by force, everything by reason and law!

Andrés Manuel López Obrador
President of Mexico

Jun 1, 2018

Trump's 'Zero Tolerance' Bluff on the Border Will Hurt Security, Not Help


The Washington Post published this op-ed today by former Border Patrol directors on the completely absurd and non-viable proposal of the Trump administration to prosecute all illegal border crossings. The article is mixed in its policy recommendations, favoring other measures that continue to criminalize migrants, and hailing Mexico's terrible southern border crackdown in Central American migrants, but it's worth a read. 

This is a debate we must be having. If the Democrats don't stand up to the whole "border security" farce going on to enrich the few and make political hay for the racists, we will never get our of this vicious policy cycle. 

Alan Bersin, Nate Bruggeman and Ben Rohrbaugh worked together at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where Bersin served as commissioner. He earlier was the U.S. attorney in San Diego.




Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen recently announced a “zero tolerance” policy on border security. Though its contours have not been described in great detail, at its core, it is a commitment to criminally prosecute every person who illegally crosses the border. 

This strategy may provide sound bites, and harsh rhetoric may generate some short-term deterrent effect, but it is impossible for this policy to actually be implemented over any reasonable time period. By announcing a threat that is effectively a bluff, the Trump administration likely will harm border security rather than enhance it.

The federal criminal-justice system is not equipped to handle the flood of cases that would result from referring every single illegal border crosser for prosecution. There is a limited number of federal judges, magistrate judges, federal prosecutors, public defenders and U.S. marshals in the judicial districts along the border. Prosecuting more than 300,000 people (the number apprehended for illegally crossing our southwestern border in fiscal 2017) would overwhelm their resources. And this is to say nothing of inadequate detention capacity; each of the illegal crossers would have to be processed, housed, guarded and fed before trial — and after, if convicted.

The core of effective border security is risk management — focusing law-enforcement resources on the greatest threats. This is why the Border Patrol developed the Consequence Delivery System, a program that matches different types of crossers to different categories of processes or penalties. For example, a known human smuggler receives harsher treatment than a first-time crosser. Referring every illegal crosser for prosecution removes the ability of the Border Patrol to manage risk effectively.

The opportunity cost associated with this prosecution strategy will be even more acutely felt by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the border. Already handling a massive workload, including drug- and human-trafficking cases, these prosecutors focus their time and effort on cases that have the greatest impact on public safety. The administration’s new “mission impossible” will force prosecutors to misallocate resources to economic migrants; but even then, there will not be enough resources to get the job done. In the meantime, organized crime, drug smuggling and financial crimes will receive short shrift.

Meanwhile, the new policy is likely to have little deterrent effect. We know this from experience. For example, in San Diego during the 1980s and early 1990s, enormous numbers of illegal crossers were subject to misdemeanor prosecution. That effort consumed huge amounts of resources simply to create a revolving door in area jails. It was only when the enforcement strategy changed to focus on prevention and deterrence at the border — supported with targeted felony prosecutions and strategically situated walls — did the situation change.

The administration is looking for quick fixes to illegal immigration, but action is instead needed on the difficult policy questions and trade-offs that are inherent in this arena.

For example, the administration needs to strengthen its security partnership with Mexico. Demonizing Mexico may score political points, but it is directly contrary to our border-security interests. All irregular southwest border crossers transit Mexico, and since 2015, Mexico has stopped more than 500,000 Central Americans at its southern border with Guatemala. If these efforts are halted, the effect on the southwestern U.S. border is clear.

One area of focus should be entering a “first safe country” agreement — which the United States has with Canada — providing that migrants from third countries claiming asylum here would be returned to Mexico to pursue their claims. This arrangement would be a powerful deterrent to economic migrants making false asylum claims, while leaving open a refuge for those fleeing extreme violence directed against them. The United States could provide assistance to Mexico to help implement the system.

Rather than focusing on criminal prosecutions, the administration should be reforming the overloaded immigration court system, where backlogged cases wait years for final disposition. That means adding resources and streamlining procedures so that asylum and other cases can be adjudicated efficiently. This would yield the dividends the attorney general’s recent token offer of 35 prosecutors and 18 immigration judges cannot.

“Zero tolerance” looks like an easy way to increase deterrence, but there are no easy solutions or silver bullets for a broken immigration system. While we wait for comprehensive immigration reform and a strategy for tackling the drivers of Central American migration, the administration needs to devise a deterrence scheme that is effective and sustainable. Criminal prosecution will certainly be a part of such a strategy, but if it is the only part, it will fail.


Read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-zero-tolerance-bluff-on-the-border-will-hurt-security-not-help/2018/05/31/fafbe316-642a-11e8-99d2-0d678ec08c2f_story.html?utm_term=.d4856cec1b7c&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

May 29, 2018

Mexico is siding with President Trump on migrants

By James Fredrick - May 25

MEXICO CITY — I heard a familiar story on a recent trip to the southern border.

“There’s been harassment against my fellow Guatemalans, asking them if they’re citizens, demanding their papers, it’s an all-out persecution,” Hector Sipac, a Guatemalan consul, told me.

But we weren’t in the United States. We were in Tapachula, on Mexico’s southern border, where Sipac is based. In the age of President Trump’s xenophobia, Mexico has quietly aligned itself with the American president against migrants.

May 17, 2018

EEUU: ¡Justicia, no impunidad! Agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza enfrentará nuevo juicio por el asesinato de José Antonio

Revista Documentos El Derecho de Vivir en Paz - 16 mayo 2018

En la mañana del 11 de mayo, fiscales federales de Tucsón anunciaron su decisión de volver a juzgar al agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza Lonnie Swartz por cargos de homicidio voluntario e involuntario por el asesinato, el 10 de octubre de 2012, de José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. Aunque el 23 de abril, un jurado en un tribunal federal en Arizona absolvió a Swartz de asesinato en segundo grado, la decisión de hacer un nuevo juicio le da a José Antonio, a su familia y a todas las víctimas de la Patrulla Fronteriza una oportunidad más para lograr justicia y detener la impunidad de la Patrulla Fronteriza. El nuevo juicio comenzará el 23 de octubre de 2018. Leer más.

May 15, 2018

Trump’s DHS is using an extremely dubious statistic to justify splitting up families at the border

By Dara Linddara - May 8, 2018


The government says its new policy reduced border crossings 64 percent. They actually increased 64 percent.

The separation of families who cross into the US from Mexico illegally is now official US government policy.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan announced that the Trump administration would adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone caught crossing into the US by Border Patrol. All border crossers would be referred to the Department of Justice, and everyone referred would be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Read More.

May 8, 2018

Killings in Mexico: Collateral damage or the result of a failed security policy?

By Erika Guevara Rosas, Director for the Americas at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International - 19 April 2018

Early in the morning on 25 March, a young couple were driving with their three daughters and niece to the border town of Nuevo Laredo when a Mexican naval helicopter opened fire on them. Caught in the middle of the hail of bullets unleashed by personnel from the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR), the mother and two of her daughters were killed instantly.

The authorities have deemed these deaths to be “collateral damage” resulting from a conflict that has coincided with more than 200,000 deaths in Mexico since the end of 2006. The connotation of this phrase is that there is logic to armed conflict and that frontal assault is acceptable. To mainstream the notion of collateral damage is to implicitly accept the standpoint that the armed forces play a role in public security. Read More.