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 

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.


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.

Apr 25, 2018

Colombia's Santos Latest to Cite Failure of War on Drugs Model, So Why Does the US Keep Pushing It?

It couldn't be clearer.  Latin America's staunchest drug warriors, the leaders of nations that have invested billions of dollars and thousands of lives into this, are calling for a new approach. 

This time it was Juan Manuel Santos, president of the country that pioneered the drug war in Latin America at the behest and with the support of a succession of US governments.  Despite that it has been his nation's policy for decades, he didn't mince words when he spoke to the UN General Assembly on April 24:
“The war that the world declared on drugs more than 40 years ago has not been won. The strategy based exclusively on prohibition and repression has only created more deaths, more prisoners, more dangerous criminal organizations.”
He echoes something victims have known for years. In Mexico every grassroots victims' organization has called for an end to the war, calling it instead of the war on drugs, "the war on us".

Yet the governments and their allied NGOs continue to support Calderon's drug war, now Peña's drug war, and the US component the Merida Initiative. They say it will win if we just give it more time. They say the "soft side" is really a new approach that will soon produce different results. They say if we´ll just be patient...

Mexico, and especially Mexican youth, are in no mood to be patient. The latest brutal murder of three film students, who were first announced as disappeared and later identified as remains dissolved in vats of acid, has once again mobilized the outrage that is always latent in a nation where disappearances and executions by cartels and security forces are an every day occurrence.

The soft side--police and judicial reform, "building resilient communites"-- is the way the State Department and others justify the drug war model these days, when faith in the model is waning. These bogus programs, ineffectual at best and profoundly interventionist at worst, keep the war on drugs alive when almost no one believes in it any more. The defense of the millions of dollars spent to enforce the model is justified by those who receive the juicy government contracts and the Pentagon, also a major player in its own right, that gets to operate freely in Mexico.

Where are the millions of dollars alloted to build forensic capacity in Mexico as part of the Merida Initaitive over the past ten years? I know a mother who carries bone fragments carefully wrapped in a rag and asks anyone who will listen when, when? When will someone confirm that they are what's left of her son, or someone else's son.

Mexico still sends fragments to Houston or Austria for testing. And that's an example that could be just the beginning of the list. Millions of dollars through the public policy pipeline: Why is the justice system not getting better? Why are police still corrupt and crimes not solved?

The answer to these questions is obvious--the idea was never to solve crimes or find the disappeared.  The problem is not technical and everyone knows it. It's political, it's a lack of political will.  So the arrogant explanation of the U.S. government that they are training Mexicans to be better is not only racist but false.

Before Santos' speech, it was Peña Nieto who declared the war a failure and the security policy basically a trainwreck.  As if it weren't his fault.

The campaigns are raising the debate. But the interests involved seem to assure that no matter how much consensus there is on its failure, the drug war will continue because it serves important interests. Politicians on both sides of the borders and their think tank and NGO echo chambers will say e too want a change in order to avoid a change.

We're the ones who have to call them on it. We're the ones who will have to make the change, by doing exactly what the students are doing now: Standing up and saying ¡Ya Basta!