Friday, September 04, 2020

The Pandemic and Migration

While the U.S. government is falling far short in its efforts to address the virus within its borders, it is using COVID-19 as a pretext to justify mass deportations and detentions.  The U.S.’s quick “turnback” policy was instated on March 24, 2020, purportedly to stop the spread of COVID-19. The policy is based on Title 42, which has been around in some form since the 1890s to stop boats that were coming from countries with infectious diseases like smallpox from entering U.S. ports. However, this is the first time it has been used on the U.S.-Mexico border, and it is unusual in that it is superseding immigration law. It means that around 91 percent of migrants apprehended while trying to cross from Mexico into the U.S.’s Southwest border are being sent back within as little as two hours.  There were 38,347 apprehensions in July, the highest figure compared to the previous nine months. Sending migrants back in this form denies their human right to request asylum and their legal rights to due process. 
Conditions for migrants traveling through Mexico have grown worse. The border closure is also exacerbating already difficult conditions for migrants staying in or still traveling through Mexico. With most shelters still closed to new migrants because of the pandemic and the U.S. sending people who reach the border back within hours, many refugees and migrants in Mexico are living on the streets. The restrictive measures being applied to migrants in the name of the pandemic are not being applied to tourists. Indeed tourists from the U.S. are continuing to fly to Mexico to enjoy resort holidays in Cancun and elsewhere. Cancun reopened to tourism on June 8, and while Europe won’t let people from the U.S. in, Mexico is one of just a handful of countries that will. And despite Mexico ranking third in the world for the number of COVID-19 deaths — after the U.S. and Brazil. The hypocrisy of the U.S. closing its borders to refugees and migrants while its tourists travel freely to Mexico shows that these policies are not about stopping the spread of COVID-19.
an unreliable temperature check at the airport has been deemed enough for tourists entering by plane, who have been allowed to continue flying to Mexico throughout the pandemic, Mexico and the U.S. recently agreed to extend the land border closure, which only allows land border crossings from Mexico to the United States for “essential travel” until September 21. Stopping the advance of COVID-19 was the reason given by acting Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, but the rationale seems cynical given the continuation of air travel. Meanwhile, the border closure only increases the already extremely dangerous conditions that people are migrating under.
Central America and Mexico are feeling the full force of increased poverty as a result of the pandemic. In Mexico, those with an income that is insufficient to cover basic needs increased to 55 percent of workers. Some 16 million Mexicans have fallen into extreme poverty conditions over the past few months. In Honduras, the number of people facing food insecurity has almost doubled.

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