a return to the status quo? – OxPol


US Politics – OxPol

Joe Biden’s presidential victory has brought temporary relief to many undocumented and mixed status families in the United States. Biden pledged to reverse several of Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugee policies within his first 100 days in office, including reintroducing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico,” and creating a “roadmap” for citizenship for the approximately 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. While Biden’s immigration agenda includes federal and local priorities, little emphasis has been placed on bilateral issues with the US’s southern neighbor, Mexico.

However, bilateral immigration negotiations should be a priority for administrations on both sides of the border. In the US, Trump inherited a well-funded US deportation infrastructure that enabled him to carry out his anti-immigrant agenda. In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly known as “AMLO”, expressed his passiveness to Trump’s economic threats and urged Mexico to become a de facto safe third country. Paradoxically, Mexico has also become a country of deportation and legal limbo for asylum seekers and the constant neglect of Mexican deportees.

What factors will influence Biden and AMLO’s migration policy? Will the US and Mexico return to the status quo – a tradition of mutual deterrence and enforcement camouflaged in discourses of hospitality? Three factors are likely to determine how this bilateral migration policy will develop in the coming years: the COVID-19 pandemic, the robust US deportation infrastructure, and the intervention positions of Biden and AMLO.


The COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the Trump administration to end asylum and expedite the deportation of asylum seekers and non-nationals in the name of public health. The pandemic also exposed the boundaries of Mexico’s political institutions to prevent asylum seekers and detainees from being exposed to legal limbo. After Trump announced the full closure of the U.S. border to asylum seekers, the Mexican government agreed to keep it. As of April 2020, the Trump administration has expelled around 20,000 non-Mexican migrants to Mexico, where they can apply for asylum. However, prior to the pandemic, around 60,000 asylum seekers had returned to Mexico when Trump’s 2018 measurement guidelines and “Stay in Mexico” protocols were implemented. A growing number of returnees is only paralyzing the already underfunded Mexican refugee system.

The lack of funding, as well as the complete shutdown of Mexican government agencies due to the pandemic, has made it difficult for asylum seekers and Mexican deportees to access essential identification documents, leaving them in legal limbo. Nonprofits across Mexico are filling the gaps Mexican institutions are unwilling to fill, from providing meals and emergency shelter to legal representation and medical assistance. However, the pandemic, organized crime, and AMLO’s budget cuts have made these tasks challenging.

The United States’ robust deportation infrastructure

Since Biden announced his 2020 presidential candidacy, Biden has faced backlash from immigration organizations that made roughly three million formal moves by the Obama administration. This was the highest number of formal moves in US history that earned Obama the title of Deporter-in-Chief. However, such discourse can undermine a critical examination of the resilient deportation infrastructure of policies, laws, and mechanisms that the Obama administration inherited and recycled from its predecessors. In particular, the implementation of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibilities Act (IIRIRA) under the Clinton administration paved the way for Bush, Obama and Trump.

IIRIRA facilitates the process of arrest, detention and deportation of non-nationals by expanding the types of criminal offenses that can lead to deportation, removing the due process from most deportation cases, and introducing Program 287 (g), which is local and state law enables civil servants to enforce federal immigration laws. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Bush administration continued to expand its deportation infrastructure by entering into 287 (g) agreements with 72 local and state law enforcement agencies. Additionally, in 2003, Bush established the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Services (ICE), the two largest immigration agencies responsible for arrest, detention, and deportation of non-immigrants are responsible. Citizen. Since its inception in 2003, Congress has allocated approximately $ 385 billion to CBP and ICE.

But the deportation infrastructure didn’t stop there. In 2008, the Bush administration implemented Secure Communities, a program that allows local and state prisons to share inmates’ fingerprints with ICE. Ultimately, this enables ICE to identify non-citizens in prisons who are eligible for deportation under the Immigration Act. Obama continued the Secure Communities program, but under constant pressure from immigrant organizers, the program was discontinued in 2014. Trump resumed the program in 2017. These developments between administrations show how the robust US enforcement and deportation infrastructure has expanded with explicit support from both parties.

Between 2002 and 2018, around 6.2 million Mexicans were deported from the US, which posed challenges for both governments. In the US, these mass deportations create cycles of fear, trauma, and family segregation among precarious immigrant communities, while in Mexico, the lack of coordination and transparency between national government institutions and bureaucracies has made it difficult for deportees to exercise their rights as citizens. Mexican deportees, in particular, have difficulty applying for identification papers and extending their access to health and social services, housing, education and employment.

The Biden administration has not yet announced which legal framework conditions and mechanisms their administration will implement to control such migration flows. Although Biden could reverse some of Trump’s actions against immigrants with executive orders within his first 100 days in office, his efforts to find a way to citizenship will largely depend on which political party controls the Senate in January. Even under democratic scrutiny, the likely persistent lack of Senate and government action to abolish IIRIRA will not lead to any real path to transforming the US immigration system. A migration policy structured within the framework of the legal framework of IIRIRA will continue to systematically criminalize non-citizens, keep families in precarious conditions and expand for-profit detention and the scope of deportations, which pose challenges for the countries of origin, including Mexico.

Differences in intervention

While the number of unauthorized Mexican migrants to the US has declined since 2007, the number of Mexicans seeking political asylum in the US has increased significantly since former President Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs began. In 2011, around 1.6 million Mexicans were displaced as a result of violence and conflict. Legal scholar J. Anna Cabot notes that in 2013 Mexicans formed the second largest group of asylum seekers in deportation proceedings. This is no surprise given that 98% of Mexico’s asylum applications are denied by US immigration judges. Continuous internal displacement and the rise in forced Mexican migration open a space to examine whether there will be coordination between Biden and AMLO to combat organized crime, violence and corruption.

Biden has promised a return to multilateralism, with a special focus on Latin America and addressing the root causes of migration in Central America and violence in Mexico. How will this foreign policy agenda resonate with AMLO? As the Mexican president sought to “shake up the status quo,” he is undergoing an examination of centralization of power, weakening of opposition parties, militarization of the nation and a non-interventionist stance on regional issues. Biden’s regional approach will include the implementation of rule of law mechanisms, particularly for the Mexican federal police and military. To what extent will AMLO work with Biden? Will their broken stance on intervention lead to an escalation of more violence and forced migration?

What’s next?

In the past two years, Mexico has become Trump’s extraterritorial anti-immigrant laboratory. Trump’s economic threats pushed the AMLO to further militarize its borders and deport and criminalize the inland mobility of migrants. It remains unclear whether and how Biden and AMLO will work together to reverse Trump’s bilateral-implemented guidelines and how they will manage future migration flows. The challenges posed by the pandemic, Biden’s lack of determination to dismantle the US’s hitherto robust deportation infrastructure, and ALMO’s failure to combat systemic violence while militarizing the nation, imply that there will be little bilateral action in the coming years Changes can take place.



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