Mexico’s president is worried that Biden’s asylum policies are encouraging illegal immigration and the business of human trafficking along the border with the United States.
“They see him as the migrant president, and so many feel they’re going to reach the United States,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said of Biden the morning after a virtual meeting with his U.S. counterpart on March 1, according to Reuters.
“We need to work together to regulate the flow, because this business can’t be tackled from one day to the next,” Obrador added.
The number of illegal crossings at the southern border has steadily risen since October 2020. The number of encounters at the southwest border between October 2020 and January was 296,259, an 79.6 percent increase from 164,932 for the same period a year earlier, according to data from the CBP. Encounters soared to 100,441 in February alone, approaching the 15-year high of 144,116 encounters seen in mid-2019.
Mexico has called on the Biden administration since it was sworn in on Jan. 20 to provide development aid to Central American countries to curb the influx of migrants.
A Mexican official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Mexico saw a shift in activity by criminal groups “from the day Biden took office.”
The official said the cartels now exhibited “unprecedented” levels of sophistication in their operations.
“Migrants have become a commodity,” they added, saying that human smuggling was now as profitable as drug smuggling for local gangs. “But if a packet of drugs is lost in the sea, it’s gone. If migrants are lost, it’s human beings we’re talking about.”
Mexico’s assessments of testimonies and gathered intelligence view Biden’s policies as ones that will “incentivize migration,” Reuters reported.
The smugglers are also using social media to list status updates for border checkpoints in real time, as well as possible transport options along the routes to the border, helping many evade detection by U.S. Border Patrol.
The intelligence also says that smugglers advise their clients to register claims with U.S. authorities that they have been victims of extortion or, for young men, that they have faced death threats from street gangs, according to government documents viewed by Reuters.
Isabel van Brugen contributed to this report.