On Monday, the world learned the news that a truck container with 40 dead bodies (that number has now risen to 53) and over 16 injured migrants, including children, was abandoned on a highway in San Antonio, Texas. This heartbreaking and enraging tragedy adds names to the long list of migrant deaths at the Mexico-US border.
As Global Exchange has stated in previous tragedies at the border, the failure from governments in the Americas to address the root causes of forced migration, as well as the United States’ closed border policy is to blame for the loss of these lives.
Since day one of the establishment of the Migrant Protection Protocols (or Remain in Mexico) and Title 42 (both currently being reviewed by U.S. high courts), Global Exchange, together with many ally organizations, has documented the deadly consequences of these policies. We have even brought the case to international courts.
The U.S. has effectively closed the border to asylum seekers, forcing individuals and families fleeing violence, environmental disaster, and poverty one of two dangerous options: one, to take higher risks to reach U.S. soil, pushing them into the hands of “coyotes” and predatory human smugglers; or two, wait indefinitely in the streets of a border town in Mexico with no job, no food, no shelter, and lack of protection against violence.
The Biden-Harris administration’s message about the dangers of a deadly journey, pretending to discourage migration, and asking people to stay at home have proven to be ineffective in a region where poverty and violence is on the rise, and police and military units colluded with organized crime. People rather face the deadly risks of trying to reach a better future than accept violence or death at home.
The recent White house “Declaration of Los Angeles,” which came out from the Summit of the Americas, pledged for more collaboration between countries of origin and for receiving countries to manage migration, reduce the flow migration, and increase employment opportunities.
But later, we learned that far from expanding the institutional capacities of the U.S. asylum system, this regional collaboration will prioritize forcing countries to establish deadly Third Safe Country policies in their territories – essentially expanding the failed Remain in Mexico program to more countries across the region. And the “Declaration’s” proposed solution to poverty is to increase the investments of U.S. corporations in countries of origin, however most of the time these ‘investments’ provide low wages and never address the social and environmental causes of poverty. And worse still, DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced that as part of this collaboration, the U.S. will launch Operation Sting to increase the presence of U.S. undercover agents to conduct intelligence activities to “dismantle caravans.”
This proposal falls far short of truly addressing the urgent and pressing causes that force people to migrate. And with the recommendation to expand Third Safe Country programs and increase surveillance of migrants, it may, in the end, do more harm.
To honor the lives lost at the border this week and to ensure other migrants do not face this same fate, requires that we ensure access to rights and justice in communities and countries of origin and strengthen our asylum system, re-open our border, and provide shelter to those in desperate need. Tell President Biden it’s time to end Title 42.
What happened in San Antonio, Texas, is the most recent reminder that we must continue to work to demand an end to policies that criminalize immigrants and asylum seekers, and expand human-centered policies that offer equal opportunities for all.