US to Change Mexico Deportation Policy, Aims to Drive Down Border Violence

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The United States Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, has annonced that the US government will change its deportation policy for illegal Mexican migrants, flying them to their place of origin in an effort to combat border violence.

Napolitano made the announcement at a press conference in Mexico City, explaining that the US will pilot its new program in April by providing air transportation to Mexicans rather than using its current policy of dropping them on the border in northern Mexico. In the new policy, the Mexican government will then be responsible for aiding the migrants’ journey from the airport to their homes.

Napolitano said the new policy is a response to criminal organizations who often prey on migrants left stranded at the border, saying “We can jointly cut the link between criminal organizations and their prey and we can, and will, save lives.” 

Mexican Interior Minister Alejandro Poire, who announced the program with Napolitano, stated that removing vulnerable Mexicans from border areas will help the fight against human trafficking.

Official figures from the US put the number of those deported through September 2011 at 400,00, a new record. Most of these were sent back to Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

Under the current deportation policy, the US in some cases actively tries to deport Mexicans via a different point of entry so as to prevent the migrants from being swallowed by human trafficking networks. However, this tactic can still be exploited by Mexican drug gangs, as a Los Angeles Times piece noted last year. As the paper pointed out, while some may be sent back via comparatively safer points of entry, others may be faced with having to travel via more dangerous corridors, such as those controlled by the Zetas, a group known to target migrants.

There is a second issue at play here, which has little to do with vulnerable migrants. Another class of deportees are ex-convicts who often join criminal groups upon return to Mexico. President Felipe Calderon came out in strong opposition last fall to the current policy, pointing to how it facilitated violence in the north of Mexico. Though not an unprecedented criticism — InSight noted at the time that Mexican officials have been complaining for years against the policy — it highlighted the other danger in the deportation policy.

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