The deaths of at least 53 people discovered in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, has put a spotlight on the Biden administration’s lack of progress in stemming migration and tackling corruption in Central American countries.
WASHINGTON – Authorities suspect that the victims, many of whom were from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, died at the hands of smuggling networks.
“The tragedy in San Antonio once again proves that the U.S. – or the U.S. outsourcing its immigration control policies to others, in this case Mexico – cannot enforce its way out of a migration crisis,” Arturo Sarukhan, former ambassador of Mexico, told USA TODAY.
Almost a year and a half after the Biden administration launched a broad strategy to take on the causes of migration, the White House has increasingly grown quiet when its “reliable partners” in the region crack down on investigators, prosecutors and civil society working to weed out corruption. Several former diplomats told USA TODAY that the reason for the hands-off approach is that Biden administration officials want to avoid jeopardizing cooperation on migration enforcement.
But the strategy raises the question: Has one priority taken a backseat to the other?
“Enforcement-centric policies will only create greater incentives for transnational criminal organizations to muscle their way into the business of smuggling migrants and trafficking vulnerable people, mainly women and children,” Sarukhan said.
Biden has defended his administration’s policies targeting human smuggling and vowed to “do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry.”
On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed the Biden administration a victory by allowing it to end the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols. Known as “Remain in Mexico,” the policy forces migrants from other countries who are seeking asylum to remain in Mexico as they await their immigration court hearing.