This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Deportation Conveyor Belt

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM), the governmental organ responsible for investigation illegal immigration and enforcing Mexico’s immigration laws, is underfunded, poorly manned, and full of corrupt officials, according to the head of the INM, Cecilia Romero Castillo.

In a recent interview with Mexico’s Processo news magazine, Romero claims her organization simply cannot keep up with the growing number of illegal and documented migrants that enter Mexico on a yearly basis. Human trafficking, she claims, is a “juicy business” supported by INM officials that have been in place since November, 2006.

“…We are advancing a series of investigations…to identify a networks of traffickers. And when I speak of networks, I’m referring to an arrangement between foreigners and Mexicans, and within the group of Mexicans I have no doubt that some migration agents and officials with INM are involved,” Romero told Processo.

One group, called the Miami Mafia, specializes in trafficking Cubans into the United States through Mexico. According to reports from Mexico’s Attorney General’s office, this organization may earn as much as US$80 million a year. In other cases, human traffickers have charged as much as US$4,000 a person, to move them from Guatemala, through Mexico, and into specific points inside the United States.

The INM has some 4,600 employees between migration agents, investigators, and mid- to high-level officials. And for many years, the number of employees has not risen to keep pace with the growing number of people passing through Mexico’s various ports of entry via land, sea, and air.

“In 2000, the country had 23 airports and now there are close to 100,” Romero admitted, adding, “The most worrying is that INM now has less employees that it did in 2000.”

One in five or six illegal immigrants make it through and remain in the United States, Processo reports.

“In the state of Tamaulipas, which is a very complicated situation, there are only 240 employees, and they are not enough to cover 11 international bridges, five airports, two sea ports, apart from migration stations,” Romero said.

Tamaulipas has long been the stronghold of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, and a major trafficking point for any illegal product – human, drug, or otherwise – that flows into the US from Mexico.

Meanwhile, INM must document and receive all those Mexicans deported from the United States apart from preventing the passage of illegal immigrants through Mexico.

The organization’s Countryman Program oversees this process, and has two separate initiatives for children and minors who are deported from the United States, unaccompanied by adults.

Between January and May, 2008, some 300 thousand Mexican nationals were deported from the United States, nearly 2,000 a day, placing the 2008 tally at over a million.

When considering the complex situation of immigration inside the United States, and the current focus on deportation, the above facts should place a light on a larger reality: many of the people who are deported back to Mexico simply cannot be processed by the INM.

The trouble within Mexico’s INM is just one of the many reasons why a number of Mexican analysts consider the movement of people between Central America, Mexico and the United States to literally be like a human conveyor belt. Once deportees arrive, its likely they are shuffled through a haphazard layer of backed up paper work, resulting in a high probability of human error. And once repatriated, what’s to stop them from returning?

Until the INM receives better funding, reduces corruption, and increases the number of personnel required to cover the country’s various ports of entry, deportation as a tool for controlling illegal migration in Mexico or the United States is, at best, a mechanism that keeps the conveyor belt moving.

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