Mexican police, soldiers and the National Guard are raiding hotels, buses and trains to round up migrants, creating scenes of weeping Central American mothers piled into police vans along with their children and overflowing detention centers with deplorable conditions.
Such scenes would cause an outcry in the US, but across the border there has been little backlash against the government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Sympathy has been eroded by the migrant caravans of late last year and early this year, which left a bad taste in the mouth of Mexicans and caused deep divisions among pro-migrant groups.
Lopez Obrador’s reputation has also muted the response to the crackdown. Add to this the disruption caused by migrants in Mexican border cities and threats of border closures or tariffs from US President Donald Trump, and it has all led many Mexicans to see the waves of migrants as a problem.
Polls say that Lopez Obrador’s approval rating has held steady at 66 to 72 percent, despite the crackdown and reports of brutal conditions at the huge Siglo XXI migrant holding facility on Mexico’s southern border and other centers.
When the first caravan got a warm welcome in October last year, Mexicans were almost evenly split on whether the nation should stop migrants from other countries from entering without proper documents, according to an El Universal survey, which polled 1,000 people from June 3 to June 7 with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Eight months later, 61.5 percent supported stopping them and only 33 percent opposed it, according to the same poll.
Even more dramatic was the reversal on giving migrants asylum in Mexico. In October, nearly 48 percent favored it, while 38 percent opposed. By last month that had flipped, with 57 percent opposed and 37 percent favoring.
Even for Mexicans who do not think Central Americans take jobs from Mexicans or cause increased crime — accusations routinely heard, especially in southern Mexico — there is a sense that too many migrants have come.
“The truth is that it is a problem for everyone. It’s better that they be sent back to their countries,” said Jorge Parada Leon, a Mexico City message delivery worker. “Crossing Mexico the way they do is dangerous, a lot of them have died ... they should fix the problems they have in their home countries.”
Many Mexicans are also angered by the idea that Mexico would contribute money for development aid in Central America.
Lopez Obrador “should focus on the people instead of being compassionate with the migrants who come from other countries,” said Argelia Miranda Vazquez, a government employee. “He should support the [Mexican] people. And the others? Well, let their governments take care of their own people.”
Some have criticized the crackdown. The head of the Mexican National Immigration Institute, Tonatiuh Guillen, resigned when the crackdown was announced last month to head off Trump’s threat of tariffs on Mexican products.
Porfirio Munoz Ledo, the congressional leader of Lopez Obrador’s Morena party, said that “it is morally unacceptable that on one hand we demand they [the US] open the doors for us, but we close them in the faces of Central Americans, in order to do the United States’ dirty work.”
Lopez Obrador acknowledges that the crackdown was implemented to avoid US tariffs on Mexican imports threatened by Trump in late May.
“A few days ago we were able to overcome a possible economic and political crisis, by means of an immigration agreement that requires us to be stricter in enforcing immigration laws,” he said. “We have established a relationship of respect and friendship with the people and government of the United States and this has allowed us to avoid confrontation that wouldn’t benefit anyone.”
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